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'Our worst nightmares'

NBA ref in disbelief amidst Donaghy gambling scandal

Posted: Friday July 20, 2007 7:36PM; Updated: Saturday July 21, 2007 3:08PM
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Tim Donaghy, who recently resigned as an NBA official, is expected to surrender to federal authorities sometime next week.
Tim Donaghy, who recently resigned as an NBA official, is expected to surrender to federal authorities sometime next week.
Rocky Widner/Getty Images

Shock. Anger. Disgust.

Those were the reactions of one veteran NBA official to Friday's news the FBI was investigating referee Tim Donaghy for betting on games.

"It's a stick of dynamite," said the ref, who requested anonymity. "We'll have to deal with this for years to come. All the conspiracy theorists, they're waking up now. It's a bad day for the NBA and all officials. It's a bad day. My phone hasn't stopped ringing. It's shocking stuff."

Donaghy, 40, is expected to turn himself into law enforcement authorities early next week. He reportedly bet on games that he worked, although it is unclear whether his calls affected the outcomes of any contests.

The veteran ref, who worked with Donaghy during the 2006-07 season, said he had no idea that his colleague might be compromising the integrity of the game. Donaghy was a veteran, himself, who had worked over 700 games, including 20 playoff contests, in 13 NBA seasons.

"Tim Donaghy... it's a shock," he said. "I worked with the guy, and he never, ever gave me the impression he would do something like that."

According to the ref, it wasn't until Donaghy resigned his position recently that he even considered the possibility that his colleague might have been involved in something improper.

"When he resigned, right away we figured something was up," he said. "But I had no idea. Referees don't give up jobs too often. They kill to get jobs like this. To be on the job for 13 years (and then quit), everybody was wondering...

"Today confirmed our worst nightmares."

The NBA officiating fraternity is a close one, so it was no surprise they were burning the phone lines with each other to talk about the case. According to this ref, plenty of zebras are more than a little upset. Many believe they will be in for a rough treatment from the public, similar to what happened a few years back when a handful of refs were found guilty of tax evasion for cashing in first-class airline tickets and pocketing the difference.

"We're angry. We're angry. That's for sure," he said. "It's not fair that one guy, one bad apple, brings down the whole officiating [staff]. It'll trickle down to the college game, too. Every controversial call at the end of a game, somebody will question it...

"I am sick of having to defend ourselves. We just got over the IRS thing, and now we have to defend ourselves all over again."

As for the possibility that more NBA officials might be involved in the Donaghy situation, the ref said he would be shocked if that would be the case.

"I will back up my guys," he said. "If you told me six weeks ago something like this would come up, I'd have said, 'No way. Not in a million years.' I'd back up our integrity any day. That's why it's so frustrating now that I've got to defend it. It's a shame. Now we all have to walk around defending ourselves.

"We are people with high integrity. This is what we do. We take great pride in our jobs, and it hurts us deeply to have something like this happen. ... I've been reading all the articles about it today, and I'm sick to my stomach. I'm sure we're going to be hearing about it for a long time."