It's early December in 2002 and you've just settled in to your favorite spot on the recliner to watch the Celtics take on the Phoenix Suns. You're eager to see Joe Johnson's return to Boston after being traded the season before for Tony Delk and Rodney Rogers. It's a competitive game until Paul Pierce makes a move to the basket, gets tangled up in mid-air with Amare Stoudemire, and goes down. Hard. He lands face first on the court and loses his teeth. He leaves the game briefly, but returns later on looking like a woozy boxer that just took a hit from Mike Tyson circa 1988. If you're at the game, you're wondering why there was no foul called. If you were at home, you witnessed one of Tommy Heinsohn's classic anti-referee outbursts.
"THESE GUYS ARE RIDICULOUS!" The video clip above says it all. While there is no video proof that shows Mike Gorman holding Tommy back from charging onto the parquet, looking to attack NBA official Kenny Mauer like a Banshee, I'm convinced it happened. Most Celtic fans love Tommy, despite is blatant and at times, outrageous attacks towards the referees. Non-Celtic fans loathe his antics and have in fact, expressed their disappointment when firing up NBA League Pass for a Celtics game, only to have to mute the TV to make it semi-enjoyable. Could it be possible that Tommy is so antagonistic in his commentating style that he negatively influences how referees officiate Celtic games?
As a subscriber of NBA League Pass myself, I've watched/listened to every teams' home commentators. In my opinion, the majority of them display as much homerism as Tommy, but simply aren't as loud about it. If you have League Pass this season, just watch a random game and you'll see what I mean (although I doubt Antoine Carr will be as obnoxious this season while doing color commentary during Cavs games). With all of the madness in Tim Donaghy's book, you would think that Heinsohn would have a starring role. The fact of the matter is that he doesn't even have a cameo.
Beginning on page 79 from Chapter 5 which is entitled "The Player's League," Donaghy explains how TV and radio announcers can also influence how NBA referees call a game:
Something else that fans may not be aware of is the relationship between television announcers and referees. There are times when referees miss a call or fail to handle a crucial situation the right way. Current announcers like Mike Fratello, Doug Collins, or Jeff Van Gundy might call you over during a timeout and say, "You guys really missed that." You knew that if you were in the last minute of the game and you missed a call, you'd better make a call for the other team. Many referees would look the announcers' way after a controversial call because we knew they were looking at slow-motion replays. This was something I learned from Dick Bavetta. It was a lot easier to hear from an announcer that you missed something-so that you could make a call the other way- than to get an email or a phone call from the league office saying that your blown call had cost a team a game. If you missed a call but could still make it up and you didn't cost a team a game, then everything would be okay.
The announcers knew exactly what was going on in terms of the way we called games. They knew what was happening, but for the good of the game, they would never bury us or point out our shortcomings. The NBA actually has a guy in the East Coast office listening to everything the announcers say. If he hears something that isn't good, he'll call the truck and relay the message. For example, if an announcer is discussing a rule incorrectly or saying stuff that's out of whack, the NBA will be on the phone to the production staff in the truck and the message will get to the announcer within moments. The announcers knew that every word they spoke was being monitored by the league.
After reading this, I've come to the conclusion that the NBA either A) only practices this type of "Echelon" espionage during national broadcasts or B) completely disregards Tommy Heinsohn's commentary. I'm leaning more to the latter of the two, and assuming that they sort of get a chuckle out of Tommy, viewing him as the grandpa that just goes nuts during games because he can. But referees have had run-ins with commentators during games.
According to Donaghy, such madness happened not during a Boston game, but during a Miami game. And the SuperFriends haven't even played a game yet! Taken from page 105 in Chapter 6: "How the Game is Really Played," Donaghy shares an interesting tidbit:
Mickey Arison, owner of the Miami Heat, was also on (Joey) Crawford's s*** list. Crawford was working a 2006 playoff game in Miami when Heat forward Udonis Haslem drove to the basket and thought he got fouled. Joe disagreed and made no call. That infuriated Haslem, who subsequently threw his mouth guard at Crawford. Haslem received a quick technical followed by an ejection, which drew a comment from the radio announcer sitting at the scorer's table.
