The basketball rolled across the parquet floor of the Boston Garden, with New York's John Gianelli, who has been likened to the world's tallest mushroom—he is 6'10" and last season had an immense, jutting head of hair—scampering after it. Suddenly Dave Cowens, the 6'9" Celtic center, dived headlong past Gianelli to trap the ball between his chest and the floor. The hinder portion of Cowens' body struck Gianelli across the back and side of his left leg in what in football is known as a clip. The impact sent Gianelli into an involuntary pirouette; when the dance was over, he was sitting on top of Cowens.
Mendy Rudolph and Darell Garretson, the NBA officials working the game, watched the collision (page 130) with considerable interest, their whistles clenched between their teeth, their hands ready to signal the uniform number of the perpetrator of a personal foul. No whistle was heard, no fingers were seen flashing 18 or 40. The fifth game of last spring's Eastern Conference playoff finals was allowed to continue just as if Cowens and Gianelli had never come within 10 feet of one another. To most onlookers it seemed that a lapse of judgment had occurred, that no decision had been rendered. But the refs had in fact made their call, and it was a tough one.
The decision to assess no foul on the Cowens-Gianelli collision was an extreme—and very likely correct—application of one of pro basketball's unwritten rules. It is usually called No Harm, No Foul, but some players ruefully refer to it as No Blood, No Foul.
Basically, No Harm, No Foul allows a player to perform with impunity any atrocity short of defenestration on an opponent as long as the referees deem that the player has not gained undue competitive advantage from the act. No Harm, No Foul and a number of similar customs help to differentiate professional basketball from the game's tamer varieties and have been instrumental in leaking the pros a sparkling spectator attraction. At the same time, they have turned many officials prematurely gray, changed usually gentlemanly athletes into bickerers and whiners and provoked a number of coaches to complain that officiating is ruining the game.
October 14, 1973
Even without rules that are not in the rule books, basketball would probably be the most difficult of major league sports to officiate. The game's athletes, widely regarded as the best in any team sport, are usually big, fast, strong, springy, agile and ofttimes downright tricky. Ten of them perform in a confined (94' x 50') space where officials are frequently screened from key portions of the action by the very bulk of the players' bodies. Yet pro basketball has the smallest refereeing crews in big-league sport, the officials must watch events not only on the court but 12 feet or more above it, and they must do so while in almost continual motion. Conscientious refs travel about five miles a game, much of it on the dead run.
The officials must also deal with a unique set of pressures. In no other sport do routine calls directly affect the scoring; in basketball 20% of the points are made on free throws. Fans sitting close to the floor are often vocally—and occasionally physically—intimidating. And because so many rulings are matters of close judgment, the crowd is usually furious at the refs from the opening tap, and their irritation is further inflamed by the moaning, groaning and gesticulating of players and coaches.
Amid this uncivil din, the officials must enforce rules that govern in precise detail all aspects of the game except physical contact. Just keeping track of the time can be a problem. The refs have to make sure that a quarter is 12 minutes long and remember that the foul rules change in the closing two minutes of a period. In some quarters the home team is obliged to take time out in the first 3:59 and the visitors in the last 3:59; in others, the order is reversed. Officials must ensure that the offensive players pass the ball inbounds within five seconds, bring it over halfcourt within 10, shoot it within 24 (or 30 in the ABA) and not stand in the foul lane for more than three. Clocks help keep track of some of these time periods, but others must be determined by counting—1,001, 1,002.... In most circumstances the officials are supposed to count silently, but there are situations where they are obliged to do it aloud. In addition, they must watch out for ball-control violations, hidden zone defenses, goaltending, offensive basket interference and wet spots on the floor.
After 48 minutes of this, the officials will usually split up and head for their next assignments. Including exhibitions and playoffs, the best refs work about 100 games a season and seldom, if ever, will two in a row be played in the same city. Officials are not allowed to fraternize with the men who most share their interests, players and coaches, so they travel on other flights, stay in other hotels, eat in other restaurants and drink in other bars—and they are not allowed to take their rare days off in Las Vegas or go to the track.
"I think the responsibilities we put on an official far exceed any human's ability," says one NBA coach. "Officiating is our biggest problem," says a general manager.
