A technical foul can be one of prep basketball's stiffest penalties. It is a two-shot foul for bench technicals, and one-shot shot foul for a player on the floor. It also results in possession after the free throw, and often leads to a four-point swing.
So, some of Orange County's leading officials say they use discretion when calling them.
"A technical foul should be treated as a guarded weapon," said Richard Awender, an official in his 14th season. "It seems to me that the weaker officials are the ones who need it most. A technical foul can be a dangerous weapon in the wrong hands."
Roy Englebrecht, who officiates in the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. and West Coast Athletic Conference as well as working prep games, said common sense is a referee's best tool.
"The technical foul is the official's only weapon," he said. "It's all he has to come back to a coach. But as a weapon, he should be judicious in the manner that he calls one. I try to use common sense.
"I tell myself to just use common sense about 10 times before I go out on the court. I've been in the business for 20 years and still remind myself of that before every game."
John Edwards, one of the quality officials who worked the Tournament of Champions this season, said the price of a technical foul is so high, an official has to be certain the action merits the penalty.
"When you consider a technical foul on the bench can result in a four-point turnaround, you're talking about a heavy penalty," he said. "Some refs will say that a T is their only weapon, but I like to think that conversation is also a tool that a good official will use in a game."
The addition of Rule 10-5 (more restricted bench rule) by the National Federation of State High School Athletic Associations that limits coaches' movements would seemingly add to officials' responsibilities.
But most officials who were surveyed said they haven't seen a significant increase in technical fouls on the bench.
"I've called one technical under the rule," said Larry Arason, who has been a member of the Orange County Basketball Officials Assn. since 1956. "I warned the coach twice before I made the call.
"I would never make the call without first giving a warning, and in this case, I gave the coach two warnings. I think that was the first technical I had called on a coach in four years.
"I think my experience allows me to control anything that can happen in a game without a rule like the 10-5. I don't think the game of basketball got to the point where we were in dire straits and needed this rule."
Englebrecht, who officiated eight high school games in preseason tournaments, said he also has seen fewer technicals called on coaches than in previous years.
"The coaches are doing a fairly good job of staying on the bench and observing the new rule," he said. "I haven't given a T in a high school game this year. I like the new rule."
Englebrecht said that excessive technical fouls can only mean one thing--an official isn't doing his job.
"When you start seeing a lot of technical fouls, then somebody's missing some calls for a coach to be complaining," he said. "Good refs just don't give a lot of Ts."
Awender, vice president of the Orange County Officials Assn., said that one of the keys to becoming a respected official is establishing a good, working relationship with the coaches and players.
"The first thing you have to understand in this business is that the sport of basketball belongs to the kids and the coaches," he said. "If you don't, you're out of business. It's more give than take.
"I feel whenever I walk into a gym, that I am accepted. But it takes a 110% effort and cooperation to establish that relationship over a period of years. My technicals are usually rule-oriented--if a player hangs on the rim or fails to report in.
"I generally don't call technicals on a coach. If a coach is on my back, I'll tell the team captain to go tell his coach to calm down."
Mike Callahan, an 18-year veteran and former city councilman in Placentia, said Rule 10-5 has eliminated a lot of confusion, but has made the referee's job tougher.
"I've got a clock, 10 players, a scorer, a timer and a bonus light to worry about," he said. "Now, you're asking me to monitor the coach's behavior on the bench. If a coach wants to get up and talk to one of his players, that's OK with me."
Callahan has yet to assess a technical foul under Rule 10-5, but he did come close to giving one to Greg Hoffman, Western's coach.
"I warned him two times," Callahan said. "His team won the game by two points, and afterward he thanked me for being patient with him. I think that's the way we should work with the coaches.
"I saw Gene Campbell (Garden Grove coach) called for a technical in his tournament. It was terrible. That was not the interpretation of the rule as it was intended to be, and I felt awful for Gene."
But Edwards is quick to point out that the rule stands, and he said he plans to keep enforcing it.
"The rule is right there in black and white in the rule book, and I'm pretty standard when it comes to the rules," he said. "But to be honest with you, I haven't had any problems with coaches this year. They've handled the 10-5 pretty well."