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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Hall of Fame was Settting for TRUE HEROS

SPRINGFIELD - Bob Delaney has a different opinion of the meaning of peace.

Being yelled at by Hall of Fame coaches, glared at by 6-foot-11, 300-pound athletes and booed and harassed by 20,000 fans a night may not sound like fun for most people, but it is therapy for the veteran NBA referee.

That may appear stressful to most people, but Delaney has experienced more, much more in his life to feel threatened and intimidated on the basketball court.

Before he became one of the enforcers of the rules of basketball, Delaney was an enforcer of the law in New Jersey and spent three years undercover, infiltrating Organized Crime in the Garden State and helping to arrest and convict dozens of Mafia members.

New Jersey state trooper Bob Delaney ceased to exist while Bobby Covert showed up on the Jersey waterfront, running a trucking company as part of the joint state police-FBI operation called Project Alpha.

Speaking before 300 students from middle schools in Springfield, Holyoke and Ludlow at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame's Center Court on Friday as part of the shrine's MVP of Character speaker series, Delaney spoke of how he used refereeing to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder suffered from his undercover days.

"To me basketball is therapy," Delaney, whose book "Covert: My Life Infiltrating the Mob" is now going to paperback, said. "I didn't look to get into the NBA, I was just looking for inner peace. I had always been around what was bad in life and I wanted to be around what was good.

"The distractions of everyday life are separated when I'm out on the court," he said. "But it was a passion for me, it was part of who I'd been since I was a kid. And when I was going through tough times I just wanted to get back to what was peaceful to me and that was the basketball court."

Life after Project Alpha was difficult for Delaney, in part because he felt guilty for betraying the people he had come to call friends, and because he had trouble adjusting to life after Bobby Covert.

Returning to the basketball court just felt good, it wasn't meant to be a career for the son of a New Jersey state trooper. But Delaney was passionate about officiating and worked hard at it, and he got the right breaks to make a living out of it while officiating helped him cope.

Delaney spoke to the students of passion, education and leadership, and made a point about snitching.

"If someone's got a gun in a backpack and you're not talking, you're not being a leader," he said.

Besides talking to students, Delaney still works with law enforcement at every level of government and is heading to Iraq and Germany this summer to talk to the U.S. soldiers about post-traumatic stress disorder.

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