In both the ABA and NBA rule books, the second part of Rule 12 covers personal fouls, those penalties levied on players who use contact in what is ostensibly a noncontact sport. The two leagues' rules are virtually identical in wording, and in essence differ little from the strictures against contact in college, high school and even junior high ball. But, as even the most casual fan can see, when it comes to contact the similarities between the game played in pro arenas and the one played in high school gyms stop at the rule book. Pro basketball is—and always has been—far rougher.
"Our rules on contact are specific. It's just that we intentionally don't follow them," says Bob Bass, the ABA's new supervisor of officials. "If we played according to the rules, we'd have a game that fans, coaches and players wouldn't like."
This game would be either a procession to the free-throw line or contests ending with such scores as 500-498. It is all but impossible to stop a man making a medium-range jumper on the run without a little nudge here, a small shove there and a whole lot of lighting for position away from the ball. Naturally, toughness on defense is countered with roughness on offense. The result is pro basketball: hard picks that jar the marrow of 230-pound forwards, innocent-looking hand checks by guards that would crush the rib cages of normal men, rugged play by the monsters near the basket in which a shooter will commonly find his hands free but will unavoidably notice that his lower body is receiving a treatment that can only be described as medieval.
The rules governing contact in professional basketball repose almost entirely in the eyes of the beholders, the ones running about the court in those funny, black crepe-soled shoes. NBA officials long ago evolved an extra-legal version of how the game should be played, a mental rule book that held the contact in check just this side of dismemberment. It served to make the game salable, but it also required of referees that they make repeated, instantaneous judgments without any guidance aside from their own eyesight and experience. In a sense, pro officials make up the rules as they go along, for every time a player devises a new ploy or contact takes on a fresh nuance it is the refs who must determine on the spot whether it will be allowed or not. Says one top ABA official: "I blow my whistle only when I feel a guy is gaining an advantage from doing what he's doing. I'm not anxious to make calls. I want the players to win or lose the game on their own, but they've got to do it within my rules."
All of which leaves the contact portions of the pro game open to interpretation by anyone: fans, coaches, players, writers, general managers, popcorn vendors and refs, good and bad. To make correct decisions on the run with a cacophony of voices trying to scream him around to their point of view demands a man of unusual qualities.
"Psychologically, an official should be like a good policeman," says one NBA coach. "He should be possessed of a mean streak and yet be full of compassion."
"A ref should be a hard-headed egomaniac who doesn't care whether it's Oscar Robertson or Don Chaney he's making a call on," says another coach. "That takes born guts; it's not something you can sprinkle on a guy's Wheaties."
Obviously, mere knowledge of the rules is not sufficient to be a good referee. A ref must be in top physical condition to withstand the rigors of four games a week. He must be thoroughly self-confident, so that his calls cannot be swayed by the disapprobation of those around him. He must be even-tempered and assess technical fouls without carrying a grudge even when his parentage or sexual proclivities have been questioned. He must be decisive, making his judgments fast and firmly in order to keep control of the game in his hands. And he must, above all, be consistent.
The rule book on fouls that the best referees carry around in their heads is a concise document. They can see the same offense committed 15 different ways and recognize it for what it is 95% of the time. They can detect the slight movement by a defender that changes an apparently identical earlier call of offensive charging into a defensive blocking foul.
"All I want from them is consistency," complains one angry NBA player. "I want to be able to walk out on the floor and know they're going to make the same calls the same way for everybody. Pro players are really good and we can adjust to whatever the refs say, but we can't adjust when the ref is calling things differently every two minutes, or when he lets some guys get away with things that other guys can't."
Finding men with such qualities would not be easy under any circumstances. To amplify the problem, pro refs must also be relatively young, willing to be away from home 80% of the time between mid-September and April and dedicated enough to work without expectation of praise. "Officiating is the only occupation in the world where the highest accolade is silence," Dolly King, a ref from an earlier era, was fond of saying.
Grousing about officials has been part of basketball as long as the center jump, but not since the league's earliest days have complaints in the NBA reached the proportions of the last four years. Even the winners started griping. The reason is plain enough. As recently as the 1966-67 season, the NBA was the only major league and it consisted of 10 teams. It had an officiating staff of 12 men, most of them with five or more years' experience. Since then expansion in the NBA and the creation of the ABA have increased the number of franchises to 27. The proliferation of teams brought a mild decrease in the quality of play—and a far greater drop in officiating. Playoff games, which are handled by the best refs, are still as well officiated as ever. It is the regular-season games, in which an older official is usually paired with a man who is at best inexperienced and at worst incompetent, that are causing much of the controversy.
