Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is known for being a perfect model of calm and collected behavior, until he loses his cool in a heated game. Then even the meticulous and polished coach is susceptible to angrily spewing four-letter words. "I don't know any coaches who don't use profanity," says ESPN analyst Jay Bilas, a former Duke player. "It's part of the competition."
Outbursts by college basketball coaches, whether spoken or gesticulated boorishly, have become as routine as a pregame layup drill. They are featured in highlight reels all the time.
The NCAA wants it to stop. This season, referees will start enforcing a bench decorum policy that won't allow coaches to use profanity, abusive language or excessive gestures to display annoyance with officials. Whether they're in or out of the coaching box, if coaches violate the policy, they can be assessed a technical foul with no warning.
"I thought it was long past due," says Hank Nichols, the NCAA's national coordinator for men's basketball officiating since 1986.
Cleaning up coaches' courtside demeanor was initiated by the NCAA basketball rules committee, Nichols says, but it has been endorsed by men's and women's basketball national coaches associations and the Collegiate Commissioners Association. Collectively, coaches stand behind the policy. Individually, it's another story.
"For me, if it's not broke, don't fix it," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl says. "I don't think it's broke. That said, if it's a point of emphasis, I'll have to adjust to it."
Krzyzewski says he doesn't plan to change his ways, at least for now.
"I'm not going to pay any attention to it," he says. "I'll be who I am, and if I'm doing something wrong, I'll be punished and I'll change."
The new policy is about preserving the game's integrity, some say.
"A lot of us are concerned with the general reputation of basketball as a sport," says University of Hartford President Walter Harrison, chairman of the NCAA's committee on academic performance and former chairman of the association's executive committee. "There's a growing interest in the NCAA that the brand of basketball get protected."
Last March in a letter to The Washington Post, Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha Catholic High School Principal Daniel McMahon complained about coaches' stomping and swearing. He pointed out some coaches' tirades are directed at players, and he questioned coaches' professionalism.
"Are these guys educators?" McMahon says by telephone. "If they are, they have an obligation to set an example."
McMahon wrote that if he "yelled and cursed at my students in class, under the guise of motivating them, I would be fired."
McMahon, a former assistant to legendary high school coach Morgan Wootten, believes coaches are given too much leeway on the sidelines. "People tolerate it if it brings in money or if the coach wins," he says. "It filters down. You can go to sixth-grade games and see the same behavior."
Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg responded to McMahon's comments by saying, "If he wants to see us teach, he should sit in on a talk or an academic meeting. To take one small moment in time is an insult."
Virginia coach Dave Leitao agrees, saying sideline demeanor is not usually representative of the way a coach behaves off the court. Anyone who has talked to Leitao probably thinks he is thoughtful and mild-mannered, but in game situations, he can act like a man possessed.