Feb 26

It happened last night, or how I got tossed from a game without even trying

Hoop Time Editor

It is entirely possible that I made history last night.

I doubt it, actually. I mean somewhere along the line, some other writer must have been kicked out of a Division I college hoops game.

But in 20 years covering basketball, it had never happened to me, or to anybody at any games I have covered. I can’t say I have ever heard of it happening to anyone else, either.

So who knows, maybe I am the first writer this has ever happened to.

Chances are, if this ever happened to another writer, they probably did more to deserve it. All I did was tell what I thought was a mildly amusing joke as I passed the crew working the St. Francis (Pa.) - Mount St. Mary’s game in the hallway on the first floor of The Mount’s Knott Center.

It was halftime. The music was a little on the loud side. So with about five minutes to go in the break, I stepped out of the arena to make a quick phone call.

I had no intention of running into Ray Perone, or his crew mates Jim Moran and Guy Pagano. It was a completely chance encounter, just me on my way down the hall, them on their way back into the gym.

As we passed, I smiled and said, to no one of them in particular, “Gee, if he is here, who is working the CYO game?”

Pagano chuckled. Moran didn’t really react much. Perone said something about “Where are you sitting,” and we both continued on our way.

Before anyone think I am, or was, being critical of the refs, let me tell you I actually thought they had done a pretty good job that first half. The only time I really even noticed them was on a strange play where a St. Francis player, who had fallen to the floor, was called for a foul as he tried to get back on his feet with a Mount St. Mary’s player standing with one foot on his chest.

The call was a hold. To be honest, I am not even sure which ref blew the whistle. It was an unusual play, and I didn’t see any actual foul from my vantage point. I remember thinking the guy must have grabbed a leg or something that I couldn’t see because of being screened by their two bodies.

The point is, when I said that in the hallway, it was said in jest, as Pagano seemed to understand. There was no more maliciousness than when I have, on a few occasions, asked refs wearing those shiny, patent leather sneakers a lot of them seem to prefer if they ever worry about somebody trying to peak up their skirt.

Perone, apparently, does not share my sense of humor. Or maybe he does, but was having a rough day. Maybe he had a headache. Maybe he and Mrs. Perone had an argument that afternoon that left him with a sour attitude. Maybe he was off his meds, or getting his period.

All I know is as I talked on the phone, I looked down the hall and saw Perone talking to a security guy. Then I saw him point in my direction.

When I came back down the hall and went to enter the gym, the security guy, with a backup posse that I later learned included the school’s director of public safety, approached me, stopped me, and told me I could not go back in the gym.

“I’m sorry sir, but the officials have asked us to remove you from the arena,” he told me.

Now I have to tell you, the security folks at Mount St. Mary’s are a class bunch of guys. They also seem to share my sense of humor, as well as my sense of dismay at Perone’s action.

They all laughed when I told them what I had said, or at least were polite enough to pretend to. The head guy offered to get the school’s SID to see if he could resolve the situation.

I declined that offer. With the second half about to start, I was not about to cause any disruption or delay. The game had already been delayed 23 minutes at the start by a power outage.

Besides, I was not there to do a game story. I was there to do a feature on St. Francis coach Don Friday, a former Pat Flannery assistant at Bucknell.

So I waited until the first media timeout, quickly retrieved my laptop and backpack from press row, and left.

Postgame was uneventful. No I did not lie in wait for Perone to leave the building.

The guys in the media room after the game all got a chuckle when I shared my experience with them as we waited for Mount coach Milan Brown to stop by for postgame interviews. Don Friday just shook his head in disbelief.

I doubt Perone had any idea the guy he ejected was a writer who might turn around and do a column on his shenanigans. The area where the encounter happened is not heavily traveled, but it is open to anyone. There were a some fans milling about in the area, as well as some of Mount St. Mary’s staff.

He could have as easily been tossing out a fan who had plunked down his hard-earned cash to see the game. For that matter, I could have been a parent with a kid inside the gym waiting for me to get back from the men’s room or the concession stand.

I might even have been a Mount St. Mary’s booster. Doubt it would have mattered to that knucklehead.

