Monty McCutchen: Basketball Signals and Mechanics are made in an aerobics room

signals and mechanics are made in an aerobics room
Basketball signals and mechanics are crucial to our success as basketball referees. The stakeholders in the game want the game officials to be confident and consistent. They want referees who will administer the game efficiently and with purpose.  This is what we are all about at
  • Monty McCutchen was considered to be at the very top level of NBA basketball officials. He moved into NBA management in 2018. For basketball officials the phrase holds true, “When Monty speaks, I listen!”

    “When Monty speaks, I listen!” Monty McCutchen:

    “As we get into presence on the floor though, we are going to move into the subject of projection. Projection on the floor is what defines our presence, at least in regards to refereeing the actual game.
    Projection starts long before you actually get to the game. It all starts with your signals. Basketball signals and mechanics are a hard-fought battle won in an aerobics room. They are not won anywhere else other than well in advance of the actual event. Projection is the performance of the hard work you put in into the aerobics room.

    I used to practice probably close to an hour a day. In the aerobics room, I use both the space and the mirrors to see your signals and how they look from front? How do they look from the side and even how they look from back? You can look back through various degrees of how the mirrors work. You can work on your pacing. “Alright I’m on the left side of the goal here and I’m going to present to a table with on my right. Do I want to walk around players and give off the impression that I’m scared of them? Or, am I going to cut through the lane and and go directly to the table?”
    Now, I realize I’m giving you an example from a pro mechanics standpoint that may or may not apply to each in one of your conferences. If you have a conference supervisor that tells you to go up and around players then of course that’s what you do.

    Presence and projection is ultimately about strength.

    My point is is that you should have practiced this to know what you want to do and then know how to fit it in to what the supervisors desires are. Smart people can make quick adjustments when their supervisors ask them for new things. If the supervisors are leaving some of this up to you, getting to the table in the most direct manner gives a presence of strength.
    Presence and projection is ultimately about strength.
    You can’t have that without will and so you’re in that aerobics room and you’ve put in the hours upon hours of presentation. You know exactly when you want to start your signals. By that I mean you should know when to start your signals so that you know how long it’s going to take to finish your signals. I like to start and project my basketball signals and mechanics with my voice. I always start my signal in a way that allows me to finish my signal where I want to finish knowing where the ball is. By that I mean if I’m going to be at the 28 foot mark for free throws, I want my signals and mechanics finishing up just about the time I hit the 28 foot mark. Then, all I have to do is turn around and now begin my administration of the free-throw with my responsibilities as the new Trail, whatever those may be.

    We do not want an erosion of confidence

    I don’t want to finish my signal and be at the spot where I’m supposed to be and have to continue giving my signals and mechanics. I don’t want to give my signal and then have that look like, “Oh wait! Now I got to get over to the slot or Center position.”
    I do NOT want to, as a result have that sort of hesitant look, to have people thinking I don’t know where I’m going to finish up. That is a presence and a projection issue, that although isn’t tangible, is very real. A coach or administrator may not say “Man, he looks confused,” those words may not actually come out. But, there is an erosion of confidence in people that have that hesitant look when they finish their signals and don’t know exactly what their next position is supposed to be.

    Check out this video that follows up on Monty’s thoughts:


Switching in 2-person basketball referee mechanics

Switching 2 Person Mechanics

Switching in 2-person mechanics

Today we’re continuing our series for new officials with the switching in 2-person mechanics that occurs between the two officials when a non-shooting foul is called. We are going to learn directly from the National Federation of High School (NFHS) Officials Manual (the mechanics manual) and discuss exactly what the NFHS says about handling of switching on a foul. We will include switching all non-shooting foul & long switch. We’re teaching directly from the officials manual and going from there.

What is switching?

