Legendary College Basketball Official Ed Hightower Answers Your Email Questions!

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Q: Coach K said he was generally more interested in not losing than winning. Do you see more college basketball games that are won or lost? I think that’s a deep question.

A: No, it’s not a deep question. I think you see more games that are lost. You see more games that are lost than won. Let me just give you an example: You have a young team and they have a veteran team on the ropes and they have played 35 minutes and they’ve done everything right. Then all of the sudden they look up and they look in the mirror and they start thinking, I’m not sure we’re deserved of this win. And they start looking over their shoulder and they start saying, I don’t think that I can finish the deal. Then you see situations where a kid has used great judgment, a guard for example, has used great judgment on getting the ball up the court all game in a pressurized situation. And all of the sudden gets in the last 5 minutes and then game starts to tighten up and then all of the sudden this kid get trapped, get double-teamed, crossing the court, when he has done such a marvelous job of playing heads up, eyes open and being able to dish the ball or get across the court. Pressure has a way of causing everybody, me included, to act a little differently. So when you ask the question, Are more games won or lost? I would say more games are lost than won. Ok?

Q: I have a question from a listener named Katie who says she’s a member of the Izzone, and last year after you admitted to making a mistake on a Michigan State tip-in, it was very hard to scream and yell at you. You showed a human side. Thanks for ruining the game for me but I very much enjoyed it.

A: I tell you what, Tom knows that over the years, and every coach knows, that number one I’m not a liar, I’m not a BS’er and I don’t want people lying and BS’ing me. You come after me if you’ve got something to say, then after you say it then let’s move on. The one thing I will always do is be up front. If I screw up or make a mistake, I will flat out admit I made a mistake and I’m sorry and then just move on. I tell young people that’s how you earn the respect of the people with whom you have to work with every day. Don’t start making excuses. Don’t be afraid to accept responsibility. Again, I have 8,000 kids in my school district, I have 1,100 employees. I will be so mad at times at some of my employees for doing something. When they come in and look at me and I’m really fired up and I’m ready for them. When they look me in my face and say, I screwed up, I made a mistake or I eff’d up or whatever they say. What is there for me to say then? All of the sudden I just melt. I’m ready to tear their head off. Just be honest and you’re gonna go a long ways in gaining the ultimate, and that is respect for what you do, by everyone. So I appreciate Katie’s comments. Tell her to get on one of those other officials.

Q: Another listener named Brian wants to know what the funniest thing a coach has ever said to you in the heat of a game?

A: I’ll tell you right now, I’ve had some funny things said over the years and you can’t imagine what they would be. I’ll tell you this story real quickly in about 30 seconds. When I first broke in to college basketball… Tell him next time he sees Digger Phelps to just ask Digger about this one with Ed Hightower. I broke in and I’m working Notre Dame vs. UCLA and it was a big, huge CBS game. My two partners did not get to the game and I worked the first 10 minutes of the game by myself. Every time I would go down, Billy Packer was doing the game as the commentator, and Digger Phelps would say, Hightower I know that your rear end is just puckering tonight. I can just see it puckering. He would just get on me. And the fans never said a word when I’m working this game by myself. Then all of the sudden the other two referees get there and now everybody starts booing, they start throwing stuff out on the floor. Of course Digger tells the story better than anyone. So that was one of the funniest things. When Digger and I get together we tell that story. And another one real quickly was when Billy Tubbs went to the microphone on me years ago on national TV and said, It doesn’t matter how bad the officiating is they’ll throw debris on the floor. Of course we had to penalize him. Neither one of those guys are coaching now, but those are two of the funniest things now that we laugh about and we move on. So you get some funny things happen in this game.

Q: Matt wants to know, taking out current players, who is the greatest basketball player that you ever got paid to watch?

A: One of my all-time favorites, and there are just so many great players… Gosh, I won’t do that. Because I’ve got about 10 guys and 5 of them are right from your team over the years, that you just marveled when you’re out there watching and refereeing. Let me just say, I am a fan of the game. If I see a great defensive play while I referee, I’m cheering. If I see a great strategic move by the coach I say, Wow what a great move that guy just made. What a checker move he just made. If I see a tremendous offensive move I say, Wow. Of course I don’t lose focus, but I’m a fan of the game. I love the game of basketball and you appreciate those great things when they happen.

Q: Last comment from a fan… This person was a member of the Izzone and one night screamed at you what a bad night you were having. You replied, Well so are you, you’re standing with a bunch of guys.

A: He’s right! But before that I said, My wife says that all the time. But you are having a bad night too. I do remember that situation, yes.