ATLANTA — Folks, it was one Hess of a mess.
Even in this bizarre season of ACC basketball, no one could have guessed that the league tournament in Philips Arena would begin with officials Jamie Luckie, Mike Eades and Bernard Clinton putting their shoes in their mouths.
And yet when a mostly empty Philips Arena opened for action Thursday with Maryland's 82-60 win over Wake Forest, the officiating trio came out with "KH" patches taped to their shoes in an obvious show of support for fellow ref Karl Hess.
There were no "KH" reminders on the shoes of Thursday's N.C. State-Boston College officiating crew - Les Jones, Brian Dorsey and Sean Hull.
Hess has been a subject of much debate since ejecting former State players Chris Corchiani and Tom Gugliotta from their courtside seats during the Wolfpack's loss to Florida State in Raleigh on Feb. 18.
Earlier this week, it was learned that Hess would not be included in the ACC rotation for the first time in years.
After N.C. State stopped BC, 78-57, in the tournament's second game, Pack coach Mark Gottfried said he couldn't remember such a display from officials.
"But hey, I don't have a dog in that fight," Gottfried said. "I'm worried about Virginia and nothing else. As far as I'm concerned it's not an issue."
N.C. State's C.J. Leslie said he wasn't aware of the "KH" movement. Scott Wood was aware of what happened, but declined comment.
"That's long gone as far for us," Pack senior C.J. Williams said. "It's not anything we need to get involved with. We just need to play basketball and not worry about anything else."
The best lines, of course, popped up on internet chat room sites:
"Is there a candlelight vigil planned as well? unreal man."
"Just when you thought this fiasco was fizzling ... THIS comes along. Wow. This is akin to Everette (sic) Withers giving Butch Davis the ... game ball ..."
"All of the Wolfpack coaches should put white tape on their shoes with Corch's and Gug's jersey numbers."
"any chance the K and H stand for Krzyzewski and Huckleberry?"
The ACC quickly issued a statement from officials supervisor John Clougherty that offered no real insight into the show of support for Hess:
"Karl Hess wanted to make sure that he did not take away from the ACC Tournament, its teams and the players; therefore, he made the decision not to participate this year. The officials, as a group, have agreed to respect Karl's decision and will eliminate any further distraction from the Tournament."
Otherwise, league officials and game officials would not elaborate.
In the long and short run, what happened Thursday probably will be quickly forgotten by most fans.
Hess put on a grandstanding, needless performance when he ejected Gugliotta and Corchiani in the first place. What Luckie, Eades and Clinton did Thursday is more proof that some officials put more importance on their "show" than should be the case.
But that's the history of ACC basketball, too. The building was embarrassingly short on fans Thursday. But there was no shortage of postseason passion among those who attended and those who participated.