Fun Facts About Your Favorite NBA Referees

October 31st, 2013 | by Andy Larsen
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Bill Kennedy explains the concept of tight-fitting clothing to Coach Ty Corbin. Getty Images

The NBA just released its 2013-14 Referee Media Guide, which you can download here. It’s a wonderful document full of NBA refereeing minutia, perfect for basketball nerds who have come to know the referees’ names through hours upon hours of NBA watching.

The best part of the media guide is getting to know the personalities behind those names. I’ve taken the best stories from the guide and summarized them for you here.

Bennie Adams was a collegiate math instructor! After getting both a Bachelors and Masters degree from Southern University, he went onto instruct at SU. As I joked with @bjcseven, perhaps this explains why he’s one of the more, um, inconsistent refs in the NBA. He’s simply miscast; he should be working with numbers, not making subjective calls about athletic achievements. Today we’d give him a blog and send him to the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. But 30 years ago, what other choice did a nerd who loved basketball have but refereeing?

Dick Bavetta, from Brooklyn, provides parochial high-school scholarships to minority children. Children who receive one of “The Bavetta Scholarships” goes to one of these schools for free, entirely on Bavetta’s dime.

Derrick Collins enjoys horseback riding.

Joey Crawford is sorry about the whole Tim Duncan thing. According to Crawford, “The Duncan thing probably changed my life. It was just — you come to the realization that maybe the way you’ve been doing things is not the proper way and you have to regroup, not only on the court but off the court. I had seen a sports psychologist before that. But after, I saw him a lot more. … It gave me a new perspective.”

David Guthrie was a member of the Cincinnati Reds organization. Drafted in the 26th round by the Reds in 1995, Guthrie got all the way to AA, playing shortstop and third base before retiring at the ripe old age of 24. Unfortunately, he was not an exceptional hitter.

Bill Kennedy is the man. I wrote an article detailing Bill Kennedy’s Top 5 moments of his career, I recommend you read it. Anyway, he refereed high school basketball in Arizona for 15 years before moving up to the CBA and eventually the NBA.

Courtney Kirkland enjoys writing and producing films. Besides getting in an altercation with Jerry Sloan, he created a Scholarship Fund in memory of his daughter, who passed away at 6 weeks of age. The scholarship provides educational assistance to siblings of children who pass away.

Marat Kogut is an amateur magician! He also enjoys playing the piano and golf. Even better, he was once featured on a Times Square billboard with his wife.

Karl Lane worked as an “In-School Suspension Teacher” in Arkansas. So that’s frightening.

Ken Mauer is the cousin of Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer. He’s also a felon. In 2000, 45 NBA referees were caught for tax fraud in a scheme in which they exchanged their NBA-purchased first-class tickets for regular coach seats, pocketing the difference. All but two referees took the plea bargain, which reduced the crime to a misdemeanor, however, Mauer chose to fight the charges and lost. More info here.

Monty McCutchen is an outdoorsman who enjoys canoeing and landscape photography.

Violet Palmer led her NCAA Division II women’s basketball team, Cal Poly, to the championship in two consecutive years, 1995 and 1996.

Leroy Richardson served in the Navy for 12 years, including a year in Keflavik, Iceland. He worked as an “underwater sea surveillance specialist”, which I imagine as basically equivalent to scouring the sideline monitors during NBA reviews.

Bennett Salvatore‘s “Early Life” section of his Wikipedia page is glorious. In case it is changed, here it is in its entirety:

Salvatore was a two sport athlete in high school, playing baseball and football.[1] He earned All-American and All-State honors as a quarterback in 1967.[1] Contrary to popular opinion, his parents did not name him after the famous singer Tony Bennett (Bennett did not have his first hit until 1951, one year after Salvatore was born). He credits Joe Claps, his childhood friend, with giving him the knowledge necessary to become a professional referee. Mr. Claps currently makes sandwiches at Jenna Marie’s deli in Stamford, Connecticut. Mr. Salvatore is also very friendly with William “bags of money” Arnone who is currently the champion of the over ninety division of tennis at the Italian Center tennis club. He is married to the “pizza queen” Patricia Arnone.

So it appears Salvatore has friends in high places, even as powerful as the champion of the over-ninety division at the Italian Center tennis club. Be afraid, NBA stars.

Leon Wood, besides playing in the NBA for 6 seasons, also played for the US 1984 Olympic basketball team that John Stockton and Karl Malone were cut from. Wood averaged 5.9 points and 7.9 assists per game during the course of the tournament. He also had one game with 6 blocks, which must have been pretty cool for a point guard.

Haywoode Workman played point guard in the NBA for 8 seasons, averaging 5.5 points and 3.9 assists per game over the course of his NBA career.

Gary Zielinski is a resident of Magna, Utah. He went to high school at Kearns High, and attended college at Eastern Utah.

Hopefully, these nuggets will be used to humanize your referee enemies, but I’ll look the other way if you choose to use them more creatively.

Andy Larsen

Andy Larsen

Andy Larsen is the Managing Editor of Salt City Hoops, the ESPN TrueHoop affiliate for the Utah Jazz. He also hosts a radio show and podcast every week on ESPN700 AM in Salt Lake City.
Andy Larsen

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One Comment

  1. bjcseven says:

    Even though you are poaching my territory, I’ll let you know I enjoyed the quick refresher!

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