You can tell college basketball’s season is coming to an end. Tempers are short, with coaches, players and now in Lubbock, Texas, with fans.
Marcus Smart is one of Oklahoma State’s best players, a projected NBA first round choice. The sophomore could have applied to go to the NBA after last season.
He may wish he had after he went into the stands near the end of the Oklahoma State-Texas Tech game last Saturday.
Smart had attempted to block a shot from behind with six seconds left in the game. His momentum carried him into the first row of bleachers at one side of the basket.
As Smart was getting to his feet, he claimed Red Raider fan Jeff Orr said something to him that set him off. Smart retaliated with a hard two-handed shove, which made Orr lose his balance.
Orr, by trade, is an air traffic controller in Waco. According to Tech officials he is one of those fans who makes a lot of road trips.
He may be an air traffic controller in Waco. But if Smart’s accusations are accurate, Orr is a Waco whack-o. Who gets their kicks by yelling at college athletes? I’ve seen the type at just about every campus arena. They want to be the center of attention and are fueled by the fans around them.
Orr admitted and apologized in calling Smart “a piece of crap," and volunteered not to attend any more home or away games this season.
Smart was hit Sunday with a three-game suspension by the Big 12. It was for “inappropriate conduct with a spectator." It was a heat of the moment firefight. It could have escalated to something beyond what it did, but Smart’s teammates steered him away from the fracas.
Fans who have an obsession with yelling derogatory comments at college players are fools, not fans.
It doesn’t take much to make a game turn violent.
I was courtside at the 1990 MTSU-Tennessee Tech game at Middle. It was a heated OVC rivalry and Murphy Center was packed. MTSU’s coach was the late Bruce Stewart. Tech’s coach was Frank Harrell.
Both teams were highly competitive. Players from both teams got into what turned out to be a bench clearing brawl in front of the Blue Raiders bench.
If the Murphy Center stands had not been elevated above floor level, it could have turned even more ugly, but the MTSU students were unable to jump down on the floor. I remember the late TSU Coach Ed Martin was seated beside me and I thought he was going under the press table.
It took a long time to restore order. Just when you thought it had settled down, a player would throw a sucker punch and it was on again. The game film clearly showed MTSU’s Mike Buck kept the melee going a number of times by hitting Tech players from behind. Ironically when it came time to shoot technical free throws, there was Buck shooting for MTSU. The Clarkrange native later became a high school coach. His last coaching stop lasted six years at Crossville’s Stone Memorial High School.
As for Smart, he apologized to his family, the team and to Orr.
“This is not how I conduct myself," Smart said. “This is not how the program is run . . . no finger pointing. This is all on me."
Hopefully Smart and Orr have learned a lesson.
Contact TSWA Hall of Fame Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at firstname.lastname@example.org.