A basketball referee is never going to be praised or loved. The best he can hope for is to go unnoticed. That, however, was not an option for veteran official Tony Greene, whose life was temporarily upended Saturday night when he ejected Jim Boeheim in the final seconds of Syracuse's 66-60 loss at Duke. By the time I reached Greene by phone Sunday night, he was on his way back to normalcy and relative obscurity. Yet, he realized that he had become part of something that won't soon be forgotten. "I've been in situations like that before," he said, "but not to this extent because of the nature of who was playing and who the coaches were. This one is a little different." Greene, 55, is one of the most respected officials in the sport. That's why he was working such a big game Saturday night, and it's why he has worked five NCAA championships, including last year's final between Michigan and Louisville. Unlike most people who follow or cover college basketball, Greene did not spend a lot of time Sunday analyzing what happened. His day started with a 5 a.m. wakeup call to catch a 6 a.m. flight back to his home in Stone Mountain, Ga., where he works as a project manager in economic development. He went to church in the morning and spent the afternoon with his family. Though he considers himself Internet savvy, he does not have Twitter or Facebook accounts, so he did not keep himself updated on the minute-by-minute fallout. His only tether to that world came via the barrage of text messages (he estimates the number was around 75) that lit up his cell phone all day. Many of those texts came from fellow referees around the country. "I felt support from the community of officials nationwide, from the east coast to the west coast, north and south, from Minnesota to L.A.," he said. "It was all thumbs up." Greene did not want to discuss whether the call he made that set Boeheim off -- a charge on Orange forward C.J. Fair -- was correct. That kind of thing is frowned upon by league coordinators. He did, however, tell me that he and his partners, Roger Ayers and Jamie Luckie, watched video of the play on an iPad in the officials' locker room immediately afterward. When I asked Greene if he felt better after seeing the video, he replied, "Oh yes, absolutely." It was also interesting to hear Greene explain what was going through his mind as the pivotal sequence began. "I'm one of those guys who expects the unexpected," he said. "I knew there's not much time left, and that they were most likely going go to C.J. Fair, who's not really a three-point shooter. You figure he's going to go to the basket, so you prepare yourself. You're thinking, how am I going to adjudicate what's about to happen based on the rules?" Whatever you think of the call -- and I happen to think it was a block, but it was close, and I have the benefit of slow-motion instant replay -- there is no denying that Greene handled the aftermath superbly. That is a much bigger test of a referee's competence than his decision on a bang-bang play. Not only was Boeheim begging to get tossed, but he also kept jawing at Greene as Greene was explaining the technicals to the official scorer. Greene would have been justified in giving Boeheim a third technical, but that would have been going too far. Unlike Boeheim, Greene kept his cool and let the coach blow off steam as he was escorted off the court.
Tony Greene discusses ejecting Jim Boeheim
SI | Feb 24