Five technical fouls a new low for a coach used to getting his way

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 28, 2005

[1/20/05]Thomas Billups, the Bully of Bailey Avenue, has made a name for himself around the state for his quality Lanier High School basketball teams and his uncanny ability to belittle referees.

His actions are akin to a Discovery Channel special he’s the lion looking for the weakest link among the zebras. When he finds his prey, he pounces.

He calls them names, tells them the game has passed them by, stomps his feet and grits his teeth. He deals enough verbal abuse in two hours for most people’s lifetimes.

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It’s a rare sight to actually see one of the zebras use the only weapon they have to stop his rants the technical foul.

According to high school basketball rules, when a coach is called for a technical foul, three things happen. (1) The opposing team is awarded two free throws. (2) The opposing team then gets possession of the ball. (3) Said coach must stay seated the rest of the game.

In the event of a second technical, the first two steps are repeated, then the coach is ejected and must leave the gym. Many coaches can deal with the one technical foul. The second, however, damages both reputations and wallets. In Mississippi, getting ejected from a game costs $250.

Billups rarely has to worry about getting slapped with a technical foul. He’s been coaching in this state for more than 20 years and when he gets around officials, he becomes an untouchable. While berating the referees during the Jackson Public Schools Tournament game against Warren Central, Vikings coach Jesse Johnson questioned the officials for letting Billups get away with the antics. “He’s been doing the same thing for 20 years,” said Johnson, who played for Billups at Vicksburg High.

Last week, Billups met his match.

In a win last week, Billups was hit with one technical. Soon after, he got another. Case closed.

Except this is Thomas Billups.

He would not leave the court.

SLAM! A third technical.

Billups refused to leave.

BAM! A fourth technical.

Billups refused to leave.

BOOM! A fifth technical foul.

Finally the bully, whose school is located right off Bailey Avenue in North Jackson, left the gym.

Dr. N.Z. Bryant of the Mississippi High Schools Activities Association said officially a coach can only receive two technicals and that the situation would be handled from that standpoint.

The MHSAA will not deliver more severe punishment because Billups provides a nice bottom line financially. His Lanier High teams are perenially among the state and nation’s best. The Bulldogs sell out almost every home game, and drew an estimated 6,500 to the Mississippi Coliseum for a showdown with a highly rated team from Georgia. All make for a quality payday for the state’s governing body.

I’d be willing to bet that if a coach from Natchez, Greenville or Vicksburg received five technical fouls, things would be different.

Then again, things usually are different when the Bully of Bailey is involved.

Sean P. Murphy is sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. E-mail him at