N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried was able to joke about what happened to sophomore Cat Barber at the end of N.C. State’s game at Miami on Thursday night.
A Miami fan sitting courtside pushed Barber with 21.2 seconds left in N.C. State’s 65-60 loss.
The Wolfpack lost the game but avoided a major incident when Barber walked away without retaliating.
“We’re obviously glad nothing escalated,” Gottfried said in his postgame news conference.
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Miami coach Jim Larranaga apologized to Gottfried on Thursday night before Gottfried’s news conference.
Gottfried told Larranaga he appreciated the apology but said it wasn’t a big deal.
“It was a love tap,” Gottfried joked with Larranaga.
Barber fouled Miami guard Angel Rodriguez along the sideline opposite the N.C. State bench with Miami ahead 61-60 with 21.2 seconds left.
Rodriguez got up and then when Barber was getting up, a Miami fan pushed Barber with one hand in the back.
The television broadcast caught the incident. It was difficult to tell how aggressive the fan was from the replay. The clip quickly made the rounds on Twitter after the game.
The replay almost looked like the fan was initially trying to pat Barber on the back. The fan pushed Barber with his left hand and then seemed to apologize. Gottfried can be heard on the broadcast calling Barber’s name and motioning him away from the fan.
After the game, Barber was asked what happened, if the fan was trying to pat him on the back or push him.
“It was a push,” Barber said. “You can tell the difference.”
Barber said he told the fan not to touch him.
You can watch video from the ACC Network at nando.com/catpush.
Before N.C. State flew back to Raleigh late Thursday, Barber put on his Twitter account: “Glad I kept my cool tonight smh .”
The incident had the potential to turn ugly. Last season, Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart pushed a Texas Tech fan and was suspended three games.
The brawl between NBA players and fans during an Indiana Pacers-Detroit Pistons in Nov. 2004 is still a stain on the pro game.
Miami athletic director Blake James also apologized to Gottfried and N.C. State athletic director Debbie Yow after the game.
“This type of behavior is not representative of the University of Miami or our athletic program and will not be tolerated,” James said in a statement released by the school. “We will review the video and discuss with the ACC the appropriate actions in addressing this issue.”
Gottfried said the whole incident, which didn’t delay the end of the game, was unfortunate.
“I don’t think it was really a hard shove,” Gottfried said. “Certainly you don’t want fans putting their hands on players. That should never happen anywhere.”
The incident does raise questions about player safety and courtside security.
There is a game management manual provided by the ACC but security is handled by the individual schools.
Under most similar circumstances, the fan would have been ejected but since it happened near the end of the game, the game was over by the time Miami officials acted.
After the game, one Miami official went to N.C. State’s locker room to review the incident. Gottfried went back to the court to do his regularly scheduled radio interview but his daughter, Mary Layson, showed him a clip of what happened on her phone before his news conference.
Fred Demarest, an associate athletic director for N.C. State, who was at the game, said N.C. State was satisfied with the way Miami handled the situation.
Gottfried said Thursday after the apology from Larranaga it was best to just move on.
North Carolina coach Roy Williams was asked about the incident on Friday and said Barber should be commended for his reaction.
“Let’s praise Cat for doing a great job,” Williams said.