Friday, May 15th, 2009 at 11:00 am  |  63 responses

Stern on Bad Officiating: Blame the TV Crews

by Marcel Mutoni

At one point late in the first half of last night’s Lakers/Rockets game, after a series of horrendous calls by the refs (a not too unfamiliar sight during these here Playoffs), ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson time and again railed against just how awful the officiating was.

Their criticism got so heated that I was sure David Stern would have them assassinated at halftime.

Jackson and Van Gundy were completely right, of course, which is precisely the problem. That’s according to David Stern, who’d prefer you not listen to clear-eyed criticism of his referees, who’ve been giving out flagrants like they’re going out of style.

From the Houston Chronicle:

NBA commissioner David Stern disagreed with coaches and players in the Rockets-Lakers series who said the events in the first few games of the series pointed to a need for greater clarity as to what constituted a flagrant-1 or flagrant-2 foul. He blamed game broadcasters for much of the confusion of controversy, but did not claim the rules are always clear.

“In our sport? Is it clear?” Stern said. “(Officiating) in the paint and trying to give a consistent interpretation? It is the most difficult sport there is to ref. But our referees do the best they can, and we do the best we can to adding clarity.

“Let them put it up on the screen, rather than have the color commentator say, ‘I don’t care what the rule says, that shouldn’t be anything.’ That’s a terrific way to have 60 members of the (officiating) staff to have a good call. But we need to do a better job as well. People are confused. But we would hope our broadcast partners would put the rule up, understand it and then indicate the difficult job referees have.”

Instead of putting the onus on television talking heads to explain to the viewing public just how tough it is to officiate NBA games, wouldn’t it benefit the League more to work harder to ensure competency from its officials? Or would that make too much sense?

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  • http://www.ericgordon.com nate the great


  • http://www.ericgordon.com nate the great

    interesting, just the thing old stern bot would say. blame it on something irrelevent to whats going on. although i do agree, it is hard for a reff to see in the paint, but its their job, they should be better at it.
    so far in the playoffs reffs have been on their knees.. blowing.

  • http://ittakesanationofmillionstoholdthissac.blogspot.com ciolkstar

    He actually has a point. Mike Breen is such a huge puss, that anythime a semi-hard foul happens he starts yelling “Oh HARD FOUL by ______!” and dude is CONSTANTLY talking about suspensions, flagrants, etc…
    I don’t want to defend the refs too much, because they just haven’t been good at all during these playoffs. But I think Breen consistently exaggerates and sensationalizes the severity of fouls/contact on the floor. I don’t think he does it on purpose, he just can’t talk about anything besides “the rulebook” and sound intelligent.

  • PArsons

    Yeah cos only through the screen and the talking heads do the public form any opinion… damn those ex players and coaches what the hell would they know about basketball …oh wait …

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    Dear Commissioner Stern. Your continuous smug responses and absolute failure to do ANYTHING about the traveshamockery the officiating has become is turning your precious League into a laughingstock. PLEASE RESIGN. Love, Russ.

  • illydiva

    Just heard that Wayman Tisdale lost his battle with cancer today. RIP Mr Tisdale, enjoyed your game and your music.

  • KJ

    Kobe’s technical last night was the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen. SO now all someone has to do is pretend they got hit in the mouth and run around like a chicken with their head cut off, and the player closest to him will get a ‘T’? That was TUURRIBLE!

  • mj23

    Oh great, next Stern will blame the media for Tim Donaghy. Stern we all know the NBA is rigged.

  • tenorca

    I’m positively terrified of the officiating in the Lakers/Rockets game this weekend. If it’s close, you KNOW Houston’s playing 8 on 5. It’s barely even debatable.

  • Harlem_World

    Don’t blame the witnesses – blame the perpetrators! The calls have been worst than I ever remember this playoffs. Taking away from what is otherwise a playoffs for the ages. Co-sign Russ. When is Stern going to be put out to pasture???

  • Tuomas

    Wayman Tisdale? Man, that’s even worse than the officiating. Especially sad since he was carving a nice new career in music. RIP big guy.

  • AlbertBarr

    The Lakers are in on the rigging of NBA games as well apparently. I mean, otherwise they would have closed out in game six and not been pulling for a ratings bonanza 7, RIGHT?

  • vtrobot

    as i kobe hater, i would say that his tech call last night was total garbage. the league had better reverse that one. i want the fakeshow to lose, but lose fairly.

  • http://slamonline.com Yknot

    CCNY anyone?

  • Coach Master

    NBA refs…the best that money can buy?

  • phil

    God I hate David Stern.

  • http://idunkonthem.blogspot.com/ albie1kenobi

    my sentiment exactly, vtrobot. as a true basketball fan, one can’t be happy with bad calls that change the complexity of matchups/series. (phx/spurs 2007 comes to mind, and 2006 Finals to a lesser degree)
    also, sad to hear Tisdale gone. i remember the tv special on him about how positive he lived his life after his leg got cut off. the world has lost a good soul. RIP big guy.

  • http://www.twitter.com/TheDiesel Anton

    I wish we’d get referees from jail: those brothas wouldn’t call nothin unless blood was spilled.

  • Clark Kent

    co-sign phil. WTF is Stern watching? Hey Davie boy, your officials suck out loud, do something about it!

