UC-Irvine coach Russell Turner managed to make a 20-point loss to Oregon Sunday night look even worse during the postgame press conference by explaining how he taunted Oregon freshman Louis King during the game. When asked about a conversation between the two during the postgame handshake line, Turner seemed amused by his attempts to provoke the 19-year-old forward during the NCAA Tournament second-round game by referring to him as “Queen.” (Get it? But do you get it?) From Turner’s postgame remarks, it sounds as if he also directed his team to do the same. The point, Turner explained, was to use the taunt to get the teenager off his game instead of using the traditional tactic of, you know, defense.
Here’s what Turner had to say about the so-called strategy:
I was saying double team Queen to try to see if I could irritate him. And I did. And I kept talking to my team about what we wanted to do. We were calling him ‘Queen’ because I knew it might irritate him, because of how important he is to their team, the queen in chess. It was a play on his name of King. And it bothered [King] … He started thinking about me. But he came back and finished the game really strong. And he’d had a thing or two to say to me during the game, and I wanted to let him know that what I’d done was out of respect.
It’s impossible to know exactly what Turner was going for in his choice of jeer: sexism, homophobia, or perhaps both. By Turner’s own admission, King noticed the taunt and reacted to it, but still managed to score 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting. After the game, King’s mother chided Turner on Twitter and called on him to apologize. “It was in poor taste,” Ativea King said. That is certainly true.
A day later, Oregon said Turner had apologized.