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College coaches like to remind us that they're also teachers, which is why many are using what happened to Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart as a teachable lesson to their players.
Smart was suspended three games by the Big 12 after exchanging words and shoving a Texas Tech fan in the final seconds of Sunday's game in Lubbock. The fan denied using a racial slur, but he did admit to calling Smart a "piece of crap."
Florida's Billy Donovan, who coached Smart for USA Basketball over the past two summers, is using the incident as an educational tool for the No. 3 Gators, who will visit a hostile environment when they take on No. 14 Kentucky on Saturday.
"I tell our guys all the time: When you're going on the road, there's always going to be situations and things that can distract you from doing your job," Donovan told reporters on Monday. "There's enough to deal with in between the lines with who you're playing against, never mind trying to deal with what's going on outside the lines.
"For us, it's the same things, same message all the time. We've got to do our jobs, be connected and focused on doing our jobs."
That same message of not getting involved in altercations with fans, be they verbal or physical, is being re-emphasized by coaches around the country this week.
"We talk to them all the time about that, but everyone in the country is talking about it a little bit more," Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. "It's just the idea of keeping it between the lines and hopefully everyone learns something, not just those who are involved but everyone in the country."
Said Kentucky's John Calipari: "There are hostile environments everywhere we go, and I tell the guys, 'You can't deal with all that.' We get it the same way and hopefully we've taught them."
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo thinks the lesson goes beyond the basketball court as well. Izzo told ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike" on Monday that social media is another domain where players must be wary of pitfalls.
"It doesn't matter what you tweet. It's what you read. That's what I keep telling my guys," Izzo said. "We can control what they tweet, to a certain extent. They're going to get frustrated sometimes and probably say something stupid. But it's what they read.
"We all get frustrated, and I think [Smart] is getting grilled on that. We have no way of getting away from it. When you're in the gym, two hours, they're yelling at you, you get away, go back to your dorm and life becomes normal. Not anymore. Those same people at that arena are now yelling at you on Twitter. You can say, 'Don't read it,' but I don't think it's the way our kids are brought up."
While players should be accountable for their actions, Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings believes fans should be, too.
"I think that fans more and more are of the opinion that they can say whatever they want without regard and without ramification,'' Stallings said. "And probably because at times you can do so anonymously, whether it's talk radio or Internet-type things, and then all of a sudden you get into a public setting and maybe there is some carryover.
"But I get the feeling fans feel like they can say kind of whatever they want to, that that comes with the price of admission and sometimes there might be a ramification for something that you say if it's out of line. I just think that the fans need to be responsible like the coaches and the athletes are supposed to be responsible. ... I get the passion and all that. I do. And I appreciate it very much. But there's a difference between cheering hard for your team and yelling obscenities at an opposing player.''