What switching positions means: the basketball court from basket to basket has a North End and a South End. When a non-shooting foul is called (by either official), the officials will ‘switch’ their North/South orientation. Switching does not mean changing positions East and West. Officials move in that fashion constantly in a 2-person game, and it is NOT considered switching. Relative to the court the officials’ North/South positions on the court will switch. It may be in the front court it may be in the back court but the relative North/South orientation of the officials to the court will be reversed (switch.)


Let’s see what the officials manual has to say:


in slide one the lead calls a foul on black three the lead needs to take care of their basic officiating responsibilities at the spot of the foul:

  • identifying the color and number of the fouler
  • giving a preliminary signal and
  • indicating where the resulting throw-in will be

The non-ruling official needs to at a minimum freeze their vision and observe all ten players while the calling official goes to the reporting area to report the foul.

The route that the official takes to go to the table is very important here the mechanics manual explicitly states they are to go around the players

as the calling official approaches the reporting area they need to observe both benches and penalize for any inappropriate action at the table are calling official needs to take care of business they need to

  • come to a complete stop
  • verbally announced the color and number of the fouler
  • while giving the number with two hand mechanics (updated 2017-18)
  • give an indication of the type of foul

once the calling official has finished reporting the appropriate official can then administer the resulting throw in

Before we move on to examples let’s just go over the principle of boxing in. When working two-person mechanics it is essential in order to keep vision on players at all times to use the boxing in principle.

When foul reporting is occurring, obviously one official is no longer able to observe players and it becomes extremely critical that the non-ruling official takes over the full responsibility of the crew of keeping eyes on players

In the following examples let’s make sure that we notice when officials are achieving this and when they are not and identify in your own game situations where you have taken eyes off players. Identify those situations and constantly work to eliminate them. The ability to keep eyes on players during deadball periods is a characteristic of a great official. Eliminating situations where we don’t have eyes on players is a habit.

It’s a habit that you need to work on reinforce and make sure is a positive aspect of your game.


Trail calls a foul in this instance what are we going to do we’re going to switch! 

Trail is going to go to the table to report the non-ruling official is responsible for observing all the players and forcing the switch. In this instance the off-ball official moves to the new throw in spot note the movement of the officials how we get boxing in they move in tandem around the players. Is it perfect? no, but it’s habitual II a great thing to do the Trail calls a foul in this instance what are we going to do we’re going to switch on this play the Trail is pretty quick to turn away from the action the new lead is looking at the ball our observation of players is not ideal but once the calling official reports our boxing in action is very good on this play everybody knows what’s going on the players know where the throw in spot is the coaches know officials are moving to position themselves and we’re ready to play promptly foul is called with a sideline throw in. What time is it boys and girls? it’s time to switch!

Very important on this play to watch the lead he makes an attempt to grab the ball but realizing he can’t get it he ignores the ball and that’s a really critical thing to do as the off ball official you have to understand you what your your job is and that is to observe players. You have to observe players. Critical to that is not chasing the ball. What’s going to happen the ball is going to find you. The ball will find you as the official everything will work out if you can grab it and it makes your game move along a little quicker that’s great but number one priority is observing players at all times.

NFHS 2-Person Three Point Coverage

One of the most inconsistent areas of 2-person mechanics is three point coverage.

3 point coverage in basketball officiating is an inconsistent area for 2-person mechanics. Most officials learn mechanics from other officials and think you are doing it properly. The resource that tells all is the NFHS Officials Manual. Today we will review 2-person mechanics for three point coverage. One of the most inconsistent areas of 2-person mechanics is three point coverage. Most officials learn mechanics from other officials and think you are doing it properly.

The resource that tells all is the NFHS Officials Manual.

Today we will review 2-person mechanics for three point coverage.One of the most inconsistent areas of 2-person mechanics is three point coverage. Most officials learn mechanics from other officials and think you are doing it properly. The resource that tells all is the NFHS Officials Manual. Today we will review 2-person mechanics for three point coverage.One of the most inconsistent areas of 2-person mechanics is three point coverage. Most officials learn mechanics from other officials and think you are doing it properly. The resource that tells all is the NFHS Officials Manual. Today we will review 2-person mechanics for three point coverage.


