From giving grief in the fall to catching it in the winter, HNHS’ Fine sees both sides

Trent Fine coaches the Huntington North High School football team and also officiates high school basketball games around the state during the winter. This is his 11th season as an official.
Trent Fine coaches the Huntington North High School football team and also officiates high school basketball games around the state during the winter. This is his 11th season as an official. Photo by Steve Clark.

Previously published Jan. 24, 2013.

As the head coach of the Huntington North High School varsity football team, Trent Fine is no stranger to giving officials grief over calls.

But once football season changes to basketball season, Fine changes from being a coach to an official, and suddenly it's him getting grief from coaches over calls.

Fine has been a basketball official for 11 years. Early in his teaching career, he started coaching basketball, but decided it wasn't for him. Still a basketball fan, he had a friend who was an official and decided to give it a shot.

"Decided to work at the junior high, lower levels at first," Fine says. "It sparked my interest pretty quick. I moved into the varsity level probably three years into it. And I've been doing it ever since."

Fine has worked games across the state, from Merrillville to Carmel. He's officiated games in the North Central Conference for five or six years and this season worked the conference's non-conference games.
Assignors, along with athletic directors, determine which games officials work, Fine says. He says getting connected with veteran officials early on has been an asset to his career.

"I got hooked up with a couple guys that have been officiating for a long time right off the bat and they kind of brought me along," he says. "Most of those guys have worked the state finals in basketball.

"So, they've kind of just made it easy on me and my start. I've got into some big games early in my career, which I think has helped me."

Last season, Fine called a girls' semi-state game and he's reached regional level on the boys' side.

"I like to keep my schedule," he says. "I try to do close to 30 boys' games and probably five to 10 girls' games. A decent schedule, not a full schedule, but it keeps me busy."

One of Fine's favorite things about officiating is walking into a packed gym and the accompanying atmosphere. It's an atmosphere that's been a part of all the big games he's called over the course of his career, such as the match-ups between 4A schools Hamilton Southeastern and Fishers, but Fine emphasizes that smaller schools can produce great atmospheres as well.

"Some of the most memorable are when you go over to a Wapahani or a Monroe Central, where I coached football for two years, and I remember those," Fine says. "My first varsity games were there and you get packed houses at those small schools every night.

"They still bring a lot of tradition and it's just fun. If I go and get two 1A schools that play hard and the gym's packed, those are just as fun as going to a Carmel or going to a Fishers."

Being an official has impacted Fine as a coach in a variety of ways. Fine says it fosters interaction between him and students that play or are interested in basketball, letting them know that he's more than just a football coach.

"I've learned that it allows the kids to see me out there," he says, "bringing some more of the basketball kids to me, as a football coach, because they know I'm officiating.

"I like the game of basketball and just because I love football and am a football coach doesn't mean I don't want them playing basketball and doing things like that."

Fine's officiating experience helps keep him sharp on the sidelines during football season because he understands what the job of an official is supposed to be.

"This year, I had a couple of my buddies that I officiate basketball with (end) up on crews that were on the road... I had a guy at Marion that, he probably got more of an earful than anybody else all year, just because I knew him and I know what he's supposed to be looking for and what he's supposed to be doing," he says.

Officiating also helps Fine empathize with officials in a way that he might not otherwise.

"It is an advantage, I think, because it keeps me under control on the sidelines and I know when an official has had enough, obviously, not only from me, but my staff or a kid," he says.

"I demand my kids here at Huntington respect officials and don't commit unsporting acts, and that's just because I know as an official I wouldn't want that and I don't tolerate it."

Coaching football is Fine's first love, but officiating basketball is also important to him.

"I take it serious," he says. "I love it... I enjoy the activity. Being active and running. It's fun."