It's always interesting to ask someone what their opinion is on which type of team owner they want representing their favorite team. Some fans are hardcore Mark Cuban-ites, loving how crazy he gets during Mavericks games all while sporting the every-fans' look of jeans and a team-logo t-shirt. He is incessantly looking to improve his team with his deep pockets and bold trades. It seems like he always hires more assistant coaches than he has players on his roster. He's easily accessible through email and his own blog. He's crazy enough to want his fans leaving every game as if they've just attended the greatest wedding-esque party of their lives (this falls into the WTF category). He routinely challenges the NBA front office for rule changes in efforts to improve the game. The most innovative project he's probably started was keeping statistics on the performance of NBA referees. But is he viewed as an annoying pest during the games like Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck?
On the surface, one might think the answer to that question is blatantly obvious. But according to Tim Donaghy's opinion, it might not be so crystal clear. In Part III of our series we take a look at Donaghy's opinion on how the referee and team ownership relationships can and HAVE influenced the outcome of games. Here is an excerpt from Chapter 5, entitled: "The Player's League," beginning on page 80.
Owners also played a role, especially the loudmouth variety who NBA referees loved to hate. Mickey Arison of the Miami Heat is a prime example of an owner who hurt his team on game day. HE sat courtside and constantly screamed and yelled at us, seizing every opportunity to embarrass the refs in a relentless game of "gotcha." During timeouts, Arison would get our attention and say, "Ive; got this little TV and I'm watching the replays. You missed the call!" The more he jawed, the more we stuck it to his team. Some guys just never learn.
Robert Sarver, owner of the Phoenix Suns, was no better, constantly whining and crying about missed calls and bad fouls. He worked tirelessly to intimidate the refs, but we always got the last laugh.
Wyc Grousbeck, owner of the Boston Celtics, was much the same, always yelling, screaming, and berating. I had never met the man and didn't even know what he looked like until a game I worked in 2004. Throughout the contest, this guy sitting courtside was incessant in his ranting directed toward the referees. Finally, I went over to the scorer's table to have security escort him from the arena.
"Before you do that, did you know he's the owner of the Celtics?" said a man at the scorer's table.
"Oh, no!" I exclaimed. "He's the owner?"
That night I backed off and let him stay, but over the years Wyc Grousbeck got plenty of payback for the way he disrespected us.
First of all, the whole Mickey Arison/Miami Heat thing bodes very well for all of th Miami haters out there (and there are several) if this is true. Second of all, this is a tough call for C's fans. Personally I think it's good (to a point) to have your owner be passionate at games because as a fan you want an active owner, unlike the previous zombie owner that was Paul Gaston. However, if he's THAT much of a deterrent where the refs are actively giving "plenty of payback" in terms of bad calls, technicals, ejections, etc. then it's clearly not a good thing.
Again, this is all going on the premise that Donaghy's claims even have a hint of truth. And again, if you've been a hardcore NBA/Celtic fan for several years (if you're reading this blog then I'm quite certain you qualify) then you could easily see his point when it comes to shady officiating at times. This could be quite the conundrum for refs though during a potential Celtics/Heat Eastern Conference Finals. If both owners are hated equally, who do you "payback" the most? I guess you just go with the home team!
Donaghy does have his list of owners "who were very respectful of the referees, owners who never tried to embarrass us or show us up." He lists Larry Miller of the Utah Jazz, the Maloof brothers of the Sacramento Kings and amazingly Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks.
The best known owner in the NBA, of course, is the aforementioned Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks. Always a funny guy, Cuban was actively involved in the game from the opening tip to the final buzzer. In fact, he was so animated in his cheering on of the Mavericks that he often looked exhausted at the end of the game. Anyone who follows pro basketball knows that Cuban is the consummate bleacher referee, but to his credit, he is usually right when he complains about missed calls. I was one of the few refs in the league who would watch tape of an entire game after it was completed. Sitting in my hotel room in front of a TV, I would fast-forward or rewind until I was certain that we either got a call right or that we blew the call. Nine times out of 10, Cuban was right on the money with his assessment. A very savvy basketball guy, albeit a loud and crazy one.
I always had a friendly, easy relationship with Cuban, but I was the exception to the rule when it came to NBA referees and league officials. The league office instructed us on many occasions to avoid contact with Cuban and to ignore him when he initiated contact. Still, every time I worked a Dallas game, I would say hello from a distance.
Donaghy describes Cuban as a savvy basketball guy that's loud and crazy. Sounds a little like Tommy Heinsohn. But it's interesting to see how the human element is such a huge part of officiating NBA games. He clearly hates Arison, who seemingly does the same thing (screams at refs and watches tape to prove it) ad Cuban, yet Donaghy loves Cuban. Later on in the book, he goes as far to endorse Cuban as the new NBA commissioner.
Coming up next in Part IV of the series: Kobe Bryant, Jack Nicholson, Gloria James and team radio/TV announcers and the influence they have on games. With all of the bellowing Tommy Heinsohn does during Celtics games, has he been threatened by refs to get fired by the NBA league office?