Today we will review 2-person mechanics for three point coverage.One of the most inconsistent areas of 2-person mechanics is three point coverage. Most officials learn mechanics from other officials and think you are doing it properly. The resource that tells all is the NFHS Officials Manual. Today we will review 2-person mechanics for three point coverage.One of the most inconsistent areas of 2-person mechanics is three point coverage. Most officials learn mechanics from other officials and think you are doing it properly. The resource that tells all is the NFHS Officials Manual. Today we will review 2-person mechanics for three point coverage.

Get Great Position as the Center Official in 3-Person Mechanics

Center Positioning

3 Person Mechanics. Tips for getting great position as the Center position.

Goal: to help you be in the right position at the right time.

Transcript. Hello everybody. Greg Austin with We craft video to help basketball officials get better and take control of their officiating career.

If you’re an opera singer and you have the high c that’s fantastic. If you’re a basketball official working 3-person not so much. That’s what we’ll cover today: center work in 3-person officiating. Today on five minutes on the officiating.

Play Analysis 01

But now the ball has passed away whereas it passed to the centers primary. The center steps down so that when the ball is caught they have an open look on the play. If they were here and they stepped up they’d be in we’d have a two trail position with an uncompleted rotation we don’t need that. We need open looks. So, our center has an open look on the play. Lead moves to close down. What do we expect to have happen? A rotation!

Play Analysis 02

The trail of course is officiating away once the ball goes into the center’s primary and is connected to the lead. Those two move in tandem. We’re back to our standard position. The 2 center position. Will be in this position a lot as a crew. When we are we’re in great shape. Open look on the ball and the defender. Center lead fantastic. So position adjust. Open look. Watching for the defender running at recognizing the rotation but holding position for a subsequent rebound. This is where i want to be. Controlled by the other team. I know i’m new lead. Off we go.

Play Analysis 03

All right ball is swung to the weak side. The center could actually step down to receive this play. There’s no other action in this primary. This is a very common maneuver forcing a switch or trying to get on top of the play. Note where the action is on the court it’s on the far lane line. Screening action officials definitely engaged thinking about rotating. Is a rotation required here? Not necessarily. The center gives up his open look for a closed look in anticipation of becoming the trail.

Play Analysis 04

New center has an open look on the play. What do we expect her to do? Nothing. Keep the open look. Steps down to have a better look on the resulting play. She knows there’s going to be a rotation. We have six players in her primary and more on the way. Step down. Get the open look. When the pass goes into the post continues up and i call this an artificial movement. A feeling that “i’m the trail i need to be up here,” when in fact, staying here would have given a better look on this play for footwork /travel. At possible traveling violation or subsequent passes to the wing here and here kicking out for a three pointer trail. New trail worsens her look by coming up to here.

Play Analysis 05

I encourage officials to fight for the open look regardless of their role on the court. As trail see more lead balls in the center’s primary. Has an open look on the play. Has awareness of a competitive matchup also in his primary. This is not a competitive matchup. Gives up the open look now has a closed look. It’s a habit. It’s a habit officials have. I would say look at it when you’re breaking down film of your games identify whether you have a tendency to want to give up your open look. Just watch the center on this play it’s got a matchup in his primary. What does he do he steps down to improve his look. That’s his new match up. It stays there to officiate that play has a good look.

Play Analysis 06

I would not drift any higher. Open up so you can also be aware of this matchup in your primary. Watch center again officiating the players in her primary. Officiating the players in her primary. Realizes a shot at a balls going to the wing here and a possible shot. Sees this defender sees this defender. Why? Because she has an open look on the play! Note the angle. She’s stepping down to improve her look. Has a fantastic look at the play. Gets the call right.

Center steps down to receive the play. Has an open look on the play. Center knows they will be the trail. They’ve become the trail. The rotations have been completed. They know there the trail will they have any artificial movement as a result. I’d hope not. Steps up then has the next play want to maintain an open look on this play.


