This isn’t the NBA finals |

This isn’t the NBA finals

“Oh for crying out loud, ref, call it both ways!”


“Watch that pick! That’s a moving screen!”

“Are you going to use that *&%#% whistle or not?!?”

“You have GOT to be kidding me! That has to be THE WORST call I have ever seen! You don’t belong out here, reffing at this level!

“How in the world did you get this job?!?”

Believe it or not, she volunteers – or at least that’s what her pay amounts too, after she fills her gas tank for the drive from Rocklin back home to southwestern Nevada County each Saturday.

Nicole Scott, a Bear River graduate, is a 19-year-old sophomore basketball player at Sierra College. This is her final season on the floor – as a player. It’s a hectic schedule she keeps, balancing psychology books and basketball scouting reports, but she still finds time to head back home to help out the future Bruins by refereeing youth basketball games.

It’s almost an obligation, she said, a rite of passage for players in the program.

Kylee Keroher, a former Bruin and current assistant coach at Sierra College, did it. She coached and officiated games in the Bear River Parks and Recreation youth basketball leagues, just like Nicole.

That’s why Nicole got started – well that, and because of her Dad.

“My inspiration to do it was Kylee,” said Nicole, who is planning a career as child psychologist. “She coached me when I was one of those young kids out there and she coaches me now, too.

“She’s been a big role model, a big part of my life. She did a lot of work with kids, and I wanted to give back as much as she did.”

She also wanted to follow the example set by her father, Jim, who has served as a coach and official for youth sports for 16 years.

Volunteering your time, whether as a coach, referee or scorekeeper is often a thankless task, one that takes a true commitment to kids.

I know, because I’ve done it and will do it again.

In talking to youth sports league officials over the years, it’s become apparent that it’s not a role a lot of parents want to play today.

No one has the time.

Thankfully, though, some make that time.

That’s what Nicole was doing last Saturday, running up and down the floor to make sure 20 or so fifth-grade girls knew and followed the rules of the game.

“With that age group, yeah, you’ll call traveling and everything, but you’re not just calling the game,” she said. “You explain what they’re doing wrong and how to fix it.

“Most of the time, parents will come to me after the game and say ‘Thanks’ or ‘You’re really great with the kids.’ That’s why I was so blown away about what happened. Nothing like that had happened to me.”

What happened, she said, was one of the game’s coaches started to give her an earful.

“He said I wasn’t calling this and I wasn’t calling that, and that I wasn’t calling it fair. He kept telling me what a bad job I was doing.”

At one point, she said, during a substitution, the coach approached her and reiterated his claim that she wasn’t calling the game fairly.

“I told him, you know, ‘OK Coach, we’ve got it.’ I didn’t want to be disrespectful,” she said. “And then, when he was walking back, he yelled at me that I was a horrible ref and that I shouldn’t be out there. He was just yelling it, in front of the players and their parents.”

Ten-year-old players, and their parents.

After the game, Jim entered the gym, having just coached a game of his own, and asked Nicole ‘How’d it go?'”

“I was shook up about it and told the other ref that I would talk to the league about it,” she said.

But once Jim found out how the coach had voiced his displeasure with his daughter’s officiating, he decided – admittedly a bad decision – to talk about things right then and right there.

“This kind of stuff is the reason nobody wants to get involved as an official or as a scorekeeper. It’s getting progressively worse and worse every year,” Jim said. “Parents cussing out the refs, coaches yelling at officials right in their face, parents going after officials after the game.

“It’s getting out of control.”

That was certainly the case a week ago.

According to the Nevada County Sheriff’s Department , 47-year-old Dale Cope, the coach involved, told deputies that he did let Nicole know that he was disatisfied with her officiating. And, according to a story in The Union Wednesday, Cope also alleged that Jim had pushed him, causing him to fall, during the confrontation.

“I did not hit that man. I did not push that man. I did not raise a hand to him,” Jim said. “I can admit my mistake. I shouldn’t have addressed it then. I should have waited.

“But I came up to him and told him if he had a problem with the officiating, he should bring it up with the league and that he is not to get in (Nicole’s) face or any official’s face like that.”

He said Cope then stepped back and, in doing so, fell into the bleachers, before several parents on hand reportedly intervened before the incident escalated.

Cope, nor representatives from the Bear River Parks and Recreation Department, could not be reached for comment. But, Jim said, he’s been told the matter remains under investigation by the league, and could mean he won’t be on the court today – on which he was scheduled to coach two games and officiate eight more.

“My Dad, in my eyes, does a lot for this community,” Nicole said. “He coaches because of his love for this game and because he wants to help. He shouldn’t have anything happen to his name, because of some guy like this.”

Aside from the “he said, he said” of the incident, this much we do know:

This was not the NBA Finals and those were not the Sacramento Kings on the floor.

This was a fifth-grade basketball game and those were 10-year-old kids playing it.

So why the Bobby Knight act?

Just guessing here, but I’m pretty sure those little girls left that gymnasium last Saturday silver-dollar, wide-eyed.

“It really aggravates me, because these kids mimic what they see from the coaches. If a coach is yelling at a ref, they’re yelling at the ref,” Nicole said. “And that’s not their position. Their position is to play the game.”

And the coaches?

“What do they think that teaches the girls they’re coaching?” Jim said. “That it’s OK to scream and yell at people when you don’t get your way?”

Jim said he plans to hang up the whistle and clipboard after this season, a decision he said was made much easier after this incident.

“This is recreation league basketball and he made my daughter cry,” he said. “What did he gain from all that, from all he did? And what did he teach his own daughter in doing it?

“I would not treat someone the way he did. It just turns away the people that want to help. I’m done. This is my last year.”

Let’s hope his daughter doesn’t follow his footsteps out that door. It seems our youth sports leagues could use a few more people involved for the right reasons and capable of keeping a kids’ game in perspective.


Brian Hamilton is sports editor at The Union. He may be reached via e-mail at or by phone at 477-4240.

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