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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Listen to your ole Pop.

I've been asked a lot about "how the NBA feels" regarding the recent reports -- 60 Minutes, ESPN, etc - on the "beat the dead horse" story of a former NBA referee and his criminal acts which disgraced the league and ultimately ruined the lives of the wife and children of the felon.  As most of you know, it is no longer my place to comment on behalf of the NBA, as I stepped down from my post in the summer of 2007, just as the Donaghy fiasco was breaking the news column in the NY Post.  In fact, that day, I was working as a consultant to the league and USA Basketball as we began training camp for the 2007 Basketball Tournament of the Americas.

If I were asked to comment, I would echo exactly these words (in italics below):

Mike Monroe, a respected NBA scribe, had a chance to sit down with NBA lifer, Gregg Popovich to discuss the sitchie:  Here is my view in a sentence or two, then Monroe's excellent column from today's paper from the land of the Riverwalk:

TL's take:  The quote that jumps off the page is Pop's view that "a lot of people have worked very hard over the years (How about: their whole lives) to bring this sport to where it is right now. For anybody to think that it is not on the up & up really is offensive."

See San Antonio's Mike Monroe on San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich's opinion on the claims of the fired ref :

If Spurs coach Gregg Popovich thought there was any truth to disgraced referee Tim Donaghy's allegations that NBA whistle-tooters routinely let personal bias rule their on-court judgment, he would walk away from the game.

“A lot of people have worked very hard over the years to bring this sport to where it is right now,” Popovich said. “For anybody to think that it is not on the up and up really is offensive. If I thought it wasn't on the up and up and I didn't have any control over outcomes, I wouldn't be doing it.

“It would be kind of a waste of time.”

This is precisely the ongoing problem David Stern and the NBA have with the league's image since Donaghy was revealed as a ref who bet on games. Far too many of the NBA's fans believed the refs were crooked before his conviction on federal felony charges.

For Donaghy now to feed those fears with allegations he made on “60 Minutes” and ESPN's “Outside the Lines” makes some fans believe the games are wasted time. Popovich didn't watch Sunday's “60 Minutes” when the CBS news magazine's Bob Simon interviewed the referee, recently released from prison. If he had, he may have been surprised to see himself in a cameo role. Donaghy cited his ejection of Popovich from a game in which he had bet on the Spurs asprima facie evidence he remained objectively unaffected by his bets.

“Losing their coach cost San Antonio the game and Donaghy his bet,” said Simon after the clip of Popovich, heading for the exit, ran on a TV screen behind interviewer and subject.

This claim may surprise Tim Duncan and his teammates. They probably believe they are capable of winning, with or without Popovich.

Donaghy's purpose for appearing on the Emmy Award-winning show, aside from hyping sales of his book, was to rationalize his conduct and bolster claims he never manipulated games. But by insisting he merely leveraged knowledge of the personal prejudices of former colleagues into an incredible edge with bookmakers, he has set conspiracy theorists to drooling.

Many of Donaghy's assertions are punctured in a thorough deconstruction in Henry Abbott's “True Hoop” blog on Anyone who doubts the game's integrity should give it a look before knee-jerking. I like the suggestion made by Nuggets coach George Karl, who told CBS Sportsline's Ken Berger on Monday that the league needs to have a “town hall meeting” to get everything in the open.
“Put 10 guys in the league, or 20 guys — two coaches, two GMs, a couple guys from the league office, a couple of referees,” Karl said. “Sit them down, and have some forum or discussion on all the details and subjects so you have enough information so you can write whatever you want to write, rather than every day he tells another story, or the book comes out and we're responding to this over six weeks or eight weeks.”

Here is what I think: With Donaghy gone, the league's officiating staff is more dedicated than ever to what Popovich calls “the up and up.” And if a referee has a personal bias — refs are human, so it's hard to believe there aren't some who do — the added scrutiny that is sure to attain because of the latest Donaghy revelations now serves as a leavening agent.

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