Making sure the refs follow the rules, too

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Sports,College,Kevin Dunleavy

Greenwood keeps eye on all of his officials

It's an hour before Lehigh will face American University. Players are in their locker rooms preparing their bodies, minds and psyches. Down the hallway in a smaller locker room, referees are doing the same.

The players are listening to their coach. So are the refs. Reggie Greenwood, director of officials in the Patriot League, Ivy League and Atlantic 10, is reminding the refs of this year's points of emphasis, lessons learned in previous games and what to expect specifically this night from the players, coaches and fans.

Anyone under the impression that officials just show up, call the game and go home is mistaken. Some 40 minutes after the final horn, the teams are long gone, but Greenwood is with Garrick Shannon of Richmond, Bruce Rothwell of Bowie and Paul Huovinen of Aberdeen, reviewing an extensive checklist of observations from the game.

Greenwood identifies referee calls by the time clock and players by the jersey color and number. The referees immediately recall each incident.

"At 43.2, [No.] 11 brown pushed on the rebound, you were in the center," Greenwood says to one of the refs who nods, recalling the play.

On this night -- a clean, relatively stress-free 71-62 victory by American -- Greenwood is happy with the work of his crew, which called 15 fouls on the visiting Mountain Hawks and 13 on the Eagles. There were few controversial calls and few protests from the coaches.

"What we didn't do was bail out players going to the basket double pumping, triple pumping and doing all kinds of stuff," Greenwood says. "I don't want to name any names, but you know the player I'm talking about."

Afterward, the coaches will evaluate the officials, assigning a grade of 1-5 to each for the following criteria: physical fitness and hustle, communication, judgment, attention to the rules and consistency. If a referee receives a grade of 1 or 2, an explanation is required.

Greenwood, resident of Greenbelt, established the grading system last year. AU coach Jeff Jones says he appreciates the opportunity to weigh in after every game and believes more self-evaluation by officials is a positive trend.

"I think there's more professionalism and more uniformity from conference to conference now than in the past," Jones said. "Are officials better or worse than [20 years ago]? I don't know. But I think there is more accountability."

Greenwood, a retired air-traffic controller and a college official from 1980 to 2009, worked the 2005 Final Four.

While Greenwood is doing live evaluations, he often has a laptop open tracking other games. If he spots something that needs to be corrected, he'll call the official that night, discuss the play and urge him to download the play on his computer.

"When the phone rings after a game and I see it's Reggie, I usually already know what play he wants to talk about," Shannon said. "Sometimes I don't want to answer that phone."

Shannon, 42, who is in pharmaceutical sales, is one of Greenwood's top officials. He served as the crew chief for the American-Lehigh game. In addition to college games, Shannon works 40 to 50 NBA Development League games a year. On Thursday night he called a game in Sioux Falls, S.D., and will do another Sunday in Bismark, N.D. Next week it's off to Winston-Salem, N.C., for the MEAC tournament, which starts Monday.

Before the American-Lehigh game, Shannon and his partners discussed what to expect.

"We talk about matchups. We talk about players. We talk about coaches," Shannon said. "We know this game tonight is for second place. We know what kind of intensity level it will be."

They discuss that both teams have a go-to scorer -- C.J. McCollum of Lehigh and Charles Hinkle of AU -- except they are never referred to by name, only number. Greenwood asks the referees to take note of who they are charging with fouls. Translation: When trying to establish the tenor of the game early, don't get either of the go-to players into foul trouble.

"If it's a foul, it's a foul. We have to call it," Greenwood says. "But we do have to be mindful who we're calling it against."

Afterward, Greenwood makes clear his approval of how his three refs handled the night.

"If you hear people tell you, 'You set the tone early and the players will adjust.' There it was, proof positive," Greenwood tells the crew. "Those teams reacted to how you were calling that game. In all of referee land, that's what you want, that beautiful music that lets them play."

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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