Most of it is centered in the NBA. While the ABA has had little success in pirating away the older league's star players, it has acquired the services of five of its "star" referees. A sixth, Earl Strom, has switched twice, returning to the NBA this season. Largely because of the jumpers, regular-season officiating in the ABA is somewhat better than in the NBA.
Like the players, refs have prospered from the war between the two leagues. Before the ABA existed, officials worked for small, per-game fees. Now they have full-time contracts, $45 per diem for expenses, health plans, pensions and incomes that range from $14,000 to nearly $50,000 for eight months' work. Six years ago nobody would let his daughter go out with a ref; now bankers invite them to lunch.
John Vanak's house sits at the bottom of a narrow valley in the Pennsylvania mountain hamlet of Hauto. It is a large, red-brick building with a pond out front, woods on three sides and a beautifully kept lawn. When a visitor arrives, he is greeted by an overweight Norwegian elkhound named Aba. The Vanaks bought the dog in 1969, the year John jumped to the ABA.
It is with good reason that the elkhound is named after the newer league. The bonus Vanak received for joining the ABA went a long way toward paying for his custom-built house, and his increased income keeps two Oldsmobiles in his driveway, steak on his lunch table and John Jr. in Penn State.
John Vanak Sr. is a big man in a profession that tends to attract small ones. He stands 6'2" and weighed as much as 255 pounds when he played football in the Navy nearly 20 years ago. Last summer what Vanak calls his "Proxmire health kick" trimmed his bulk to 205 pounds, the lowest since his boyhood.
Vanak was raised not far from Hauto, in a town called Lansford that lies in what Pennsylvanians refer to as the Northeast anthracite region. His father, like most men of Eastern European extraction in the area, was a miner, then a boiler-room stoker. Until refereeing turned him into a classic American success story, Vanak was coal-town poor.
He is no longer that way because of the competing leagues and because he is very good at his job. In an informal SPORTS ILLUSTRATED poll of ABA coaches late this summer, Vanak was named the league's best official. Some NBAers consider him the finest referee in basketball.
Although his expertise is considerable, the facet of Vanak's officiating that impresses most coaches is his calmness. That he does not get worked up over games is understandable, considering what he has to go through to get to them.
When Vanak returned home from the Navy in the mid-"50s, he chose to become a policeman instead of a miner, not so much because he knew digging coal was a dead-end job, but because he was afraid of tight spaces under the ground. It is a fear he has transferred to tight spaces above the earth. Vanak cannot sleep the night before a transcontinental flight. He prefers the sight of 15,000 angry fans to that of one 5'2" stewardess asking him to fasten his seat belt. Yet he flies 100,000 miles a year. Considering all that his travels have brought him, he feels the anguish has been worthwhile.
Vanak, who is 40, began refereeing junior high games in 1956 to stay in shape and pick up $6 a night in cigarette money, but it was not until 1959 that he started to officiate in earnest. "I used to lie on the couch and watch the NBA games on the tube," he says. "One time I told my wife, 'I can do as well as those guys are doing.' She said, 'Yeah, sure. You're too lazy.' "
In 1960 Vanak got off the couch and onto the court for good. That year he officiated 68 times in the short-lived American Basketball League for $40 a game, 16 times in a minor professional league for $25 a game, 50 high school games at $10 apiece, uncounted junior high games at $7 per doubleheader and a bunch of CYO games for free. Unknown to his bosses in the ABL, he also worked two NBA games on a trial basis. At the end of that first season, during which he was also a sergeant on the Lansford police force, Vanak was assigned to the final game of the ABL playoffs. Although he was flattered, he had to turn the job down. He told the ABL he could not leave home because his wife Joan had fallen down stairs and injured her back. The real reason was that the struggling new league did not pay refs' traveling expenses in advance and Vanak could not afford the trip to Kansas City.
The next year he refereed in the NBA for $50 a game. When he left the league eight seasons later, he was earning only $125 a game. For half of those years he continued working as a $4,100-a-year policeman and he worked for a private detective agency. That officiating was still an avocation, not, a profession, was brought home to him one night in Philadelphia when Wilt Chamberlain showed Vanak his new $4,000 camel's hair coat. That single item in Wilt's wardrobe was worth more than the house Vanak then owned in Lansford.