"F*** you, go f*** yourself!" Crawford screamed at the announcer. Everyone in the vicinity heard the remark, and Mickey Arison was so upset he tried to get Crawford fired. Nothing happened to Crawford, but his memory bank of future paybacks was increased by the one night.
The video above shows the mouth guard incident beginning approximately at the 0:30 mark. What's interesting is that Donaghy isn't listed in the official box score as one of the assigned referees for that game. Makes you wonder a little bit where he got the intel regarding the Crawford/announcer confrontation? Joey Crawford himself? The radio announcer? Either way it's shocking to me that none of this has ever (publicly) been know to involve Heinsohn. What is ironic however, is that Tim Donaghy's first game that started his downfall was a game in 2006 between the Celtics and his hometown Philadelphia 76ers. Here's the excerpt beginning on page 173 from Chapter 10 which is entitled "How I Picked the Games."
December 13, 2006
This is where it all started, the first game I picked for Ba Ba and my first payout of 2,000 apples. I worked the contest with referees Matt Boland and Derrick Stafford. During out pregame meeting earlier that day, the three of us discussed how bad the 76ers were without their former star guard, Allen Iverson. Derrick Stafford also stated that Philadelphia coach Mo Cheeks didn't know what he was doing and that forward Chris Webber was washed up. I knew that Philly had been losing lately and Boston was playing hard, so I told Tommy (Batista) to bet Boston.
On the floor that night, the 76ers shot poorly from the field and generally played flat. Chris Webber shot a miserable 4-for-17 and sharpshooter Kyle Korver went 3-for-14. It was clear to me that the entire team was lost that night, and Boston won easily 101-81.
Donaghy goes into detail about how Special Agent Paul Harris focused in on a traveling violation he made, insinuating that Donaghy was actively throwing the game. Donaghy explained how there is no gray area for traveling calls, and that statistics kept by the NBA revealed that some referees called as many as 200 travels per year, while others called just 20. He further proved that he was right after a group supervisor overruled the site supervisors ruling that Donaghy did in fact make the correct traveling call. Donaghy explains further:
As the discussion continued, the investigating agents began to shift gears and expanded the conversation beyond my role. They started asking questions about other referees and the biases, quirks, and tendencies that could affect the outcome of a ame. That's when I explained to them that my system for making a pick wasn't that complicated. I simply checked to see which referees were assigned to work a game, and then I utilized my knowledge of those referees' tendencies to make a pick. I explained that a referee who had a special relationship with a certain player or coach could affect the score by as much as five points. In the betting world, even a slight edge can seriously change the odds, and knowing the other referees gave me that edge.
What's interesting to note here is that the Celtics weren't exactly playing lights out basketball prior to this game. They were sporting a modest 2-game winning streak (by a combined 9 points against the Nets and Knicks) but prior to that were on a losing streak of 5 consecutive games, as well as dropping 7 of their last 8. Either way, Donaghy's strategy seems simple enough for someone within the officiating fraternity.
So there you have it. That's the majority of Celtic related information from the Donaghy dossier. There are several stories worth reading the entire book however. Some examples:
- The Rasheed Wallace confrontation after a Portland game where Sheed supposedly threatened him in the parking lot
- His pitch for Mark Cuban as NBA Commissioner
- Discusses how mobster Mike Franzese once claimed to have two NBA referees on his payroll
- Suggests the NBA should openly decide if their games should "games" or "shows" thereby eliminating preferential star treatment
- Goes into how the NBA doesn't punish referees, simply promotes them to senior positions
- Talks about the airplane ticket scandal
- Discusses the infamous 2002 playoff series between the Sacramento Kings and LA Lakers
I hope you all enjoyed this mini-series and thank you for reading the posts. I definitely suggest reading the entire book with an open mind. It will certainly make you look for shady things going on here and there during any random game you watch going forward.