Matter of fact, I know it would not have mattered, because when I got back from the game I Googled his sorry ass and came across an account of how Perone tossed a big bucks booster, an older woman with her grandkids in tow, from a courtside seat at a DePaul game last month.

Witnesses who sat nearby say the woman was an enthusiastic fan, but never uttered one of the magic words, or said anything you might expect a ref to toss you for.

Maybe Perone is just especially sensitive to references that mention him working CYO games. Maybe he still is bothered by a comment posted by an Atlantic 10 blogger after a LaSalle game he worked back in the 2005-2006 season.

“These officials would fail to qualify to officiate in a local CYO league,” the blogger posted.

Now you might say, what would make you think a busy college basketball official, a guy who works as almost as many games each season as Kyle Whelliston, would be aware of what some blogger posted about him.

Two things: the size of his ego and the size of his ears.

The ego thing is just a hunch. And even if I am wrong, who has not Googled themselves these days. Hard to imagine any ref would not be at least a little bothered when some writer says “Ray Perone needs to be banned permanently from Division 1 hoops.”

So yeah, maybe he is a little touchy. Who wouldn’t be when somebody is calling publicly for you to lose what is for most guys like him, a lucrative moonlighting gig that might even pay more than the day job.

And those ears? Like cantaloupes on the side of a grapefruit.

If the DePaul incident is not enough evidence to convince you, talk to a few Division 1 coaches about Perone. None would go on the record. The threat of penalties from league offices tends to keep the cone of silence pretty much shatter proof when it comes to criticism of men who buy their work clothes at White House Black Market .

Off the record I heard some interesting anecdotes that pretty much confirmed my diagnosis. God how I’d love to share some of those stories, but I promised I would not. Not even without attribution, because the circumstances involved might not be identifiable to the public, or to league office types, but Perone would recognize them straight away, and you never know when he will be assigned to work your game.

After all, Perone works a lot of games. Mostly in the Northeast Conference and the Atlantic Ten, but he also works a fair number of Big East contests and somehow is respected enough to have drawn a few NCAA Tournament games.

The last four seasons, Perrone worked over 70 games each season. Last night’s game was his 66th this season, so he is on a similar pace.

Perrone is not the busiest zebra in the zoo. In fact, this season, 21 other guys have worked more than him and he has only been in the top 20 in games called once in the past four-plus campaigns.

In 2006-2007, Perrone worked 82 games, the most of his career. Ironically, that season is the only season since 2001-2002 he called fewer than 25 technicals.

Perrone has ranked in the top 10 in Ts three of the past four years, including a career-best No. 3 ranking last season, when he called 38. The two guys ahead of him on that list both worked over 100 games.

He will have to get busy if he wants to maintain that lofty status this season, right now he ranks just No. 10 in technicals, having called 22 so far. His 66 games to date make him the 25th busiest guy in stripes.

I mention all those stats for two reasons. One is because after spending a lot of time looking them up, it would be a shame not to use them. But the bigger reason is because they seem to back up the anecdotal evidence that this is a guy who might benefit from a pair of ear plugs and a script for Prozac.

Unlike one blogger who suggested “Roy Perone should have been gone at least two years ago,” I am not suggesting Perone be run out of the game.

I have not seen the guy work enough to really have an opinion on how he calls a game. Perone has not worked a Patriot League game since 2005-2006 and I had to do some research to figure out if I’d seen him before (The answer is yes, he was on the crew that worked Bucknell’s upset over Syracuse that same season).

Like I said, the half I did see him work last night, there really was nothing to criticize. And those who have read this site for a while know I am never shy about criticizing refs if I feel they deserve it.

I’m just sharing this as a cautionary tale to any fans who might happen to find themselves at a game Perone is working, and who might happen to disagree with a call (or just have smartass tendencies).

Before you open your mouth, you might want to consider how badly you want to see the rest of the game.

And how will you know if Perone is part of he crew at the game you are watching? That one is easy.

He will be the one with the big ears, wearing a skirt and the shiny shoes.

Just don’t remind him what the nuns used to tell the girls in grade school.




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