In 1966-67 Vanak finally earned a substantial sum ($21,000) through refereeing. He did it by working 140 games in the NBA, taking two weeks off and then going to Puerto Rico to officiate 65 more games in a summer league. His bonus for signing with the ABA the next summer was more than twice what he had earned in any previous year. This season he expects to make nearly $50,000, all of if from officiating.
Vanak accepts with pride the fact that the pastime he so liked as a second job has evolved into a lucrative full-time profession, but aside from new material comforts his life is little changed. Last month Vanak and his wife sat in the sun on their patio and planned for the winter ahead, just as they have for 14 years.
"I walk in these woods every day, even on the coldest day of the year," said Joan. "I take the dog and pick wild flowers and dried weeds for my arrangements. The best way to get rid of the loneliness is to walk it off."
"I love the job, I still do," said John, even though he must now wear hip-high Supp-hose when he works to protect the varicose veins in his left leg. "But I love it here, too. Some guys think I'm crazy driving three hours to the Philly airport. On trips when my last game is in Salt Lake, I don't get home until the evening of the next day. But I'll tell you, it's worth it. What diversity it gives my life. One night I'll be in an arena with all that yelling, screaming and booing, and the next afternoon I'm off in this absolutely peaceful woods with nobody but my dog.
"Still there are times when I wonder how far our profession has really come. Like we asked for $50 per diem this year to take care of our hotels, food, cabs, things like that. The league said they'd give only $45. I guess that's what you'd call a negotiating point, but you'd think if they respected us for the hard work we put in they wouldn't debate about a lousy five bucks. I'm pretty sure there's no player who puts out more than I do, but for a lot of the athletes and coaches and owners we're still just the guys to blame their mistakes and losses on. There's an old saying and it's the truth: 'A referee is nothing but a paid excuse."
The NBA is currently willing to pay very well for some good excuses. And, according to the coaches, the decision to work aggressively to improve refereeing comes none too soon.
"Only 25% of our refs are good enough to put on the floor with the caliber of athletes we have," says one coach. "Some of the other 75% may get good enough with a couple more years of experience, but that leaves a big percentage at the bottom made up of guys who were rotten last year, will be rotten this year and will still be rotten the day they die. You get one of them assigned to a game, even with the best ref, and he'll manage to louse up everything. The bad official will either do nothing and let the senior man make all the calls, or he'll make calls that are all wrong. I'm sick of having to coach around these guys. My team sees one of them walk out on the floor and you can tell just standing at the sidelines that the players are saying to themselves, 'Well, there's Joe Blow. We might as well kiss this game off.' Then I've got to take them aside and try to tell them not to worry about the refs. I'll tell you, my biggest worry going into a game is not predictable play by the other team, but whether we're going to get consistency from the officials."
What has bothered coaches almost as much as bad officiating was their impression that the league did not know—or care—that the problem existed. This season the NBA is acknowledging the difficulty and taking steps to solve it.
"All I think I can say is that at least we're not moving backward," says John Nucatola, the NBA's supervisor of officials. "Certainly it's still less good than I'd like to see. Last year was only somewhat better than four seasons ago when we lost four experienced men and added two new teams of our own. It takes about four seasons for a promising referee to develop into a good one, but even on that schedule I've had to keep some fellows who haven't moved ahead as rapidly as I feel they should."
To try to speed things up, Nucatola is scouting young referees more intensively than ever and officials already in the NBA will undergo more rigorous scrutiny than in the past. For the first time they had to attend a preseason camp with one of the league's teams and, also for the first time, they will be required to watch movies of themselves in action.
At the NBA meetings last spring, Commissioner Walter Kennedy met with a committee of coaches and general managers to hear complaints about officiating, which he previously refused to do. For the second straight summer Cleveland Coach Bill Fitch put together a film of some of the preceding season's most dubious calls. His first was welcomed by Nucatola, who made it required viewing for his staff. This year's version was even more warmly greeted.
The complaint most often voiced by coaches and players regarding weaker refs is that their calls are inconsistent because they allow themselves to be intimidated by certain teams, certain players, certain coaches—even certain crowds. And no sooner do they say that, than most of the same players and coaches try some intimidating of their own.
