Make The Call: FBI probes NBA referee Donaghy for betting on games

20 07 2007

by Maddness

One of the most loveable and comedic moments in sports is the post game press conference with an animated coach after a loss.  While we sympathize with the dejected man at the podium, hearing Jeff Van Gundy, for example, calling the ref’s a “joke” is nothing short of hilarious. It also has a funny way of making a coach more human, more “real”. Van Gundy, formerly the head coach of the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets, is famous for his motto “Play On”.  Van Gundy has criticized NBA officials publicly on numerous occasions for making questionable calls at the end of games, declaring what a shame it is for an official to determine the outcome of a players’ game.  Never before has this notion had more light shed on it.  Somewhere at a summer home, there is a smirk on Jeff Van Gundy’s face.

Assuming the FBI’s current investigation turns up something incriminating, 13-year veteran NBA official Tim Donaghy actually may have influenced the results of a players’ game on purpose.  This is the worst nightmare for a coach, or anyone watching the game for that matter, but no one actually believes this happens; an official deciding a game for personal reasons.

Currently, all that is present are allegations against Donaghy that he bet on games over the past two seasons, including ones he officiated over.  The allegations also indicate Donaghy may have directly made in-game calls and decisions affecting the point spread; which will be the main focus of the investigation, determining if he purposely affected the outcome of NBA games.

Donaghy is aware of the investigation and plans to surrender to any charges, according to authorities.  When the story broke Friday, law enforcement officials stated the bets involved “thousands of dollars” and were made during the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons.  It is also suspected that during this time, Donaghy had connections to organized crime associates.

Apparently, the once respected referee has a severe gambling problem and was introduced to mob associates through an acquaintance.  Nevada gambling regulators currently have no information about the allegations, but it is almost certain this will be the final straw that prevents the NBA from ever having a franchise in Las Vegas, Nevada. Commissioner David Stern had always been opposed to having a NBA team in Vegas because it allows betting on basketball, and now it may be going on already.

The pages in the book of Donaghy’s past have slowly begun to open for the public, as several past incidents involving the ref have already surfaced. Four years ago, Donaghy had an altercation with former Portland Trail Blazer Rasheed Wallace. Granted, Wallace’s reputation for deserved technical fouls and ejections was right on, Donaghy called a questionable technical foul on Wallace in a game vs. the Memphis Grizzlies. The feeling was the technical came quick and it also swiftly led to Wallace’s ejection. The altercation came after the game when Wallace confronted Donaghy, threatening him verbally. Rasheed Wallace served a 7-game suspension, the longest suspension in NBA history for an offense not related to drug use or physical contact. It is certain the FBI will look at footage of this game, along with the spread put out in Las Vegas that night.

While Stern claims to feverishly be cleaning up the image of the NBA, never did he think he would have to address problems with his officials. Earlier this season, referee Joey Crawford was suspended indefinitely after an in-game conflict with Spurs superstar Tim Duncan. After Tim Duncan was given an ejection for laughing and clapping at a call (which was not then considered even worthy of a warning), Duncan accused the official for having a personal vendetta against him. From the mouth of Duncan and through the eyes and ears of witnesses, Crawford asked Duncan, during a game, “Do you want to fight?”

As bad as that was, it is nothing compared to the investigation questioning if NBA games have recently been fixed. Never in the history of the four major sports have there ever been charges filed against an official for fixing games. Barry Bonds’ record breaking home runs may not be all the sports history unfolding before our eyes this week.



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