There is a lot of information out there about the scandal that is now rocking the NBA. Perhaps the most disturbing came out in yesterday's NY Daily News:
Federal authorities believe the referee at the center of the betting and game-fixing probe rocking the NBA will cooperate with investigators - and possibly name other officials or players involved in the scandal, law enforcement sources told The News.
Other players and refs involved? This could get really, really ugly if there are other refs or even players involved in this thing. Can you imagine the uproar if players have been involved in points shaving? Or if there is a conspiracy between several refs? Of course, we don't know if anyone else in the NBA was involved but there is that possibility at this point. Covers.com , on this page dedicated to refs and their tendencies, reports that Donaghy ranked third among the NBA’s 60 refs last year for calling the most games where the final score topped the projected over/under line. Home teams also had a dismal 30-41-3 record against the point spread in games he officiated. So, two other refs (Jim Clarke and Orlandis Poole) ranked higher than Donaghy in games that covered the points spread. Are they being investigated? Could Donaghy name either of them as being part of the scandal? Donaghy has hired a lawyer who specializes in representing whistleblowers so next week, we may get more details and more names. Or maybe he will just name his mob connections, leaving the rest of the NBA out of it. Only time will tell how deep this scandal reaches.
The information coming out about Donaghy has been pretty troubling. This guy was unstable with a history of problems on and off the court. Off the court, Donaghy has been sued several times for erratic behavior. In 1995 he was charged with harrassing and stalking a man. In 2002, he was charged with harassing and almost running a postal carrier off the road because the carrier accidently tipped over Donaghy's recycle bin. In 2003 he was again sued for a pattern of public harassment of a neighbor that included yelling obscenities, setting fire to their tractor, and crashing their golf cart into a ravine. He was suspended from his country club for bad behavior in 2004. He was sued again in 2005 by a neighbor for instigating a pattern of public harassment. Setting fire to a tractor? Crashing their golf cart into a ravine? This is a very disturbing pattern. These should have been red flags that something was wrong here. As image conscious as David Stern is on everything else, I find it very strange that he overlooked chronic behavior like this from a referee.
On the court, Donaghy has had a couple of run ins too. One of the more well known instances was an altercation with Rasheed Wallace. In a game between Portland and Memphis, Wallace was called for a foul by official Scott Wall. Wallace tossed the ball toward Wall, who had his back turned. Donaghy called a technical on Rasheed for throwing the ball at Wall. Wallace was angry and argued the call. After the game, as Donaghy walked past Wallace, who was signing autographs at the time, and there was an altercation where Wallace was said to have threatened Donaghy. It is unclear from the reports whether Rasheed was provoked or not, but he was suspended for 7 games for the confrontation. Donaghy wasn't disciplined.
In another incident closer to home, Donaghy called 2 technicals on Doc rivers just 1:41 minutes into a game against New Jersey on April 9, 2005. The Globe had this to say about it:
So, what did coach Doc Rivers say to earn the quickest technical assessed a head coach this season with 10 minutes 19 seconds left in the first quarter? According to Rivers, not much. "I said [to referee Tim Donaghy], `C'mon know the rule. That wasn't a hook,' " said Rivers, who was protesting an offensive foul call against Antoine Walker. Suffice it to say, Rivers uttered the so-called magic words to earn a second technical and ejection during the same stoppage. Since the two have a history of interactions, Rivers believes the referee may have had an agenda. "I think Tim Donaghy has got it in [for me]," said Rivers. "That was a personal tech [the first time]. But I earned the second one. I don't approve of what I did. I hurt the team. We have had run-ins, but you always have run-ins. But the first tech, I never got off the bench and I still got the call. What was that about? I'll call the league office on it, but there's not much you can do. Instead of running up the floor [after the first technical, Donaghy] hung back.
Doc filed a complaint with the league but nothing was done about it. Another well known incident that Donaghy was at the center of includes the 2004 brawl in Detroit that ended with Pacers players fighting with the Pistons fans in the stands. This led to many suspensions and a black mark on the league.
Detroit regained the lead and the ball with just 30 seconds left and Chauncey Billups drove the lane and collided with Brain Cardinal. Crew Chief Dick Bavetta called the play a charge but was overruled by referee Tim Donaghy who called the play a block and awarded Billups two free throws. Upon looking a replay of the events, it was a very close call, but appeared to be a charge which would have given the Warriors ball and a chance.
I found this quote from George Karl about his experience with Donaghy:
"That may have been the worst call of my career," said a dumbfounded Karl afterward. "An important game like this and then to take me off the bench. For what I said? That's a sad commentary on officiating. "That was the cheapest throw-out of my career." Karl got the heave-ho from referee Tim Donaghy with 4:54 left in the first half during a three-point play by Bucks forward Glenn Robinson. Karl received the first technical for telling Donaghy that Indiana's Jalen Rose was riding Robinson on a drive, a call that referee Mike Mathis ended up making. Karl then strolled out to midcourt to ask Donaghy why he had received the technical. "What the hell did I say?" Karl inquired of Donaghy. Donaghy's only response was to whistle-up Karl again, providing him with his walking papers. "That technical was the worst job of officiating that I can remember," said Karl. "Maybe it was something personal from before, but I don't remember anything."