According to referees, coaches fall into two categories: exploders, such as Chicago's Dick Motta, Boston's Tom Heinsohn, Indiana's Slick Leonard and Carolina's Larry Brown; and chirpers, the most expert of whom was Los Angeles' Bill Sharman until he lost his voice in the 1972 playoffs. Refs consider the chirper more annoying because he sits on the bench posing as the model of decorum while sniping at the officials every time they pass by. "You don't think Sharman's voice gave out because he'd been singing in the church choir?" says one official. "He's worse than a nagging wife."
Some players are indiscriminate complainers, such as Carolina's Billy Cunningham, who comments on virtually every call. Others, most notably Oscar Robertson, are leerers who mumble under their breath. Some are whiners, among them the Knicks' Jerry Lucas and Golden State's Rick Barry, who assume hurt looks and seem about to throw a tantrum. Then there are those the refs call "polite bitchers." One is Atlanta's Walter Bellamy, who usually speaks of himself in the third person when bringing his plight to the officials' attention. This technique once led a referee to reply to a Bellamy suggestion by saying, "Would you please inform Mr. Bellamy that I am awarding him a technical foul?"
Nor are players above a little trickery when they think they can pull it off. Chicago's Jerry Sloan, who goes about the hairy business of taking the offensive charge with more élan than any other pro, will sometimes help a prospective charger along by grabbing his shirt—invariably on the side away from where the official is standing—falling over backward and, in the process, pulling his opponent down on top of him. Utah's Zelmo Beaty, known as The Commissioner because of his haughty demeanor toward refs, and Boston's Don Nelson are expert at discreetly grabbing a waistband or a handful of jersey whenever their men seem likely to slip away.
Keeping the talkers and the tricksters in line while dealing correctly with the complexities of making calls is known as "taking control of the game." No official takes control more thoroughly than Richie Powers, who was named by most NBA coaches as the best referee in the league.
Powers is the prototype pro official. He is small (5'9½", 170 pounds), a former athlete of middling ability (college baseball), extroverted and he comes from the right part of the country (The Bronx). The majority of referees are from north of the Mason-Dixon line and east of Ohio. "We like to have guys with moxie, a little cockiness," says Nucatola. "Some officials work great in an empty gym but are bad in front of a crowd. You've got to be tough to take the abuse from the stands. Northeastern people seem to take it better than others, maybe because it seems to be a rougher part of the country and people are exposed to that kind of pressure in their daily lives."
Whatever quality it is that allows a man to remain cocky when he faces 48 minutes of vilification from a crowd of thousands, Powers, 42, a cherubic-looking, Irish-gregarious man off the court, positively oozes it from the moment he steps onto the court. "Richie's got everything under control when he comes out of the dressing room," says one coach. "You see him look at you when he walks out on the floor and suddenly you're grabbing at your collar and saying to yourself, "Damn, is my tie straight?' Players who haven't saluted the flag in 20 years stand at attention during the national anthem when he's around. Richie's got the timekeeper, the scorekeeper and the gatekeeper in hand, and I wouldn't be surprised one night if he blew the whistle on the peanut man shortchanging the lady in the 35th row."
For Powers, who last week began his 15th year of officiating in the NBA, the game begins long before he strides, ramrod-straight, onto the floor. "Back at the hotel about three in the afternoon I become completely different," he says. "It's a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde job. That's when I begin thinking about the game, begin psyching myself up. Part of it is that old business about being forewarned is to be forearmed. I think about what other officials may have told me about the last times these two teams met. Was there a fight? Did one player really eat up another one? Has one team or the other, or one player or another, been trying anything new lately? You can't go into a game anticipating certain calls; that's absolutely wrong. But you've got to go into it with a notion of what is most likely to happen and adjust from there.
"I like to get to the place where the game is being played an hour and a half before the tip. When I walk into the building I try to become immersed in the smell, the feel of the arena. Then I head for the dressing room and relax, reading the rule book or having a dialogue with the other ref. The conversation is strictly business and how long it lasts depends on how much the young man I'm working with wants to hear from Powers that night. It's surprising, but if you talk about 10 different plays that might come up, five of them invariably will. If you talk about just one, it invariably will. Before I get dressed, I do 20 minutes of loos-ening-up exercises to get this stubby body limber."
Early in last spring's playoffs, Powers ripped the muscles in the front of his right thigh and was out for the remainder of the season. The thigh bothered him slightly in camp last month, but it is hardly his major health concern. As a boy, his right foot was crushed by a truck. Today it is badly disfigured and nearly inflexible. Fortunately for Powers—and the NBA—almost all of the turns a referee makes in a game are to the left. If they were not, Powers probably would not be able to maneuver quickly enough to officiate.
