Officiating plays going toward the basket and in the lane.
Resides: Mobile, Ala.
Experience: Officiating since 1990, Adams worked his first D-I game in 1992. Having worked in the Atlantic 10, Atlantic Sun, American Athletic, ACC, Big 12, Conference USA, Horizon, SEC, Southern, Sun Belt and SWAC.
REFEREE: Your toughest call?
ADAMS: Oh, yes, out of bounds. I’m not going to say I disagree with what (some say), but they were saying the hardest play is the block/charge, and I personally disagree with that. The hardest play for me is out of bounds, by far. Out-of-bounds plays are the hardest plays, and then basket interference and goaltending, and that’s another play going toward the basket, difficult plays.
REFEREE: What makes goaltending and basket interference difficult for you?
ADAMS: Unless it jumps out at you, you have the mind-set, oh, that’s basket interference or goaltending, if I have to really kind of think about it I try to leave those alone. They have to jump out at you. As far as the flicking on the backboard, flicking the ball off the backboard, they can be real difficult to tell unless you’re in the right position to see it. It’s just difficult. Whose hand is going up there touching the ball, whether he touched it or did he not touch it, and with the replay monitor review the way the rules are set up now, sometimes you’re not able to go review that kind of stuff. It happens very, very quick, especially that flick off the backboard. That can be tough. That can be real tough. The way I’ve been taught how to referee it is to take the plays all the way up to the basket so you go up with the players as they go to the rim, and then referee that play at the rim that’s how I was taught how to do it.
REFEREE: How do you focus on that? What is your mind-set when you’ve got out-of-bounds plays?
ADAMS: You try to put yourself in the right position, the best position possible to see the play. When it happens it’s bang-bang, and go out of bounds. You just have to focus, really focus and concentrate on what’s going on, be into the game and concentrate and you just have to react and see it. You won’t always be right, and that’s when you have to trust your partners to come and help you when need be, and vice-versa, when you need to help them, then you go and do that. You’ve just got to be ready and put yourself in the best position. You have to work to maintain and get open angles. You have to try to get the open angles at all times. That’s all a part of moving and getting into good position.
REFEREE: Are there guidelines for verticality plays when players are protecting their basket?
ADAMS: The defensive player establishes an initial legal guarding position, and the big guys, if they put their hands in a verticality position, they’re able to go backwards or jump up in the air, then they are in legal position. If an offensive player comes into that defensive player, I give him the opportunity for the natural reaction to absorb that contact. Sometimes that contact will allow their hands to come down slightly. As long as they don’t bring it all the way down, then that would constitute a foul on the defense. The verticality to me is not literally arms straight in the air, because that’s unrealistic in my opinion. You have to give them an opportunity, keep in mind that their knees are bent and they’re in a defensive position and their arms are straight in the air, that’s a natural position. When the offensive player is going to initiate that contact, you’ve got to give him an opportunity to react to that. And then that reaction is going to be move back and the arms are going to come down slightly. Then the judgment comes in to whether the defensive player is going to bring his arms down in an illegal act. That’s how I see verticality.
REFEREE: What guidelines would you provide to someone to improve on those bang-bang block/charge plays?
ADAMS: If a defensive player starts off in an initial legal guarding position, he can move to maintain that position before the kid leaves the ground. If it’s not a play going toward the basket, if he moves to maintain his legal guarding position, I look at the offensive player going to him and through him. He goes to him and through him, you have an offensive foul. That’s what I look at. You have to referee the defense in those situations. You have to beat the play down the court to set yourself up to receive the play, and once you receive the play you put yourself in a position to receive the play coming and you referee the defense, and then you can set your parameters and your guidelines and things that you were taught. Go through the checklist. Did he start initially in legal guarding position? Did the guy go to him and through him? And that’s when you decide whether it’s an offensive foul or a blocking foul. But to him and through him on those bang-bang plays.
REFEREE: Is there anything you’re doing as you’re moving in position to receive that play? Is there anything going through your mind, thought process?
ADAMS: Yes, I talk to myself throughout the game to keep myself focused and concentrating on everything. When I’m running down I pick up the guy that can hurt me, who is going to be the competitive matchup is the correct way of saying it. I pick up the competitive matchup and I start refereeing the defense and try to put myself in a position to get the wide angle, to see what can hurt me here. I’m anticipating the play but not the call. I’m anticipating what’s going to happen, but before I blow my whistle, make sure I see what I see. I talk to myself and I tell myself the whole game, call the obvious and keep the game simple. That’s my way of talking to myself. Call the obvious and keep the game as simple as possible.