Yet another incident that involved Donaghy is from a Detroit/Warriors game:
Yet, the NBA responded with the chaos that was the finish to the Pistons’ win over the Warriors. Richard Hamilton, late in the third quarter, received a technical foul for arguing a call from referee Tim Donaghy. During their heated discussion, Donaghy was quoted as saying to Hamilton, “You aren’t a captain, don’t say anything to me.” The call was soon followed by a furious Brown, who exclaimed, “You can’t talk to my player like that.”
And here is another incident where a call by Donaghy influenced the end of a game.
It was with 1:28 remaining in the fourth quarter that the game swung back San Antonio's way.Referee Tim Donaghy called Johnson for defensive three seconds with the Pacers leading 86-81. The Pacers bench went ballistic as Manu Ginobili made the free throw. "The illegal-defense call was really a tough call, and I just watched it three times and I think the guy that called it is going to regret calling it," Carlisle said. "In that situation it's a tough thing to call. You can make a case he was out of there."
Here is what Bill Simmons wrote after the third game in the Spurs/Suns series in this year's playoffs.
Congratulations to Greg Willard, Tim Donaghy and Eddie F. Rush for giving us the most atrociously officiated game of the playoffs so far: Game 3 of the Suns-Spurs series. Bennett Salvatore, Tom Washington and Violet Palmer must have been outraged that they weren't involved in this mess. Good golly. Most of the calls favored the Spurs, but I don't even think the refs were biased -- they were so incompetent that there was no rhyme or reason to anything that was happening. Other than the latest call in NBA history (a shooting foul for Manu Ginobili whistled three seconds after the play, when everyone was already running in the other direction), my favorite moment happened near the end, when the game was already over and they called a cheap bump on Bruce Bowen against Nash, so the cameras caught Mike D'Antoni (the most entertaining coach in the league if he's not getting calls) screaming sarcastically, "Why start now? Why bother?" What a travesty. Not since the cocaine era from 1978-1986 has the league faced a bigger ongoing issue than crappy officiating.
Below is a video that was put together to show the horrible calls in this game.
If you put all this together, there appears to be a very disturbing pattern. According to STATS LLC, Donaghy officiated 131 regular-season and 8 postseason games the last two seasons. Donaghy called games involving every N.B.A. team during that period. He saw some teams a handful of times, like the Chicago Bulls (five games), and others a lot more, like the Miami Heat (15). I went back through the Celtics games over the past two seasons and here are the ones officiated by Donaghy.
2005-2006 Season 10/14 Raptors at Celtics W 107-100 11/4 Pistons at Celtics L 82-81 11/20 Sixers at Celtics W 110-103 2/10 Blazers at Celtics W 115-83 4/19 Miami at Celtics W 85-78
2006-2007 Season 10/17 Celtics at Knicks L 116-106 2/2 Clippers at Boston L 100-89 4/11 Sixers at Boston L 102-94
I am not sure what the point spread was and if Donaghy affected the outcome of these games at all, but I doubt the big money was being bet on the Celtics. I would say that more money was swirling around the better teams such as the Spurs/Suns game discussed above. Details are coming out that Donaghy called more technical fouls than any other ref, and some of these led to exchanges like I have detailed for you from Doc and George Karl. Donaghy also ranked fourth in blowing personal fouls; was third in ordering free-throws, and second for fouling-out players for the 2006-2007 season. Again, there are other refs who call more fouls, do these refs match those who are above Donaghy for games that covered the spread? Lots of questions yet to be answered. The league knew in January that Donaghy was being investigated for possible corruption but yet he was allowed to continue to work games until the end of the season. Did Stern think it was just going to go away? Or maybe he didn't want to tip him off while the FBI gathered evidence against him, watching his movements very carefully. But a report in the NY Daily News tells us that an investigator hired by the NBA was asking Donaghy's neighbors questions about his gambling over a year ago. I guess this will all come out eventually. David Stern is going to have a press conference this week and he has a lot to answer for.
The refs can very easily influence the outcome of a game. I have seen refs very obviously calling games for one team or another. I have also seen star players get calls amd role players never get calls even when the situations are identical. But if anyone dares question the refs or call them on their bias or bad calls, they get fined for it. What would stop refs from betting on games and then subtly affecting the outcome of the game by the calls they make?
And this one that seems prophetic now:
I expect the next scandal to come out will be a ref betting on games he officiates. Some of them obviously have agendas for calling the games and this may very well be it.
At the time I was frustrated with the terrible calls I was seeing in games and frustrated that no one could question the officiating. If they complained they would be fined. If they lodged a formal complaint, as Doc did, nothing came of it. At that time I suggested that the League form an oversight committee to investigate complaints from players and coaches of bad calls. If something like this was in place over the past two years, chances are it would not have been so easy for Donaghy to get away with influencing games with his calls.
Only time will tell how deep this goes and how the NBA will recover from this. But if Stern is smart, he will no longer allow the refs to be the absolute unquestioned authority. It is obvious that Stern hasn't been able to adequately oversee the refs and they haven't been able to police themselves. I don't believe that the fans will trust them to do so any more. A committee of owners and former players needs to be put in place to do so. The integrity of the game is at stake.