The first thing Powers does when he arrives on court is stomp his feet on the boards to get a feel for the surface. From then on, he considers every game a set piece. A thousand different things may happen each night, but almost all of them will occur within the framework of the rules he establishes.
"It's important to get off to a good start," he says. "That's why I've worked so hard at perfecting the opening toss. The only thing you really have to remember is that you're holding your whistle under the ring finger and pinky of your right hand and that only three right fingers are touching the ball. When you make your toss, you've got to throw-harder with your right hand to make sure the ball goes up straight.
"Little details are important, too. Like when you flash the number of a player, you should always make sure you do it right. Then the people at the table are not calling you over, slowing the game and adding confusion. Once the game is started, I'm really not that concerned over making the calls. I seem to have the facility—a God-given gift, if you will—to make instantaneous decisions."
Blowing the whistle is only part of controlling a game; how firmly the referee handles the players and what demeanor he shows toward them are probably more important. Many NBA coaches consider six-year man Darell Garretson the most improved young official in the league, but some think he will not get to the top until he changes his style of making calls. "Garretson will see you committing some old hacking foul," says one player, "but the way he calls it, the look on his face and his gestures, make both you and the crowd think he's caught you attacking his sister. It's humiliating." As a result, no official is more apt than Garretson to enrage coaches and players, even when he is calling a good game.
Powers, who used to do some wild gesticulating of his own, has toned down. He always tries to signal fouls in the direction of the P.A. announcer rather than in the player's face. "Making a call is no big deal anyhow," he says. "Probably 95% of them could be made by a relatively well-educated person sitting in the stands. If you want to do some fancy stuff save it for the tough 5%.
"I guess what I try hardest to do is keep my good nature. I'm not interested in browbeating the players. Heck, if they catch me making a mistake, I'll admit it. I'll tell them it won't happen again, and it won't. When things get a little out of hand, I like to warn players about it. But if you're going to do that you have to back up your warning with actions. That goes for both excessive physical contact and technical fouls. When the griping and moaning on the floor get out of hand, I like to say something like, 'O.K., gentlemen, the forensic society is closed.' I try to keep it a little jocular, but at the same time they know the first guy who opens his mouth is going to get a T.
"I remember one game last year in New York that got off to a bad start. I had to hand out warnings early and call a couple of technicals. Then about 30 minutes later Henry Bibby, the Knicks' rookie, comes at me. I've got to give him a T and I do. Bill Bradley went running over to the kid and yelled, 'What are you doing? Didn't I tell you he means it when he says shut up?'
"That doesn't mean you should listen to all the talking on the floor. You've got to hear out honest appeals and block out most of the rest. But you have to keep an ear cocked for the spicy parts. Bleep may be an acceptable word in our society today, but it's not good form on the basketball court," says Powers, embarking on his Groucho Marx routine. "I warn the players, 'Say the secret word and the duck will fly down and you'll lose $50.' The secret word in our league is usually a hyphenated job."
Powers claims the only times he becomes truly angry are when he sees a player intentionally try to injure an opponent or when a young referee loafs. The former, he says, rarely happens in the NBA anymore. The latter has on occasion provoked him into throwing chairs at his partner in the dressing room after a game.
"No matter what happens out on the floor, you've got to get rid of it before you leave the arena," he says. "Any grudges you might want to harbor have to go down the drain in the shower with the soap and the sweat.
"I guess it takes an immense personality—good or bad—to take the kind of abuse we take and still not carry away any bad feelings about it. The league has given us psychological tests and Mendy Rudolph [the NBA's chief official who is still rated among the league's three best after 20 years on the job] and I finished up with almost identical profiles. In dominance, or what the psychologists call the masculine characteristic, we finished higher than the average general or police chief. In empathy—they call it the feminine characteristic—we also scored very high.
"I guess that describes refereeing fairly well—a mixture of firmness and compassion. But when I'm out on the floor I'm not trying to ingratiate myself with any players or coaches. I'm out there to satisfy myself. Despite my cockiness, I set some pretty high standards. From the first game I reffed at 17 years old until my final one last season, my feeling going onto the court has never changed. I always have a mortal fear of failing."