Thanks for watching 5 minutes on officiating. Join the conversation with comments in the comment section below. As always share this video with other officials who could benefit from it. Thank you.

Avoid missed rotations as Trail. 3-person mechanics.

avoid missed rotations trail

Avoid missed rotations Trail.

3 Person Mechanics.

Cues as the Trail to help you be in the right position at the right time.

Hello everybody, greg austin with Over the weekend, while doing some three-person training, a couple of officials asked me how they could avoid missing rotations as Trail. That’s what we’ll be covering today: Trail action in three-person mechanics. Today on Five Minutes on Officiating. Stick around. Many officials, especially those who also do 2-person mechanics, find themselves as Trail watching the ball in the Center’s primary and missing rotations as a result.

Fixing the Problem

Let’s look at some of the cues we can give ourselves to prevent this. When the ball goes away from the Trail when the ball goes away into the Center’s primary as trail we need to:

  • look away
  • officiate away
  • move our body away.

We don’t want to see the ball caught in the Center’s primary. We should be officiating away while the ball is in flight. Take a step down and officiate players off-ball in this area. Trail will have an excellent look at what the Lead is going to do when the ball settles in the Center’s primary and can react accordingly when the Lead rotates. The Trail has a clearer view of them because their officiating off ball they see what’s going on. They have a direct look at the Lead because they did not follow the ball into the Center’s primary.

Lead Initiates a Rotation

When this occurs the Lead initiates a rotation the Trail is connected to the Lead the Trail and the Lead are tied together they move together the Center maintains their position and keeps the open look. Look at our position as a crew we have the to Center position Trail Center in transition. The ball is in the Center’s primary. The Center picks up the action. Once this action is picked up Trail looks off ball here.

Open Looks are Key

Picks up the rotation by the Lead here. Is in position as see to officiate this play. Ball gets swung when i have an open look on this play here all right Trail has on ball action is in good position the balls past to the centers primary. Trail looks away moves away when the ball goes into the Center’s primary. Make your first step as the trail a step down towards the end line. Look away officiate away!

Rotation is successfully picked up pass to the wing Center is in position for the catch. Sees the defender here here the Trail has dribbler and their primary defender the ball is passed into the Center’s primary. The Center has an open look on the play. Trail official looks away officiates away moves away. As if on a string tied to the Lead this is a great rotation. You Trail has on ball the balls passed into the Center’s primary. We’re expecting the Center to get an open look on this play.

One last thing

We expect the Trail official is going to officiate away move away pick up action here and pick up a possible rotation by the Lead. We have great position as a crew Trail has on-ball defender. The ball is passed to the Center’s primary. We expect the Center to move and receive the play with an open look. We expect the Trail official to not see this ball caught in the Center’s primary but rather officiate away and move away which is exactly what we get. Picks up the rotation get to official play.

Thanks for watching five minutes on officiating join the conversation with comments in the comment section below as always share this video with other officials who could benefit from it. Thank you.


Free Throw Positioning as Trail. 2-person.

Free throw positioning Trail

Free Throw Positioning as Trail. 2-person.

Free throw positioning Trail

The Video:

Free throw positioning Trail. NFHS rules in 2015-16 make it a violation for an opponent of a thrower to enter the semi circle, and make it a foul for
them to contact the thrower (if it is more than incidental contact) prior to the ball hitting the basket or the backboard.


