Pat Jordan wrote a small piece on former NBA ref Tim Donaghy five years ago for the Times. Now, he’s got a bigger feature on Donaghy for New York Magazine:
Donaghy doesn’t much watch the NBA, and when he does he just studies video of the last few minutes of games that ended with a controversy. “I’ll look for a ref’s missed calls,” he says. “In a Cleveland game in March, a Cleveland player kicked the ball out of bounds but the ref missed it and gave the ball to Cleveland. Now after the game, when he sees video showing his mistake, it’ll affect the ref’s next game with Cleveland. He feels he owes that visiting team a call. So I look for that next Cleveland game with that ref and that same visiting team. Sometimes, too, if a coach complains about a ref to the media, that ref will want to stick it up his ass the next time he works that coach’s game.” Game 2 of this year’s finals is a good example — two calls late in overtime went against LeBron James, a phenomenon so unusual the announcers couldn’t stop talking about it. “LeBron James was clobbered on a shot and no whistle was called,” Donaghy tells me after Game 2 — calls the NBA later acknowledged the officials had missed. “There’s no logical reason for ref Tony Brothers not to call that foul. It could’ve cost Cleveland the game. Just like those two no-foul calls in overtime on jump balls. The league’s lucky Cleveland won Game 2 or those three blown fouls could’ve determined the series.”
These are the kinds of plays Donaghy focuses on, trying to determine whether the ref made the right call, blew it accidentally, or blew it for a reason — a vendetta against a coach, say. If the ref just blew the call accidentally, then the next game he might feel compelled to give that team a few extra calls, he says. If he blew a call on purpose, then Donaghy figures he’ll do that whenever he faces that coach again.