Lindsay Whalen received six technical fouls during her Hall of Fame basketball career. Most of them were achieved with that intent.
Other times, she toed the line in making her point to the referee.
"I would just complain," she said, "and then at the end, I would smile and wink. That goes so far."
Whalen acknowledges that "there is definitely an art" to addressing the officials as a player or coach when protesting calls or non-calls without crossing into histrionics that become distracting or self-sabotaging.
That sideshow has become a frequent topic for the Timberwolves as Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards have taken turns feuding with refs.
Edwards' standard pose is arms extended and screaming "Hey!" at an official after being bumped or hacked on drives to the basket without drawing a whistle. He made it three minutes into Thursday's game at Milwaukee before complaining about a non-call.
After that, barely a peep. Edwards ignored the officiating and just played, which was a positive sign.
The constant complaining can be exhausting to watch, but this is not just a KAT and Ant issue. Everyone in the NBA complains to the officials to varying degrees. It's so ingrained that it looks like a reflex. Drive to the basket, complain to the ref.
Those who have played and/or coached understand that extreme competitiveness and emotion are root causes. Learning to harness the griping or manipulate it is an art that comes with experience.
Wolves TV announcer Jim Petersen notes that veteran NBA point guard Chris Paul knows the rulebook front to back and uses that to his advantage when confronting refs.
"To be able to go back to them from the standpoint of, 'I know what the rules are too, and the rule says this,' " Petersen said. "That is really smart."
Former Wolves guard Ricky Davis had angry exchanges as a young player until an official pulled him aside one game and asked Davis if he makes every shot he attempts.
Davis looked at him quizzically before answering no.
"He said, 'Well, I don't make every right call,' " Davis said. "It enlightened me a little bit."
Davis said he learned that complaining did not always achieve his desired objective, especially early in his career.
"The way I was approaching them like, 'What are you calling? What are you doing? This is not foul!' … It was wasted breath," he said.
Whalen called it "wasted energy." She learned that reality the longer she played on those championship Lynx teams.
"We did complain quite a bit," she said. "It's hard enough to beat the Sparks or the Storm. It's wasted energy. It's distracting. You're not focused on the game plan."
Sometimes emotions just come pouring out in the heat of fierce competition. Whalen's frustration boiled over in Game 2 of the 2012 WNBA Finals against Indiana. Let her explain:
"They were fouling us," she said. "It's nice now because I can say that, and I can't get fined. Well, maybe they could hit my 401(k). And I'm friends with the guy who gave me the tech."
Whalen said she "had just had it" with Indiana's physical play. She received her only career playoff technical after Briann January "swiped across my wrists and there was [no call]."
"I ran after [the ref] in a real demonstrative manner," she said. "I'm sure there were a lot of not-great words being said."
Whalen enjoyed her banter with officials for the most part and always tried to keep it respectful, even playful. She would occasionally say, "Yep, good call" when she got called for a foul — "even if you didn't think it was," she said.
It was all part of the game within the game.
"You've got to know when to back off," she said. "You've got to kind of read people's body language a little bit, too."
She knew which officials handled complaints better than others. She also understood that people have bad days and make mistakes. A little self-awareness goes a long way.
"You have to understand that you do foul," Whalen said. "You are going to get fouled and not get every call."
Whalen acknowledges that she drew a lot of fouls going to the basket during the 2010 and '11 seasons with the Lynx. She initiated contact with her shoulder to get angles for layups. She stopped getting as many favorable whistles starting in 2012.
"They started to realize that people aren't here to watch a free-throw shooting contest," she said. "I had to change a lot of my game. I had to adjust. It took a year-ish of frustration and not getting calls and complaining and wasted energy. But then I realized, 'Hey, it will be really good if I work on my mid-range jump shot.' That became more of my staple later in my career."
Whalen never received a technical foul during her tenure as Gophers women's coach, though she still worked the officials. She drew a warning in her first game after returning from an appendectomy.
"You're going to warn me a week after I had my appendix out?" she yelled back.
Whalen and the ref shared a laugh.
There is an art to this dance that Ant and KAT must figure out. Maybe they should steal Whalen's tactics. Occasionally tell them good call. Or smile and wink after protesting.
Skip the appendectomy, though.