When Alabama men’s basketball games tip off in Coleman Coliseum, a regular observer of the action is watching more than the players. George Evans is the Southeastern Conference observer of officials, and his notes on press row aren’t concerned with the game. He is grading and critiquing the men in striped shirts blowing whistles.
And when George Evans is not at basketball games, he is running the city of Selma, now deep into his second term as mayor. Now 70, he is expected to run for a third term in August.
Evans has a background in athletics and education, and he has sons who are following in something of his footsteps. The native of Selma went to college at St. Mary’s in Dodge City, Kansas, on a football scholarship and played four years of football in college. He returned to Selma as a coach and teacher – the coach part being “because I loved it,” he said. “There wasn’t any money in it back then.”
As was customary, he coached several teams, including basketball, football, and baseball.
When he moved into administration, rising to superintendent of Dallas County schools (he was involved in education for 35 years), he also began public service on the Selma City Council and served as president of the council for eight years, 2000-08. He was elected Mayor in 2008 and re-elected in 2012.
But he didn’t leave athletics behind. He became a college basketball official in 1979, and a very good one.
Evans officiated at various levels, from the SEC and Big 12 to the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC), to junior college. He officiated in a dozen NCAA Tournaments, reaching the Elite 8. He admitted that he had wanted to reach the Final Four, just as coaches and players do.
In his days officiating in the SWAC, he had numerous assignments whistling at Southern University in Baton Rouge, where an impressive point guard was playing. “I’ll admit I didn’t expect Avery Johnson to go as far as he did in the NBA,” Evans said.
Although the two sometimes say “Hello” when they meet in Coleman Coliseum, Evans said he probably won’t have a conversation about old times when Johnson played for Coach Ben Jobe until after the season.
His last 10 years in the SWAC he was the supervisor of officials.
Last December Evans was the first official selected to the SWAC Hall of Fame. (He is also a member of the Alabama High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame, inducted in 2002.)
“In 2009 I got out of officiating,” Evans said of his 30-year career. “And then the SEC asked me to be an observer of officials.”
Evans does not interfere with the work of officials before or during SEC basketball games. After the game he takes his notes and visits with the officials to discuss any unusual situations and the like. Evans gets a video recording of the game he has just seen, as do the officials. Evans does not provide his report to the SEC until after he has reviewed the video.
The aim is to improve officiating, he said, “hopefully to learn from my experience.”
Evans said that officials do not want to assess technical fouls, and certainly do not want to eject coaches, which he called “a last resort.” He said officials look for “the two ‘A’s. First, is there an Alternative. If not, if it is Automatic, there is no choice. We don’t want to assess a technical foul or eject a coach, but we will.”
He does not comment to coaches or journalists regarding those reports.
Evans said he has many friends who are Alabama basketball fans, and he suspects that some may not have a high opinion of the officiating at Crimson Tide games. But, he said, “I am blessed on that deal. Only a very few ever mention officiating, and I don’t respond whether I agree or not.”
Evans has sons continuing in the athletics field. Patrick Evans officiates in the SEC and in other conferences and has called games in the NCAA Tournament. Like his father, he has reached the Elite Eight. Byron Evans is also a basketball official at the Division I level, though not in the SEC. Duane Evans is a coach and teacher at Wallace Junior College in Selma.