Loyola Marymount's Paul Westhead is one of the few coaches who doesn't blame basketball referees or use officiating as an excuse when his team loses, but in his last two losses officials played prominent parts.
Two weeks ago Loyola was involved in a neck-and-neck game with Santa Clara when Loyola's top player, Mike Yoest, and Santa Clara center Dan Weiss were jostling for position under the basket. Weiss scored and said something to Yoest, which Yoest answered with a shove. An official quickly came between them and the incident didn't escalate. It's a common scene around the basket and accepted as routine in rugged conferences such as the Big 10.
In this case, however, the referee ejected Yoest and tacked on a double technical foul. Santa Clara scored seven points before Loyola regained its poise and went on a 15-0 tear that decided the game. But losing its leading scorer didn't help Loyola.
Loyola's season ended Saturday in a 99-84 loss to the University of San Diego in the first round of the West Coast Athletic Conference tournament. Again, the game pivoted on a technical foul against Loyola.
The Lions were leading by a point early in the second half when San Diego center Scott Thompson, a 7-footer, bumped Yoest out of position and scored a basket. As the teams started downcourt, Westhead screamed at referee Ron Labetich that the play should have been an offensive foul--nothing different than coaches scream the entire game. In any event, Labetich was across half-court and it is doubtful he heard what was said over the clamor in San Diego's packed gym.
But Labetich called a technical foul on Westhead, giving San Diego two free throws and possession. The Toreros scored six straight points and quickly built a 13-point lead. When Labetich eventually came within range of Westhead's voice, the coach told him, "You think that (technical) makes you a big-time official."
After the game Westhead was reluctant to talk about the technical and was quick to point out that San Diego outplayed Loyola in the second half. Of the call he said, "Whatever he (Labetich) thought I said, he couldn't hear anything. It was an avoidable problem."
Some coaches chronically--and unfairly--complain about the refs. But it hurts the game when an official makes a pivotal call on a non-incident.
(Bob Herrold, WCAC supervisor of officials, said Labetich was well within his jurisdiction in dispensing the technical. Noting that Westhead complained about nearly every call, Herrold added that when Westhead was hit with the technical he was out of the coaches' box and on the playing floor. "That's an automatic technical.")
For the sixth time in eight seasons, El Camino College basketball Coach Paul Landreaux has been named conference coach of the year. After five selections in the Metropolitan Conference, which was disbanded after last season, Landreaux was named coach of the year in the realigned South Coast Conference, where his team was co-champion with Cerritos College at 12-2.