Referee suspended after incident with Muskegon basketball coach

David Goricki
The Detroit News

A high school basketball official involved in an incident with Muskegon coach Keith Guy in a game last week has been suspended for the remainder of the season, according to Michigan High School Athletic Association communications director Geoff Kimmerly.

The altercation took place during last Friday’s game between Zeeland East (16-0) and Muskegon (12-6), a game won by OK Conference Green Division champion Zeeland East, 59-52. The official and the coach had a verbal exchange before, Guy said, the official put his hands on him and pushed him. The MHSAA continues to investigate. Muskegon County prosecutor D.J. Hilson told MLive a warrant on charges of assault and battery will be authorized Wednesday against the official. 

“The official has been suspended, effective immediately, for the 2020-21 basketball season,” Kimmerly said, noting the MHSAA does not release names of individuals in question. “The investigation is on-going and we’ve been in contact with the school and official.

“The MHSAA does not condone any official making intentional contact with a coach at any time. We expect that MHSAA officials will diffuse situations when possible and penalize under the rules when necessary.

“The MHSAA takes these incidents seriously. The official has been notified of the suspension and will be informed of all penalties once the investigation has been completed. While we do not publicly share penalties for players, coaches or officials, with the actions taken in this situation, we are holding officials to the same standards and penalties that would be involved if a player or coach had contacted an official in a similar fashion.”

Guy, also Muskegon’s athletic director, guided Muskegon to the Class A state championship in 2014. He discussed the situation with The News on Tuesday.

"We tried to get a timeout and he looked right me and blatantly ignored me, so the furthest official ended up granting me a timeout," Guy said. "During the timeout I asked him to come over and he came to my sideline and I told him 'that was unprofessional and I deserve better and my kids deserve better,' and he put his hands on both of my wrists and said, 'Don't go there with me,' and he pushed me with two hands and walked away.

"It was a league game, he may have worked one of our games before, but I don't remember him. I've coached 18 years now and have never had anything like that happen, nor should I have. It's not good at all.

"I was trying my best to tell the other officials what had taken place. One official said he didn't see it and was very apologetic, saying, 'I didn't see it, we've got 1 minute, 3 seconds left, let's try to get through the game.' I told him, 'It's not about basketball anymore, this guy just assaulted me, he pushed me.'

"We did continue the game for a possession or two and the next dead ball I tried to get the third official's attention. I told him, told the third official, that 'he just pushed me,' and I was pointing to the other official and that third official T'd me up (technical foul). I was animated, no doubt upset."

Guy turned in a statement to the MHSAA and filled out a police report. He said he was just trying to coach his players. 

Guy, who is Black, said he had no idea if race played a factor. The official is White.

"I can't really say that because I don't know the guy and that would be unfair to him." Guy said. "It's one of those things where you feel helpless. You feel like as a man, you feel like one of our jobs as a man and as a leader and a coach is to protect your family, and I felt that I wasn't able to protect my family which is my team.

"At that point it wasn't about basketball, it wasn't about the game, it was about what just transpired. When I go into the locker room my kids are visibly upset and it wasn't about the loss, but what had just took place. So again as a man I couldn't give them answers, all I could do was apologize to them.

"In that situation, I'm glad that I didn't do anything. It took everything in my power not to do anything. But again it would go against everything we teach the kids, not to react. If we have to use every moment as an educational moment, and our kids do learn from it. But they were visually upset, and we're still trying to get ready for a game on Thursday, still this is in the back of their minds."

Guy said there were other ways for the official to get his point across.

"We all have to be professional and if anything that I did in that game that he thought was out of line he had every tool at his disposal, which means within the rules, T me up, eject me up, but putting your hands on me was out of line," Guy said.