Rodney Hood and Chris Hill were tired of losing.
That’s the best explanation for the recent incidents in basketball arenas involving the Jazz player and the University of Utah’s athletic director that are mildly embarrassing and not fully excusable.
Hood undoubtedly will be fined by the NBA. Hill issued a statement of apology for his behavior, possibly keeping him from being reprimanded by the Pac-12.
Each deserves some degree of public shame. Yet their actions – Hood’s knocking a phone out of fan’s hand and Hill’s yelling at a Pac-12 coordinator of officials – also showed a degree of emotion that should be somewhat reassuring, coming from them.
Hood is usually so placid that Jazz fans needed to know he cares about the way this season is going, with him shooting poorly and the team being is danger of yet another road loss Wednesday at Washington (the Jazz ended up winning without him). In the case of Hill, at age 67, showing that he’s as competitive as ever might be healthy, even if he could be chosen a better way to do it.
Hood was ejected with a second technical foul, called because he wouldn’t stop complaining as play continued with the Jazz on defense. Hood then exploded. Well, relatively so, for him. He slapped the fan’s phone to the ground as he passed the Jazz bench and kept walking to the locker room.
Hood’s frustration was understandable, although he should have been smart enough to avoid complaining, after getting a technical foul in the first half. Hood believed he was fouled on the previous possession, with his missed shot on a drive making him 3 of 11 for the game.
That came after he missed a 3-point attempt that may have clinched a victory that got away from the Jazz on Sunday in Miami. And he recently endured a 1-of-10 game against New Orleans, making only a layup, during a contract season when his shooting is barely topping 40 percent — although that’s not far below his career norm.
Hill’s outburst came Sunday night after the Utes’ 80-77 loss to Arizona State, the team’s second straight loss at home to a highly ranked team.
In the Huntsman Center tunnel, near the room where coach Larry Krystkowiak was being interviewed, a loud voice could be heard, although it was muffled and indistinguishable. On Thursday, Hill confessed the voice was his, while apologizing to the other person in the conversation — reportedly Bobby Dibler, the Pac-12 men’s basketball officiating coordinator. Hill and Dibler have a long working association, dating to Utah’s Western Athletic Conference era. That familiarity probably emboldened Hill, which got him in trouble.
Hill’s public statement was admirable, although it raised as many questions as it answered. Why did it take him four days to say anything? Why was he so upset about the officiating, on a night when Utah shot 36 free throws and three ASU players fouled out? Did he believe the officials should have reined in ASU coach Bobby Hurley, who was animatedly complaining throughout the first half?
In Hill’s leadership position, his outburst was more embarrassing than Hood’s. Still, it will cost him some money and his teammates will have some fun at his expense, but he’ll get over it quickly. Hill will have to live with his actions a little longer.