Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Officiating Camp, Part II: Ray Floriani's Photo Essay

LINDEN, NJ­ - June 12. The Garden State Parkway, a breeze last night, is a succession of lanes packed tighter than a collapsing zone. Still, I was able to get to Linden well in advance of my court time, and get to the gym to watch the game before mine. In the stands is Tom Konchalski, one of the great guys in the game and excellent evaluator of prep talent. I went to say hello and talk a few minutes before allowing him to concentrate and make notes on the game at hand.

‘Points of emphasis’ are released each year by the respective officiating governing association. For years on the college and high school levels, rough post play and hand checking have been among the points. Camps invariably have their daily, or nightly, points as well. On Thursday, the final evening of the Linden camp, handling ’vocal’ coaches was the point.

In arguably the feature game of the night, Linden faced the Patrick School. Two marquee programs in the Garden State. The calendar says June, but this contest had the intensity of a frosty February evening. Chris Cevannes, the Patrick coach was voicing his opinion early. Eventually he, ‘crossed the line’ verbally with his sometimes animated reactions to calls, in the opinion of observers. The officials, in their opinion, did not address it properly. “You can call an outstanding game, but if you do not take care of business with the bench, your game will go south,” Guy Pagano said. “You will lose your credibility and respect.”

Pagano and Dennis Allocco both suggested giving a hyperactive coach a warning. If he does not comply, utilize the technical foul. “Some guys have the gift of gab,” Pagano said. “I don’t, so I keep my dialogue with a coach, especially in warning, to a minimum.” It is all about knowing your strengths and weaknesses. Retired official Tim Higgins may have had a detractor or two, but none in the area of coach relationships. Higgins was a master having the ‘gift’ Pagano alluded to, and was able to defuse many a volatile situation on the bench without the use of the ‘T.’

Running the Linden team was the regular season assistant. Head coach Phil Colicchio watched from the scorer’s table. Allocco pointed out as Cevannes got vocal, the Linden coach started also figuring ‘he (Cevannes) can do it, why not me?’ “As a result, you have two coaches who are crossing the line,” Allocco said. “Take care of business and that is not an issue.”

Entering the fourth quarter, Allocco warns, “if a guy blows the whistle, (for a foul) the other two better be watching the players.” The game is under control but as pointed out, very hotly contested. Linden wins 60-­52. Pagano and Allocco both commend the crews that worked the game. “That was high level,” Allocco said. “You guys had to work your asses off.” They did.

I am on the final game of the night, between Hackettstown and Union. One of my partners is Jay Rosenfeld. We work the Essex County Suburban Travel League and are paired a few times each season. I enjoy working with Jay, who does a good job and can laugh off the seemingly imbecilic rants of some clueless parents in the Suburban.

Hackettstown is running. That’s their game, but Union; even with a size advantage, is getting out and running as well. They are beating Hackettstown at their own transition and three-pointer game.

I get a good mention from observers as a player drives the lane, dishes then crashes into a defender for a charge. Play is coming to you, stay with the driver, your partner(s) can handle the player who might have received the pass. Overall, I am happy with our consistency. We have a bump and no-call on one end, if there’s a bump on the other end we pass, no foul. Union wins by over 20.  I congratulate my partners and mention to Jay, “a little more athletic than Suburban.” He agrees and laughs, thinking back to some of those nights in locales such as Montclair and Livingston.

I ask Dennis about a few C position tips. He shows me how moving a few feet in or to the left or right can give you such a better view depending on where the ball is. Only a few feet, but critical in getting the call or no-call correct.

Afterwards, Guy and Dennis gather the campers still present at halfcourt. The observers say thank you for an excellent week. Both will recommend us for high school if needed. Dennis especially will give personal recommendations for high school given the fact he was working games on that level a few seasons ago and knows many assignors.

In New Jersey, high school assignors run camps to assess prospects. Basically, it comes down to ‘Want to work for me come to my camp?’ In many instances, not all, you learn next to nothing, but go to secure games. Dennis’ camp was not one to guarantee games, only improvement, which it did in exemplary fashion. Still, officials may want to work for an assignor and did not get to his camp, which is the point. Dennis’ recommendation is invaluable.

Walking out, I hear Phil Colicchio wants an officiating camp shirt. I say in jest to Dennis, “Ironic, he (Colicchio, a great guy off the court but intense on it) baited us many times and wants an officiating shirt.” Dennis laughs, saying, “Good point. I will remind him of that.”

Well-respected talent evaluator Tom Konchalski busy at work:
Dennis Allocco going over a point:
The Patrick School and Linden (in white) put on a game worthy of mid-winter intensity:
Guy Pagano goes over a few ideas as officials listen intently:

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