The first one happened when I was officiating a YBOA National Tournament and a well known and well disciplined team said something that was different and I had never heard before. The phrases or one-liners that are new many times catch us off guard. Their point guard had just done this terrific "juke" move that used a stutter step and made the defender fall on her back side to the floor. Her teammates on the bench, went crazy. They yelled, "Go Girl, Break Her Ankles!" Well this was a clear violation in my opinion of sportsmanlike conduct. To encourage the physical breaking of an opponents bones was grotesque at best!
As my partners lined up the defenders team to shoot free throws as the punishment for the opposite team's assessed technical, the coach pleaded his case that this was the new slang for beating an opponent with a great move. I explained that this was not sportsmanlike and the connotation of the phrase was something that just shouldn't have been said let alone loud enough for me to hear. I never did hear that again but that one I was ready for and felt given the circumstances, I assessed the rule appropriately. Not that it made a difference but this was a heated contest and the teams clearly didn't like each other. This just leveled the playing field, play ball on the court without all the drama off the court.
The other time, we were at a local JUCO college team A and the visiting Team B had a female player that was bigger than most men I've seen. She was a great defender and it was clear that team A couldn't use any of their moves to shoot over her, outside or inside the paint. Coach Stephanie coached the home team A and she was known for being a little bit outside the box. Which meant that she coached on the edge. At any given time she would come into the female officials locker room and get dressed for the game because the facility didn't have a separate locker room for coaches. The right thing to do was to answer her questions but not engage in any talk of the upcoming opponent or game. She was good, she would lead you to that talk, but it was up to you to nip it in the bud. In officiating, doesn't matter what you say, the coaches will turn it around on you in a heart beat and report it back to your supervisor before you have left the parking lot to go home.
I engaged in small talk when she asked questions and that was it. During the game, I had rotated over after calling the foul and was standing right in front of Stephanie. She always carried a towel over her shoulder like mom would do in the kitchen while she was cooking. She said loud enough so that the bench and the players could hear, "She's a Moose. Great Call, a Moose!" She twirled the towel in the air like a Pittsburgh Steeler fan and flipped back on her right shoulder. I admonished her and said in my best motherly tone, "Stephanie, don't say that again, you've been warned!" as I held up my stop sign signal so that my partners could see. This allowed it to show up on video. She whispered, "BJ, you can't tell me that she doesn't look like a man." I said, "Coach, I hear what you're saying but I can't allow you to yell that at her, it's not fair, I wouldn't allow the other coach to yell that about any of your players."
Taunting is defined as a remark made in order to provoke, anger or wound someone. Well the anger part clearly would fit but I wasn't sure if anyone else heard it and I wasn't sure it would show up on the video. At half-time I discussed it with my partners and they agreed that this was the right way to handle the situation given the game circumstances. She was getting her ass kicked by thirty points and it was only half-time. It didn't fit the game. We came back on the court and they dug and clawed and inched their way back into that game outscoring the opponent by thirty-three points and won that game! I can't help but think that if I had been so by-the-book and called that technical foul that it wouldn't have ended the same way.
Rules are black and white. But so many of the things of human nature fall into the gray area. Only through tons of games can you just "feel" when the gray should supersede the structured implementation of the hard rules. Communicating with a coach in a calm and assertive manner can let them know when the boundary lines are crossed. Once the line has been drawn, the toes are the same as the feet when crossing. Stephanie knew it and she respected it. I never had to go there again with her EVER. A mutual respect was solidified. I also respected the player on the defense who may have heard Coach Stephanie but chose to ignore her and be the biggest girl on the court that day in more than just the body she was born with.