Crisis of character (cont.)
Posted: Friday July 20, 2007 7:04PM; Updated: Sunday July 22, 2007 5:02PM
Donaghy's competence, or lack thereof, doesn't prove or disprove that he was making crooked calls. But now, as Madsen says, "Every player is going to try to remember their games that he worked. If there were any close games or late calls, players are definitely going to think about that. This is bad."
Though it was obscured by the subsequent riot in the stands between members of the Indiana Pacers and Pistons fans, Donaghy's work on Nov. 19, 2004, at the Palace would've earned him no commendation from the league office. He and Ronnie Garretson, the two senior officials, did little to defuse the situation after Detroit's Ben Wallace threw a punch at Indiana's Ron Artest. Artest then went and lay down on the scorer's table; after a cup of beer was tossed at him from the stands, all hell broke loose.
Donaghy was also on the crew that worked a game in Sacramento on the April 2004 night that the Los Angeles Lakers' Shaquille O'Neal claimed the outcome was "predetermined" after a 102-85 skunking by the Kings. Then again, Vlade Divac, an inventive flopper then playing for the Kings, always brought out Shaq's angry side.
In January 2003 Donaghy and Rasheed Wallace, then with the Portland Trail Blazers, got into a postgame shouting match on the loading dock of the Rose Garden in Portland. Wallace had been upset with some of Donaghy's calls during the game. Again, that proves nothing since at one time or another Sheed, now a Piston, has been upset with everyone's calls. But officials are not supposed to get into offcourt shouting matches with players.
Donaghy, who is about 5-foot-7, looks like a junior-high kid staring up at the players he officiates. He does not have the bulldog demeanor of Crawford (no one does), but a former friend of his says he was highly aggressive. "Tim was an unbelievable athlete, a hard-driving kid, very determined," says Scott Newman, the editorial sales director for Bloomberg North America, who grew up playing basketball in Philly with Donaghy. "He always wanted to be the best. He was a little guy who got the most out of what he had. He was very passionate about what he did."
That's one way to put it. The league source with ties to the Philadelphia area put it this way: "He's the kind of guy who is always in fights. When he was a kid you'd see him throwing rocks at cars. He's just an a--hole. No one likes the guy. He's always in fights on the golf course, that kind of thing. He's a very antagonistic guy. When you have too many enemies, one of them comes back to bite you." Obviously this scandal isn't just about something coming back and biting at Donaghy. It cuts to the heart of a league that struggles with public perception even in the best of times.
"Even though it might be only one guy, it doesn't matter," says an NBA coach. "If you're a fan, you're going to walk out after a game wondering."
Questions about point spreads are prevalent among casual fans even though the subject doesn't come up all that much within the league. I can attest to that -- I just don't hear much conversation about it. (Then again, I'm not a gambling man.) "Things happen too fast in this league to worry about whether you're up two points or 10 points," says one NBA coach. "I don't know how one referee blowing one whistle could have that big of an impact."
But don't think gamblers aren't aware of who's wearing the striped shirt. The website Covers.com tabulates how individual refs perform vis à vis the over-under in every game.
In case you're interested -- and now you are -- Tim Donaghy finished third for the 2006-07 season.