After Oklahoma State star Marcus Smart pushed a Texas Tech fan who called him a "piece of crap'' Saturday, Renaldo Garcia recalled how he has been there.
Sickles High's veteran boys basketball coach was a guard on the University of Florida's 1989 SEC championship team with 7-foot-2 center Dwayne Schintzius, whose mullet (aka the "lobster") and occasional boorish behavior made him the league's tallest lightning rod.
Opposing fans' taunts reached a crescendo that season, after Schintzius, a Brandon native, was punished by the school (though never charged) for allegedly wielding a tennis racket and hitting a UF student.
"Oh my goodness, that year when Dwayne had the little incident … everywhere we went we got pelted with tennis balls," Garcia recalled. "Dwayne really used to get a lot of verbal abuse on the road, and he really handled it well. He kind of used it as a motivational tool."
Case in point: With a second remaining at Vanderbilt and the Commodores leading by two, officials called a technical on the crowd when tennis balls were thrown onto the court. Schintzius (who died in 2012) sank both free throws, and UF won in overtime.
"Dwayne never went after anybody," said Garcia, a former Tampa Catholic standout. "But it's a big difference when you're talking about a guy's haircut and how tall he is as opposed to skin color."
The son of a Cuban dad and African-American mom, Garcia recalls being called "boy" while warming up in Starkville, Miss., and hearing others yell, 'What are you, boy?!' "
"It was offensive, but I didn't think about going in the stands," Garcia said.
"Looking at that play the other night with Smart, I think it's a different story if you're chasing a loose ball and find yourself in the stands and hear a comment like that right on top of you. I understand you're not supposed to engage in that type of activity, but sometimes it's easy to say that from afar."