Stern awaiting more information before doling out gambling punishment
LAS VEGAS -- David Stern defended his current referees, blasted a pair of former ones, and vowed to wait until a review of the NBA's officiating program is finished before he decides on any punishments stemming from gambling activities.
The commissioner was in Las Vegas on Thursday to watch the United States play Argentina in the FIBA Americas tournament, and it wasn't long before questions turned to gambling.
The league recently chose former federal prosecutor Lawrence B. Pedowitz to oversee a review of its policies regarding gambling and its referees in the wake of the Tim Donaghy scandal.
Donaghy has pleaded guilty to betting on games, including some he worked, and providing inside information to others to help them win bets. An ESPN Radio report said the former official was set to name as many as 20 other referees who took part in gambling activity, though not necessarily criminal.
"There has been no release of any information, there have been leaked news reports about what Mr. Donaghy might have said," Stern said. "We think the fairest way to deal with this is to allow the referees to tell us what the facts are, and our referees are very anxious to tell us what the facts are and then we'll know. And the speculation is hard for them, but we're very much on the same page as we seek to move forward.
"Many people have been happy to condemn them on the basis of either disgruntled former officials or press reports about what Mr. Donaghy is alleged to have said, and that's not fair."
The former referees the commissioner spoke of were Mike Mathis and Hue Hollins, who have been critical in some recent newspaper stories of the current state of the profession under director of officials Ronnie Nunn. NBA officials are generally prohibited from speaking to the media.
"I think that their statements about current referees, which they're happy to take shots at, are kind of interesting," Stern said. "And I guess that's all I'll say, is that . . . Mathis and Hollins at the end of their careers were not model referees.
"As a staff, the quality is a lot better than when Mr. Hollins and Mr. Mathis were roaming the floor, I might say. Certainly toward the end of their perhaps otherwise distinguished careers, so I'm very protective of our existing officials and their staff and their development, and I doubt very much that our existing staff would do to their younger colleagues what Mathis and Hollins now find to be open. So when you talk about officials you should make the point that those are disgruntled former officials."
Stern said Pedowitz and his staff have as much time as they need to conduct their review, which will include interviews with referees, and league and team officials. He said there would be "no holds barred."
But he's not ready to say yet what will happen if more gambling activity among his officials is proven. NBA policies prevent referees from any type of betting, other than trips to the race track during the offseason.
"Some of them might have actually bought a lottery ticket, or played bingo in a church, two forms of gambling that I'm sure everyone is very familiar with," Stern said. "I don't want to prejudge it, but I think there are some things that would perhaps cause me to pause more than others.
"And I think that's the problem here, that everyone [says] 'Oh my God, I saw him play, I don't know what you call it, $5 nassau on the golf course.' That's why rather than speculate about what they did or what would happen if they did it, we agree that the best way to do it is find out what they did and then understand it all."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
TIM DONAGHY SCANDAL
Former NBA referee Tim Donaghy pled guilty to federal felony conspiracy charges alleging that he passed along inside information on NBA games.
Donaghy also alleges that referees helped alter the outcomes of games during the '02 and '05 postseasons.
He was sentenced to 15 months in prison in July.
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