First things first; there are no winners in this Marcus Smart debacle.
Texas Tech booster Jeff Orr was wrong for heatedly yelling at a student-athlete in the midst of heated competition; Smart was wrong to respond physically. It left the athletic department at Oklahoma State with a PR headache and no choice but to sideline a future lottery pick and hinder the long-term outlook for one of the best collections of talent in Cowboys hoops history. Mistakes were made, tempers flared, and now everyone involved is worse for the wear.
But that doesn’t mean the involved parties are without rationalizations.
Bear in mind that a justification isn’t necessarily a viable excuse. It’s merely a reason why something happened, validity aside. Here are a few of those reasons on behalf of both involved parties and the athletic department after the fact.
Smart’s perspective: Smart’s stance is probably the most relatable for anyone who has ever taken part in organized athletics, especially in high school or college.
Imagine yourself as the leader of one of the country’s top teams, one that has lost its last three games and needs to right the ship against a middling Texas Tech squad on hostile turf. The game ends up coming down to the wire, which is stressful in and of itself, and then the fate of the contest comes down to a fast break layup that will put the Red Raiders ahead four points with less than ten seconds to play. But wait! You’ve hustled your ass off and caught up with the ball handler right as he’s about to sky for an easy two-handed dunk. Without getting overly excited and hacking the living hell out of the offensive player, you rise to meet his challenge and send the ball away with what appears to be the perfect block to keep the game close.
There’s only one problem; that block gets called as a foul, and now the game is surely lost. In the midst of it all, you’ve taken a hard tumble into the stands and flattened a pair of fans in the process. As you’re massaging your tailbone and your ego, some nobody tells you to stay down and defames your character for good measure. I have a feeling more of us than not would have taken the same road as Smart.
However, most of us aren’t on the track to becoming multi-millionaire athletes. Sometimes, in the face of hatred and defeat, it’s best to take a step back and live for the future instead of cashing in on instant gratification and suffering the consequences.
Fan’s perspective: Like it or not, you are now Jeff Orr. You donate healthy sums of money to your beloved Texas Tech Red Raiders every season but your contribution never seems to have an impact on the basketball team, which has never played its way further than the Sweet Sixteen during your lifetime and hasn’t even been invited to the Big Dance since 2007. Needless to say, your sanity as a fan relies on hoping for small favors every now and again.
Now, all of a sudden, one of those favors is right in your lap. The number 19 Oklahoma State Cowboys hardly look worthy of the rankings committee love on this evening as the Raiders carve up the defense time and again. Only three of their players enter double digits in the scoring column, and of them, only Marcus Smart breaks the 20 point mark. The same Marcus Smart who you’ve seen kicking chairs, screaming profanities and coaches when he doesn’t get his way.
The game comes down to the final seconds but, yes! Jaye Crockett has picked OK State’s pocket and is on his way to icing the game. For a minute, you sweat the fact that Marcus Smart is streaking down the court to meet your man in the paint and ends up getting a good piece of the once forces collide, but luckily the refs are ready with the whistle and your team’s prospects for a top 25 win are still looking bright.
And there’s Smart, laying on the ground a few feet in front of you, clearly perturbed and thankfully beaten. You lose yourself for a minute and decide to let him know just how deserving he is to lose on this night.
Certainly, Orr crossed the line with what he said, but there are plenty of fans out there who think that it’s acceptable to openly heckle players and treat them like verbal punching bags. Orr is merely a representation of an unfortunately sizable number of individuals who would rather root against the success of others than for the success of their own team.
The Oklahoma State AD’s perspective: This is pretty cut and dried from the perspective of the athletic department.
Your star player turned around and sought out a physical altercation with a fan in the heat of a game. No matter what the fan base may have done to incite the outburst, the media is calling for action and you can’t let another of Smart’s outbursts go unpunished.
Laying down the hammer for a half (hello, Johnny Manziel) or even one full game is too wishy-washy for an issue of this magnitude, so you enact a ban effective for the next three games. That means after the absence, Marcus Smart’s next appearance will be against, you guessed it, the Red Raiders of Texas Tech. On your home court, revenge will be sweet.
The Texas Tech AD’s perspective: Can anything ever go right in your program?
Just when your maligned basketball team pulls off a key win on national television, Jeff Orr hauls off and goes full macho man on the biggest name on either team. Now your fans look like a bunch of idiots and the only national acclaim your team is receiving is for what shouldn’t have happened, instead of what did.
You (likely) meet with Orr and suggest he make himself a stranger at the United Sprint Arena for the rest of the season. He consents, and you hope to move on from this madness and get back to basketball.