Leslie Turk

South Alabama coach loses it

by Leslie Turk

When South Alabama's Domonic Tilford hit an off-balance, bouncing three-pointer with 2.4 seconds left in Saturday's game against UL Lafayette at the Cajundome, fans on both sides thought the game was clinched.

Randell Daigle did not.

"After a time out, Tyren Johnson inbounded to guard Randell Daigle, a Lafayette kid and Northside High grad, on the dead run toward midcourt," says freelance sportswriter Dan McDonald, who attended the game. "He took a handful of dribbles and let fly from around 35 feet for game-winning three-pointer."

The fans went crazy. But not nearly as crazy as USA head coach Ronnie Arrow. "Arrow seemed OK with everything until he saw an overhead replay on the big scoreboards and became convinced that Daigle didn't get the ball out of his hands before the clock expired," McDonald says. The shot's good if leaves the fingertips before the clock hits zero.

The NCAA allows replay in cases like this only if there is a courtside monitor, UL sports information Director Daryl Cetnar says, and there isn't one at the Cajundome. "There is no rule that says you have to have a monitor," he says. (UL's system goes straight to a control booth in one of the boxes at the top of the building and then to the big screens hanging in the middle.)

Arrow became more and more angry, apparently believing UL and Cajundome folks were preventing him from seeing the replay for himself (which McDonald says he couldn't see at courtside anyway). He started pounding his fists repeatedly on the scorers' table, McDonald recalls, screaming at everybody including security guards and demanding that the UL athletic director come courtside. By Monday morning Cetnar still did not know if Athletic Director David Walker was at the game, believing he may have been out of town.

"I haven't seen that kind of wild-eyed look from any supposedly sane person in a while," McDonald says. "The assistant, Chris Coker, was out of control, too."

Others at the game swear they could read the "f" word flying out of Arrow's mouth - particularly directed (with finger-pointing class) at UL fans. Neither McDonald nor Cetnar witnessed any vulgar language, but security and other members of the game management would likely have been in a position to see it.

A call to Arrow was not immediately returned; South Alabama AD Joe Gottfried was out of town and unavailable for comment, according to his office.

"Ironically, while he was beating the table and screaming at folks, the dome TV technical guys found a shot from one of their sideline cameras and put a freeze-frame on the overhead screens that appeared to show the ball out of his hands and in the background," McDonald says. "The clock over the basket on the other end was at 00.1 [tenth of a second]," he continues. "It was blurry but plain enough to read. The folks in the arena saw it as did most of South Alabama's players, who were still out on the court. This was probably five minutes after the game ended, and when the players saw that they meandered toward the locker room. But Arrow kept up his rant, demanding to see the replay."

As of Monday morning there was still no word on how UL plans to address Arrow's behavior with the Sun Belt Conference. "I haven't spoken to our AD about that," Cetnar says.

It would be appropriate for referees to lodge a complaint, but as is customary, officials had already left the floor when Arrow went into his rage. "They were gone," Cetnar says. "There was nothing more to talk about."

Says McDonald, "It was pretty strange and kind of a shame, because it took focus off what was a great last minute of play and a miracle shot by a Lafayette kid who struggled all night." Daigle finished 2-for-11 from the field.

Anybody got this guy on tape?

(Update: See Arrow's meltdown here.)