Welcome to part 1/3 of our exclusive with ex-NBA referee Tim Donaghy.
In part one we discuss Donaghy’s infamous story, which dominated sports media headlines in the summer of 2007, as well some current issues in the NBA
Part two covers Donaghy’s past and how that’s affecting his present and future.
And in the final installment, Donaghy lets loose about how much scandal and corruption he believes exists in the league.
You may wonder what he’s been up to since his release from prison two years ago. Well he did some fantastic work on Deadspin for the 2010 and 2011 Finals. He pointed out numerous blown calls for each game, quarter-by-quarter. I suggest you check it out. He also writes for The Sports Connection, blogging and commenting on the air for an Allentown, Pa., radio show. Additionally, Donaghy makes $5,000 per speaking engagement.
By Paul M. Banks
I guess we need to start with a biography. Here’s the synopsis from his Sports Connection profile
Tim Donaghy was an NBA referee for 13 years before resigning in 2007 after a gambling scandal rocked the league. After being released from serving a prison sentence Tim has become an outspoken critic of the NBA and the way it enforces the official rule book for referees.
Tim contends that NBA referees have been conditioned to referee “personalities” rather than the game itself. His outspoken views have put him in direct conflict with the NBA and its board of directors. Tim is a strong advocate for enforcing the NBA rules as written in the NBA official rule book.
Additionally, Tim argues that subtle pressure is applied to referees to “extend” certain high profile series for the purpose of financial gain to the NBA by attracting a larger audience. His book, “Personal Foul: A First-Person Account of the Scandal that Rocked the NBA,” explores these accusations in detail.
Tim’s story has been featured on over one hundred programs, including 60 Minutes, ESPN, Fox’s Your World and on CNN Headline News. Additional media exposure has included the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Philadelphia Daily News, the Chicago Tribune, Sports Illustrated and countless radio appearances and interviews.
I would just like to further add that the views expressed by Mr. Donaghy are strictly his own, not mine or any other individual affiliated with the website.
PMB: What did you think of the officiating in this past NBA Finals? Versus previous Finals?
TD: I think this year there’s been a tremendous amount of mistakes as I pointed out on Deadspin.com. I think in previous years there were just as many mistakes but they haven’t been brought to light like they were this year and last year through Deadspin. In the past the NBA hasn’t put the best referees based on play-calling in the NBA finals. They place years of service, not play calling ability first and hopefully that will change in the future.
They use a rating system, but one of the primary things is years of service, and they’re just starting to move guys out of the Finals who’ve been there for the last 10-15 years. Hopefully, they get a system in place where the guys who get the plays right are the guys in the Finals. You see different guys in the Final Four every year. In college basketball they try to put the guys who had the best year and the best NCAA Tournament. Yet you see the same guys in the NBA finals every year over and over. It just doesn’t make sense.
PMB: Will anyone ever regularly call a walk again? It seems anytime a big star goes to the whole he takes at least two steps, and it’s a horrible example for kids trying to learn/pick up the game.
TD: Well it’s a highlight film for ESPN and the last thing you want to do is take away a highlight film for a network or the fans. They continue to let it go and it obvious this year in the playoffs.
PMB: Have you followed the lockout situation very closely, and what do you believe is going to happen in this labor dispute?
TD: Yes, and I followed it in years past when I was involved in it. I don’t foresee a lockout lasting into the regular session, I think it’s something they’re going to get worked out, there are just too many dollars to be left on the table, and it would be disastrous for players and league. So I look for it to get resolved rather quickly.
PMB: There’s a connection, via Tina Fey, between your family name and the name of beloved “30 Rock” character Jack Donaghy, correct?
TD: Yes, Tina Fey grew up next to my cousin, so the Jack Donaghy character is named after my uncle. There’s a definite connection there through my cousins. So through all the news, I guess one of her writers picked it up and pieced it together. It’s funny stuff.
PMB: A lot of people don’t seem to know/understand that both the NBA and the FBI were unable to prove that you deliberately attempted to alter outcomes of games that you had both officiated and wagered money on. It’s very unfair that some have labeled you a “fixer of games,” because you’ve
never been found guilty of that crime.
It’s the “insider trading” of your NBA knowledge, the profiting from “trade secrets” that you were convicted for.
TD: Basically, it was insider trading where I had information on what was going to be called in the game and how a certain official was going to make calls in a game and I used that to create a line on the game. And I looked at the line in the newspaper, and if it was a 4 or 5 point difference, I would tell people to bet the game. People gloss over the fact that the FBI with the help of the NBA did a thorough investigation that I in fact had to pay for to restitution determined that at no time did I make calls in a game to facilitate the team with one of the bets I had placed with winning.”
Look for part two on Thursday, part three on Frdiay.