DALLAS -- Arkansas basketball coach Nolan Richardson said he started wearing a tie last season so he could pull on it and remain calm when he got upset with officiating. This season, he knows he better hold on for dear life because of the stricter bench decorum rules in the Southwest Conference and tougher National Collegiate Athletic Association rules punishing unruly coaches.
"I am going to have to keep my mouth shut so I don't get thrown out of games," Richardson said.
"They are going to have to give coaches Valium before the games," Texas coach Tom Penders said with a chuckle.
Highlighting the crackdown on coaches' courtside escapades is a new NCAA rule requiring the coach's ejection after two technicals, instead of the previous three. Another rule will hold the coach responsible for actions of the players, assistant coaches and managers. Any combination of three technicals on the bench will earn the coach an ejection.
Players aren't immune, either. If a player is involved in a fight, he is out for a game. A second violation means a season-long suspension.
The crackdown comes after a season filled with arguments, fights and poor sportsmanship.
"I think all of last year was not a pleasant basketball season," said Paul Galvan, SWC supervisor of basketball officials. "The NCAA saw it. The national coordinator of officials [Hank Nichols] saw it in officiating, and he didn't think the officials were doing their part when that type of behavior [unruly coaches or players] happened."
"I feel the rules originated with Dick Schultz, the NCAA executive director," said Texas Tech coach Gerald Myers, a member of the NCAA Basketball Rules Committee. "He put an emphasis on sportsmanship and gamesmanship, and I think it is rightfully so. It's his direct influence on the rules committee."
Among last season's lowlights:
* A brawl occurred during a game between North Carolina A&T; and North Carolina Central. More than 300 fans spilled onto the court, seven people were injured and the game was suspended.
* LSU coach Dale Brown and Kentucky coach Rick Pitino had to be physically restrained from clashing during a game.
* Utah State coach Kohn Smith was punched by Nevada-Las Vegas player Moses Scurry in a melee during a game.
Several incidents involved SWC teams. Richardson staged a controversial walkout during an overtime victory at Texas. Penders served a one-game suspension for twice criticizing officials. There were complaints about former UT player Lance Blanks spitting at Texas Tech player Barron Brown. In a non-conference game, replays showed Texas' Joey Wright was sucker-punched by Oklahoma's Terry Evans.
Galvan said each conference must decide what steps are needed to correct such situations. The SWC has taken the NCAA's get-tough approach a step further.
With a supplemental six-point guideline on bench decorum for players and coaches, the SWC is more precise in what it considers unacceptable behavior. Among the major SWC features:
* A coach cannot talk to officials during the game unless his counterpart on the other bench is present.
* A head coach can get a technical if he charges an official in a disagreement with a call, even if he remains in the coaching box.
* An assistant coach who talks to an official gets one warning and then a technical.
* Players get automatic technicals for taunting.
It's obvious some of the rules are directed at certain coaches.
One rule, which calls for a technical after one team warning for "excessively demonstrative officiating signals," is directed at Penders, who is famous for mimicking the over-the-back call. Myers' favorite demonstration is of the traveling violation.
Richardson obviously was guilty of upstaging officials when he walked out in Austin. Besides Ciampaglio, Rice assistant Grey Giovanine and Texas Christian University assistants Gary Mendenhall and Ken Smith have displayed their tempers on the sidelines.
"We had a situation last year when Nolan walked out, and no one knew what the rule was," said TCU coach Moe Iba. "You had Penders a couple of times [criticizing the officials], and a couple of years ago I opened my big mouth. That is going to happen from time to time. We have all said we are not going to criticize the officials, and they are not going to criticize us. And we are going to be a happy, little family . . . as long as I don't get three officials I don't want."
The SWC's problems in 1989-90 focused more on bench decorum and taunting than actual fighting -- although several coaches were fighting mad by the end of the season.
Besides Penders' suspension Jan. 2 against Texas A&M;, UT assistant coach Jamie Ciampaglio is serving a one-year probation for criticizing league schools and officials last season.
There were eight technical fouls called in the SWC Post-Season Classic semifinals at Reunion Arena when Baylor lost to Arkansas and Texas fell to Houston. Penders picked up three and was ejected. Baylor's Gene Iba was hit with two.
And as a sidelight to coaches' antics in the tournament, Blanks picked up a technical for behaving in poor taste during a first-round game against Texas A&M.; Then in the semifinals, there was a pushing and shoving incident between Blanks and Houston guard Byron Smith in the Saturday semifinal bout in which Smith picked up an intentional foul.
