College basketball coaches have a 28-foot long space along the bench and the scorer's table, stretching from the baseline toward center court, in which to pace, fret and rant. A colored strip indicates just how far they can go.
It is about as effective at reining in a frantic, stressed coaches as you might expect a coat of paint to be.
It certainly could not fence in Jim Boeheim last weekend, not when a block-charge call went Duke’s way and inspired Syracuse’s coach to storm out of the box and past the stripe and nearly to the mid-court circle. On Wednesday, Boeheim nobly conceded that he'd overstepped.
“There's no question, I went too far," Boeheim told ESPN radio host Colin Cowherd. “In my mind, the game was over. That was really the call that got to me.
"Would you rather not do that? Probably. But when you're in the middle of that moment and you're involved in a game like that and you feel that the game is gone because of this play, you lose control of your emotions.”
In the conversation about behavior in college basketball, an acknowledgement of far a coach can literally go and a stricter enforcement of the rule would be a good place to start.
In this, Boeheim is actually the ideal case: He stampeded out of the coach’s box and earned himself two technical fouls and an ejection. His punishment fit the crime to the letter of the law. A few curse words could have been what inspired Tony Greene to toss Boeheim, but simply breaching the coaching box is enough, according to NCAA rules:
“Failure to comply with the rule results in a distinct advantage that is not within the spirit and intent of the rules. The rule is clear and concise. The head coach or any other bench personnel may not be outside the prescribed coaching box except when otherwise permitted by rule. After a warning, for the first violation, a technical foul should be assessed for any subsequent infraction.”
This season, Kentucky’s John Calipari crossed the sideline to shove a player into correct offensive position. Just a day after Boeheim’s rant, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo was two steps on to the playing surface while Michigan was initiating offense at the top of the key, as close or closer to Wolverines guard Nik Stauskas as Spartans guard Gary Harris was.
Taken individually, the incidents may not seem so bad; but taken together, they shed a negative light on the sport. It may not be a stretch to suggest that a calm and contained coach could keep fans in the stands from acting overly aggressive as well. It can’t hurt, at any rate.
Officials may not be able to monitor coaches' movements along with those 10 players on the court, but television cameras sure can. Likewise, conferences often have observers on hand to assess the officiating. Between the videotape and a separate set of eyes, make documenting a coach’s histrionics a priority. Issue reprimands and moderate fines if necessary. If coaches aren’t self-aware enough, raise the awareness for them. It’ll make for a more pleasant experience for everyone -- coaches included, whether they realize it or not.
They can still complain, and they can still unhinge their jaws in disbelief. There is plenty of room to argue, in every sense, along a 28-foot-long path. And if it’s a point of emphasis to do so in the box and only in the box, then emphasize it.