Free throw positioning Trail. all right let’s look at a couple of examples first off positioning where to stand as the trail and 2-person mechanics
manual says halfway between the nearer lane line and the sidelines so we’d want
to be about here and we want to be just behind the free-throw line so possibly
right about here on the court would be a good spot we’re responsible for these
two players on the lane and the thrower in two person were responsible as well
for players violating beyond the arc so we want to position ourselves so that we
can certainly see these three players to detect if they violate or not and
usually that’s gonna be have to be up a step I personally like to stand right
about here right about here it’s a good place to start


all right
official properly has a silent count but you see when the ball is released raises
the hand and turns the shoulders right immediately blocking view of these
players here we’re now going to have to ensure that we open up our shoulders in
our body and officiate any players coming in who may violate the semicircle
another example now this official has a much better angle on the play very close
to the sidelines could step out onto the court a little bit but the angle to
officiate these players is crucial silent count and again he makes the same
mistake not in a position to judge this action here or whether whether there’s
any subsequent dislodgement let’s watch again the official turns is shoulders
basically which is going to be the kiss of death on this play with a hand raised
completely obscuring this action here you’re just not going to see it so we
have to take care of this business first all right

Free throw positioning Trail

this example our official is has a great angle on the play a little close to the
sideline notice the open look on the players here keeping the shoulders open stepping down
for rebounding action but not giving up on this responsibility here as well
bottom line we have more to do when we’re officiating the free throw we need
to make sure that our body position is such that we’re in the best position to
officiate the play when you break down the video of your game make sure to
check yourself how you’re doing positioning yourself to see what you
need to officiate don’t close yourself off make it a habit of staying open open
looks we love them if you found this useful give it a like share it too
officials who could benefit from it have a great day.

Basketball referee procedure at spot of foul

Basketball referee procedure at spot of foul.

Today we’ll be covering something that is absolutely essential for new officials: Basketball referee procedure at spot of foul. If you are a new(er) official I’m fairly confident that you have been told you need to slow down. A common problem an issue for new officials is being in too much of a hurry in general, but specifically at the spot of the foul.

As a new official you don’t want to be in that position where you are doing the “look back.” You’ve made a great call. You’re 100 percent. You start for the table to report your foul and you realize you don’t know you don’t know who your fouler was or worse yet you guess and put the foul on the wrong player. When you have to look back you create that moment of perception by everybody observing (coaches, players etc) that you are indecisive. We want to eliminate that. You are decisive and you want to show that so here it’d be. At A Better Official we constantly preach to understand and implement what’s in the officials.

Basketball referee procedure at the spot of the foul

B) At the point of the foul, it is imperative that a definite procedure in officiating mechanics be used when a foul occurs. Let’s understand what the word imperative means. This is the only time the word imperative is used in the officials manual. The word imperative, let’s look at the meaning: of vital importance; crucial. Look at the synonyms all-important, vital, crucial, essential, indispensable, urgent.  So let’s pay attention to what officials manual says is imperative to do at the spot of the foul.

The calling official should perform the following duties in order:

1.  Inform the timer and alert the scorer by sounding the whistle with a single sharp blast. While raising one hand fists clenched straight and high above the head.

2. When clarification is needed delay and extend the other hand palm down toward the fouling player’s hips bird dog signal

3. While holding the foul signal move toward the play and near the fouling player. Stop and verbally inform the player that he or she fouled by stating the jersey color and number.

4.  Lower the foul signal and indicate the nature of the foul by giving a preliminary signal

5.  If a team control foul signal in direction of the non fouling team’s basket. If a shooting foul verbally give free throw shooters number two the shooter and other officials visually give the number of free-throws to the non calling official

6.  Indicate the throw-in spot if a throw-in will follow

7.  If basket has been scored signal to count as soon as it is legally scored. If a try attempt is not to be awarded whether or not the attempt is good immediately wipe off the attempt with the appropriate signal.

8.  Do not be in a rush to leave the play area if players are in close proximity or on the ground.  Attend to the dead ball situation at the point of the play before leaving to report to the table.


We’ve covered what the mechanics manual explicitly lays out about Basketball referee procedure at spot of foul. now your job is to go ahead and implement that. Our strong recommendation is to learn to state at the spot of the foul the color and number of the fouler. This imprints it in your mind it makes it so easy to go to the table with that at the top of your mind. You will never again face a situation where you’re looking back.  If you’ve got black 23 at the spot you’re gonna have black 23 at the table.