Arizona Coach’s Poor Sportsmanship on Full Display

Jordan Ingram Editorials

Bush-league antics are alive and well in the Pac-12.

But perhaps we should start from the beginning. Over the past several weeks, Arizona Wildcats women’s basketball coach Adia Barnes’ has made headlines after reportedly giving a well-publicized middle finger to Oregon Ducks women’s basketball coach Kelly Graves after her team blew a double-digit lead to lose 68-66 in overtime against the No. 19 Ducks (14-7, 6-3) last month in Eugene.

While I do like to keep an eye on the second largest cryptocurrency and check it out at Ethereum price, this blow-up with the two coaches got my attention.

Apparently, Barnes was upset about fouls, or lack thereof, during the game. Indeed, Oregon’s free throw shooting proved a difference maker in the hard-fought conference battle — the Ducks were 22-of-26 from the foul line, while No. 8 Arizona (17-3, 7-3) went just 5-of-10.

After the game, Barnes bemoaned the officiating, claiming her players’ were getting “dislodged and arm-barred” the entire game, blaming her team’s failure to close out the Ducks on the referees:

“I’ve never had a game where we shot 5 of 10 from the line with some of the most athletic guards in the country and played a team that shot 26. It is tough to play that way. It is what it is. We are going to get homered in different places and that was clearly going on today…We had to be a little smarter knowing the game has been called really tight. But it’s just hard. There was a lot of inconsistency, and it was just tough for us to play, but not an excuse at all.”

Gary Breedlove

Kelly Graves and the Ducks huddle up during a time0ut.

Sounds like an excuse to me. Barnes later “apologized” for her behavior on Twitter, but did not admit to the inflammatory gesture: “Tonight was a battle! It was a very emotional game! I apologize for being out of character and letting my emotions get the best of me.”

When Arizona fans called out Barnes for her “classless” behavior and questioned the example she was setting for her players and program, the former WNBA forward attempted to justify her boorish behavior by claiming Graves was hurling obscenities at her the entire game, a bold claim that reaches a level of absurdity only attainable from someone whose own feet are firmly planted in flames.

“Classless is cussing at a woman during the game,” Barnes wrote in response. “… if you would choose to sit and get cussed at by a man that’s on you and what you are willing to tolerate. But I’m not that woman!”

Arizona guard Shaina Pellington also tweeted in defense of her coach, saying that Barnes was “cussed at, and called out of her name in the most VULGAR ways the ENTIRE game by Kelly. We could hear it from the floor while PLAYING, in the most HOSTILE environment. He needs to be held accountable. Simple.”

Despite Barnes’ attempt to drag Kelly’s name through the mud, none of the individuals on media row or fans seated between the teams’ benches, who are much closer to Kelly than Barnes, have come forward to corroborate these allegations. Javier Morales, a “veteran journalist” for AllSportsTucson.com, wrote on Twitter that he heard radio host Jeff Dean say he heard from unidentified sources that Graves told Barnes, “Shut up, b—.” However, Morales’  was quickly skewered by fellow journalists for his flimsy reporting.

“Tweeting what someone heard from someone else (who you cited as an unidentified source) without your own confirmation is pretty shaky at best my guy,” wrote Andrew Haubner, a sports anchor for KEZI in Eugene.

Regardless what was or wasn’t said, the Pac-12 wasn’t having any of Barnes’ colorful hand signals. Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff issued a statement shortly after the game admonishing Barnes for her comments on officiating — no fine, no apology, no consequences.

“The Conference is responsible for enforcing rules established by the Pac-12 membership, one of which prohibits coaches from publicly commenting about officiating,” Kliavkoff said. “Should our coaches wish to provide feedback, there is a protocol in place which allows them to do so directly to the coordinator of officiating.”

Graves said recently that the whole situation was “blown out of proportion.” During a rematch on Feb. 4 at McKale Center in Tucson, Barnes and the No. 8 Cats got their revenge in a 63-48 shellacking of the Ducks. Prior to the game, Graves and Barnes gave each other a hug. Not surprisingly, there were no reports of Graves flipping a bird at Barnes.

After years as a professional player and collegiate coach, it’s just surprising to see Barnes’ eye-popping lack of professionalism and sportsmanship in both victory and defeat. That’s right, despite beating UCONN in last year’s Final Four matchup, Barnes’ raised a middle finger in a celebratory huddle and yelled, “F— everybody!” Afterword, she refused to apologize for her postgame conduct.

Look, I’m not such a Pollyanna to believe that coaches and players don’t exchange verbal barbs over the course of tough games. But there are pretty clear lines for etiquette on the court, some of which Barnes has brazenly overstepped during her coaching tenure. Let’s be clear: Barnes’ behavior is an embarrassment to the school, fans, players and alumni.

Harry Sheehy, former Dartmouth athletic director, offered his thoughts on sportsmanship: “It is your response to winning and losing that makes you a winner or loser.” 

Jordan Ingram
San Diego, CA
Top photo credit: From Twitter

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