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Stern awaiting more information before doling out gambling punishment

8/31/2007 - NBA

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."