First Person: Coldiron gives a glimpse of the man behind the stripes

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By Laura Clark


By day, Terry Coldiron of Shelbyville is a sub-contractor for a local lumber company. By night, he endures the wrath of coaches and fans, calling basketball games as an 8th Region official. Coldiron also officiates NAIA college basketball and baseball. He recently was hired in the Ohio Valley Conference.

In the offseason, he works with a personal trainer to stay in shape. A native of Rowan County, he got his start when an injury ended his baseball career Morehead State. An official for 15 years, Coldiron has his sights set on working his way up the ranks in the seasons to come. He has worked five state basketball tournaments and often works games every night of the week.

  On what keeps him officiating:

As an athlete I loved the game. It keeps you in the game. It’s great for your physical conditioning. The money isn’t really the object; it’s the love of the game. It’s about the kids.

 On working the state tournaments:

It gets you that taste. It’s kind of comparable to golf when you hit a shot that’s perfect. Then the next five shots are terrible. But you have that one to remember. You always want to go back to Rupp Arena and work in front of that crowd. I'm very blessed and very fortunate to have that opportunity. It’s an unbelievable environment.

  On his first State Tournament in 2003:

I was scared to death. You’re there because you have talent, and you wouldn’t be in that situation if they didn’t think you’d succeed. And growing up in Kentucky, Rupp Arena has that certain thing about it. If you didn’t get to go there as a high school basketball player – and I didn’t – the next thing for me was refereeing on that floor. To be able to walk out there and look up at the lights, the banners.

My first State Tournament there was a young player, who was at Rose Hill in Ashland, O.J. Mayo. He played in my first state tournament. I worked Friday night in front of 18,000 people, Ballard versus Rose Hill. Probably one of the biggest games I worked. I’ve still got the tape.

 On the difference between high school and college basketball:

The play is so much better. They’re men compared to high school students. Between those ages, the high schoolers, their emotions control them. They’re off the page whereas these are grown men almost. They understand more about the game. Their bodies are more developed. They’re able to play through more things.

The game’s gotten a lot more physical. You let them play through bangs. You’re taught not to stop the clock for fouls that are not important. It’s all about advantage and disadvantage. If you’re going to the basket and I hit you and you don’t change your speed, it’s not a foul. If you’re in the post and I hit you and it didn’t knock your balance off, it’s not a foul. All contact is not a foul.

At that level, the fans and coaches understand, and they don’t want you to call it.

  On dealing with the heckling from fans and coaches:

It’s not personal. Very few times have I ever run into a situation where it carried off the floor. I have been doing this for a while, so it has happened. But it’s not personal.

Most fans understand that. For those 32 or 40 minutes, it’s their right to say, ‘I paid my seven dollars or whatever to walk in there in give the zebra as much grief as I possibly can.’

  On missed calls:

We are human beings. We miss a lot. But the good ones get more right than they miss.

I’ve worked long enough that I know how to handle coaches, talk to coaches. If I miss a call and the coach says something to me, I’m not going to be standoffish and say, ‘You’re wrong.’ I’m going to say, ‘I know, and I missed it. I apologize. I’ll work harder.’

The ones that are better, they’re going to say the right thing to settle him [a coach]. They’ve got a job to do as well.

I’ve never had a game where I officiated and walked off the floor and said, ‘Oh, I cost that team that game.’

  On the referees’ quick exit:

As a young official I always thought, ‘Let’s get out of here. Just in case.’ But now you’ll never see me do that. I’ll never run now.

Jeff Smith, he’s a college official out of Tennessee, I took off jogging off the floor after a game I worked with him, and he’s like, ‘Where’re you going? What are you running from? What’d you steal?’ It’s just that perception, like we’re trying to get away. I walk now.

I’ve been fortunate in my career to have a lot of people reach back down and pull me up. If they hadn’t I never would have learned some of the things I learned.

  On life priorities:

They always tell us ‘Religion/God, family, real job, basketball’. That’s at the Division I level, that’s what those guys tell us as we go through camps. When you put basketball in front of any of those three things, it never works out.

  On what he wishes for spectators and coaches:

I wish they’d walk in our shoes. We always say, that person who’s working in the office or if they’re in a factory, let me walk in to your job and sit to the side. And every time you do something I don’t like or think you got wrong, let me boo you.

Remember that it’s about those 10 kids on the floor. It’s about those other 15 kids on the sideline with their coaches. It’s all about them. It’s not about what you think I’m doing right or doing wrong, it’s about those kids and getting it right. I don’t have an ego.

  On insights beyond the game:

Last night [Tuesday] I had Simon Kenton and Williamstown [Simon Kenton won, 61-34]. I knew two of the kids from Williamstown. I’d been refereeing them since eighth grade. I put my arms around them and thanked them for letting me work their careers. They’re good kids; they listened. I watched them grow up from just boys to grown men on their way into life.

I told them to just take everything that their coach taught them and use that in their life. Basketball is a game of life. There were lessons that I learned -- the discipline and confidence -- that I’ve used throughout my life.