"Fighting in our league wasn't that big of issue," Baylor guard Melvin Hunt said.
But there was plenty of poor sportsmanship and bad-mouthing. Two SWC players said Blanks intentionally butted them with his head.
Rice guard Dana Hardy singled out TCU junior Michael Strickland and Arkansas for excessive talking.
"Strickland, he was so bad," said Hardy. "He was a real talker. Arkansas' players didn't talk to us, but coach Nolan Richardson, it was like he was out there on the floor with them . . . D'Wayne Tanner last year up at Arkansas dived after a loose ball and he said, 'Stay down, son.' "
But did coaches and players behave any worse in the SWC than elsewhere last year? SWC commissioner Fred Jacoby believes not.
"I talk to people in other conferences across the country, and most coaches seem to be unhappy with their officials," Jacoby said.
He contends the eight technicals in the semifinals of the SWC Post-Season is an inflated figure because coaches were wasting one technical to get the officials' attention.
SWC assistant commissioner Duane Lindberg said he heard the same complaints about officiating when he was in the Pacific 10 Conference. "Wherever you are, it's always the worst," he said.
Yet Lindberg doesn't deny the SWC's crackdown is going to take some getting used to. "The rules in place will take a feeling-out period between the coaches and the officials," he said. "It should make for some interesting situations."
Already, SWC basketball coaches are wondering what life will be like with the new rules.
The rule barring coaches from talking to officials particularly irritates Baylor's Iba, a constant talker.
"This is baloney telling officials not to talk to coaches," he said. "Communication is way you solve wars. That's the way you negotiate. When a guy won't talk to you, it frustrates you. When I am completely convinced a guy made a mistake, and he refuses to act like I am there, that causes more problems than it is worth."
Lindberg said the no-talking provision might be too stringent, but that the SWC wanted to reduce "chit-chat" with officials.
"I think we do need to tone down," said Houston coach Pat Foster, who was ejected in a loss to TCU last season. "I think the college game, a lot of observers say, is a coaches' show. The pro game is a players' show. I think there is some truth to that. I think the college coach is more visible, more of a factor. The NBA has some pretty strict rules. You will see the pro coaches arguing with the officials some but not much. And you will never see an assistant coach in the pros bantering with an official like we did.
"There is some justification to a crackdown. On the other hand, [the officials] need to do their job, too."
Consistency is what Penders is hoping for in 1990-91 from SWC officials.
"I will be totally under control if they are consistent with the new rules," Penders said. "I prefer to concentrate on coaching my team. But if the other coach is going to get up and question every call, or stomp his feet when he doesn't agree with a call, I am going to do the same thing.
"I would prefer all games to be treated as NCAA games by the officials and the coaches. When you get to the NCAAs, you don't worry about the other coaches upstaging you, getting away with stuff because the officials won't tolerate it."
Galvan added: "The guidelines say, if you do this, you should expect to get a technical. If one coach does, he gets a technical foul. If the other coach does it, he gets a technical foul."
Penders said Texas will tape the opposing bench as a regular part of its filming procedure to pick up unruly behavior by the opponent. In fact, most schools are expected to be filming because each school could be jeopardizing its ability to defend its players or coaches.
Fighting, which was not a big problem in the SWC, is an area which will receive national attention from officials. And championships could be in the balance because players could be suspended for the season if they are involved in two fights. Previously, three fights cost a player the season.
No matter what rules are changed or introduced, there are still going to be upset coaches, upset players, and officials who have to make decisions on the spur of the moment.
"In some cases it is understandable that a coach is going to get upset . . . a real controversial call," Penders said. "He is getting paid to coach, he is making a living at it. But if he steps out of line, he has got to get a technical foul."
The Southwest Conference has outlawed the following behavior (violations punishable by technical foul):
* Any type of profanity directed at an official or scorer by the head coach or bench personnel.
* Head coach or bench personnel physically "charging" toward official, even in coaching box, in obvious disagreement with a call.
* Players' use of profanity, taunting, pointing a finger or baiting an opponent.
* Only comments from the head coach will be tolerated by officials (one team warning provided).
* Excessively demonstrative officiating signals or inciting actions by head coach or bench personnel.
* Any comments from head coach causing official to break his concentration. (Official will hold up open hand with palm up to signify "that is enough." The next violation will result in a technical.)
* Point of emphasis: There will be no conversation between a head coach and officials unless both head coaches are present.