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Indiana University

Associated Press photos
Indiana coach Tom Crean urges his players to treat the noise and barbs of fans on the road as faceless and nameless.

Staying cool amid abuse

College coaches sound off on reacting to fans' barbs

Purdue coach Matt Painter urges his players not to react to fans’ insults.
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey stays vigilant to players’ frustrations.

– Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart's shove of Texas Tech fan Jeff Orr in the Cowboys' 65-61 loss Saturday brought fans' behavior and how players should react back to the national conversation.

College basketball coaches are using the incident, which resulted in a three-game suspension for Smart and a statement from Orr saying he will not attend another Tech game this season, as a tool to reiterate how their players should handle hostile situations.

"You can't let anyone get in the way of your career or your responsibilities to your team and, most importantly, you can't let anyone get to you in a way that will affect you in a negative way," Indiana coach Tom Crean said during Monday's Big Ten coaches teleconference. "It's a lot easier said than done, there is no question about that.

"The more that you can treat – especially on the road, which is hard – the noise and barbs as faceless and nameless, the better you are going to be."

Purdue coach Matt Painter echoed Crean's and other coaches' message of needing to ignore what is being said.

"You are going to have fans yelling at you and saying things to you, and you don't respond to them," Painter said. "They paid the money for a ticket. They can sit there and scream and yell whatever they want. Sometimes it is not positive things they are saying or not politically correct, and it's wrong. But you have to ignore them and keep your focus on the game."

With the Boilermakers set to play host to the rival Hoosiers on Saturday, Painter said he is not worried that the fans in Mackey Arena will have a close encounter with players similar to what happened in Lubbock, Texas. Smart tumbled into seats behind the basket while preventing a dunk before his encounter with Orr.

"Our students and our fans don't necessarily sit on the floor," Painter said. "You just go into a scoreboard. There are fans above it in seats, but you can't reach them. I think it is a lot different when you are in situations or you are at venues where you can physically touch (the fans). At our place, you can't. We're on top of you, but you can't touch them."

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said during the Atlantic Coast Conference teleconference that what happened Saturday hit close to home for the Irish, because he believed part of what Smart did was out of frustration with how his and the team's season is going.

Notre Dame has lost five of its last six and is 3-8 in the ACC.

"There has been frustration when guys who come out of the game, not that they're bad kids, they're just frustrated with how they're playing or how we're playing," Brey said. "It is one of those things where you are trying to calm them down and get them back on track.

"It is probably good for every coach to maybe have a mini-discussion about that, because that is really fragile and it can happen at any time."

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said he believes social media have made it harder for players to ignore fans, and at times, because of what is being said on various platforms, players are more likely to want to go after fans.

"Fans maybe get so cocky now because they can hide behind their little computer and say things, maybe they've gained a little more courage now face to face," Izzo said. "Talk radio you can shut off. The newspaper, you can not read. You can not look at your phone, but you ain't going to win that battle.

"I just tell my guys stay off Twitter if you can't handle. I'd say about 90 percent of America can handle it, but if you have a son or a daughter and they were saying to your son or daughter what they are saying to some of our players, you'd be fighting too."

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said universities need to play a role in keeping arenas from becoming too hostile.

"What I've seen over the years is the lack of game supervision by people to try to prevent their fans from doing that," he said. "It's your responsibility as a school to make sure that you understand you should show respect, cheer like crazy, go nuts, but try not to go over the line."