REFEREE: How do multiple defenders on a block charge play change your mind- set in the officiating aspect of it?
ADAMS: Look at the play yesterday. When most of the defenders come, again, take the most competitive matchup and the person that can hurt you the most, open your angle so you can see, and also you have to get the first foul. If you have a reach in before the collision, you have to have enough intestinal fortitude about you to come and get the first foul before the collision happens, if it’s obvious enough to get. That’s how I kind of see those. Take the obvious play, if that makes sense. If I’m in a crowd of 20,000 people, I’m going to call the play that 20,000 people saw. I’m taking the most obvious play.
REFEREE: How do officials keep both the primary offensive player and the primary defensive player in mind when there’s so much activity going on around the basket? You’ve got an engaged match, the primary, and then there’s all the players, there’s congestion, there’s so many bodies. How do you stay focused on just that one engaged matchup you need to have.
ADAMS: You’ve got to back up and get the best open view. Don’t close your view off. You want to get your open view and see as many players that’s going on. Again, take the people that can hurt you, referee the defense in those one-on-one situations. We have a lot of things that’s going on around them. You’ve got to be aware of everything that’s going on in an area. As an official, when I’m feeling in control, I’m aware of everything that’s happening. I know what defense they’re running, I know what offense they’re running, I know what they’re trying to do, I know whether they’re going to try to dribble drive or the type of style that this team is trying to do. For example, when I referee Arkansas, I know that they’re getting up and down the court. I know if I’m refereeing Kentucky they’re going to do a dribbler drive. I know if I’m refereeing a team like Florida, they’re going to play real good defense, zone match-ups type defense, going inside and out. You have to know everything that’s going on and what the teams are trying to accomplish. I refereed Wisconsin last year, so I know what they were trying to accomplish. They’re big, they’ve got these really big kids. I know that if Patric Young from Florida is setting up on one side to block and the ball is on that side of the block, I know he’s going to bring his butt on this side of the block. With that being said, knowing what the offense and defense are trying to do and understanding that helps me as far as refereeing those type plays when you have so much commotion going on. I was taught that the object of what we do is that we bring order to chaos. A basketball game is controlled chaos, so you have to bring order to that. I try to stay calm and know what’s going on, what the clocks, foul counts, what this coach is trying to do, what that coach is trying to do. It’s kind of more all the intangibles of what’s going on in the game. That’s just something you’ve got to do.
REFEREE: What’s the number one area of focus for you right now as we start the season?
ADAMS: For me it’s always traveling. I’m not the best person on traveling. I’m not good at splitting hairs. I don’t split hairs on travel. I’m working on picking up the pivot foot, which one is the pivot foot, and whether he slides it or moves it on the move. I’m working on traveling. That’s my area of concentration going into the year. And of course the points of emphasis, everything that they’ve been talking about inside there. I want to get better at traveling. The split travel is the new term that they’re using, and I want to get better at split travel.
REFEREE: What’s the most improved part of your officiating?
ADAMS: Probably going from U1 to referee or crew chief, learning from the older guys, the more experienced guys, and how they could conduct and manage a game. Managing the game is probably one of the things I’ve improved on the most. I learned from the veteran guys that I’ve worked with, just watching them, asking questions and things like that. Managing a game and becoming a crew chief.
REFEREE: What’s the best pregame you’ve ever been involved with and why?
ADAMS: A pregame that starts in the car. Normally two officials riding in a car together. The best pregames start in the car, and the reason why is because you start talking about what the teams are going to be trying to accomplish. For example, if I’m doing a team from out west that I don’t normally do but one of the other referees in the car has, they start to talk about what this team is trying to accomplish, or what that team is trying to accomplish, who to look for, who the troublemakers are, who are the scorers, who are the key players, what is the coach’s personality like, is he good to work toward things like that. Ones that start in the car on the way to the game and continue into the locker room, and as we continue the conversation, not so much as a sit down with your board type pregame. Those are the best pregames, as we talk in conversation and what we’re trying to do in the game, things like that.
REFEREE: Bennie Adams, your cousin and NBA referee, how does that relationship help you?
ADAMS: He still helps me to this day. I know that when he watches me, he’s going to give me an honest critique, and he’s not going to spare my feelings. He’ll tell me exactly what he thinks, and we still do it today. He lives in California, I live in Mobile, Alabama, and we still do it today when we see each other. After my Final Four game he called and asked me about a particular play in the second half with six minutes and thirty seconds to go. What were you looking at, if you stand further to the left on that play you’re not going to get straight lines. He’s still coaching, and he doesn’t bullshit. That’s the best thing about that.