  • Brian

    There are too many judgment calls for the refs to make that they lack the qualifications to make. Van Gundy was right about the flagrant fouls in that it is not the refs but their bosses instructing them to make these calls.

  • Lz – Cphfinest3

    If it wasn’t for the differences in the rules (NBA vs. FIBA) they could just import Euro League refs. Those guys seems to be doing a decent job in the games I’ve seen, decent is still miles ahead of Crawford & co.

  • Brian

    Back before the flagrant foul rules the goal of the players was to show that you weren’t hurt no matter how hard the foul was. Now the goal is to act like you’re dying no matter how the slight the contact was. Which do you think leads to a better game?

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com Izzo


  • Brian

    There is no greater shill for the NBA than Mike Breen. He would have made a great Nazi! He spent the entire Olympics criticizing the FIBA refs for being inconsistent.

  • Cizzo

    This situation is a complete mess, just thinking about it give me a headache!!

  • Tommy Patron

    Mike Breen is as mallable as Play-doh. He is the Ned Flanders of NBA announcers.

  • Tommy Patron

    Stern is a passive-aggressive Dick Cheney.

  • ENDS

    The Celts-Magic Series has been even worse. Skip slammed by Davis evryone including BB is waiting for the Wistle and the Refs are like “Duuuuuhhhh which way did he go George…” The they tell the team to let us do our Job. By all means DO YOUR JOB and stop tryin’ to make C’s Lakers happen again.

    Why cant yall see Dwights getting grabbed under the boards. And its cool if your gonna let them play, but ya’ll turn right around and call these ticky tac fouls on Dwight to even up the Score. Joey Crwford cant be pushing people either just walk away

  • http://www.lkz.ch Darksaber

    an expected response from Darth Stern. There is not a more arrogant, smug sports figurehead around (ok maybe Sepp Blatter would give him a run for his money). Blame it on the V-a-a-a-a-a-n Gundy.

  • http://sjsu.edu davidR

    basketball harder to ref than (american) football?

  • http://www.Slamonline.com Adam Sweeney

    That was such a cop out. I was standing there as he was saying this, and you could see the eyes rolling from the media when Stern said it was up to the broadcasters to make it clear. No, Commissioner. Your referees are inept. Face it and do something about it.

  • http://sjsu.edu davidR

    broadcasters aren’t the ones on the floor. why is it their job to help the general public swallow these whack calls? it seems like in every game at least one ref has a power-trip and gives a tech way too fast whenever someone complains about a weak flagrant. can we get a third-party of qualified refs to handle the games? cause it’s obvious the nba certified “pro” refs suck. also, can we get some kind of audit crew to background check these refs every year to make sure they’re fit to use common sense on the court?

  • http://www.ojhoops.blogspot.com the baconator

    I’m sorry David Stern, but the only people at fault here are your referees. There were some calls that I’m sure a drunk monkey could’ve made. The only way to ensure proper officiating is to better train your officials. Stop worrying about preventing young’uns from entering the draft and do something about your crappy refs!

  • http://basketball-reference.com nbk

    And that Tim Donaghy thing never would have happened if Las Vegas didn’t have such bright lights!!! huh david stern, you lying frogman….

  • Josh D

    Football(real football,not American Football) is harder to ref than Basketball easily

  • http://basketball-reference.com nbk

    and you can get straight up murdered if you mess those games up. Lets start just killing refs and incorporate the fear

  • http://jakeandamir.com tealish

    JVG was hilarious in the booth last night. Talking about constantly taking jabs from the Commish, which was as he said, at least better than the $100,000 haymaker of fine. The man is too good on the mike. He should do every game, twice.

  • http://sjsu.edu davidR

    i wouldn’t be surprised if jvg and mjackson disappeared

  • Aaron

    What a cop out. I can’t wait for him to just be gone. I’m tired of the excuses and he loses fans every game with how porous the officiating is.

  • Danny W

    RIP Wayman Tisdale, my thoughts are with your family. Thanks for the memories.

  • shabaz

    I like the houston rockets,however lakers got screwed by the officials late in the game they blew so many calls witch helped houston.

    2 times carl landry moved lamar’s hand and dunked and the foul was called on lamar.

    kobe’s 3 point shot was a foul, when he dribbled the ball in the paint he got fouled before gasol tiped the ball out of bound.

    Luke walton blocking call that was really a charge…………..and the list keeps going on.



  • Hamond

    Is anybody familiar with the prudent person test? I learned it in a business law class. It means that should a reasonable and prudent person have foreseen the consequences of their actions? Usually due to negligence of some sort. If a doctor kills somebody in surgery, for him to be successfully sued, the court has to ask would another reasonable and prudent professional surgeon have made the same mistake? Not just any normal person, but a professional in the same field. So, for Stern to say refereeing is a difficult job and it’s hard to tell, well, shouldn’t the referees be properly trained to do so in the first place? And wouldn’t you expect any other reasonable and prudent professional referee to know that it is difficult to officiate in the paint, therefore pay more attention to it and have a better judgement of flagrants and flagrant-2′s?

  • http://www.triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    Anton Posted: May.15 at 12:19 pm
    I wish we’d get referees from jail: those brothas wouldn’t call nothin unless blood was spilled.
    Maybe then the Shane Battier call wouldn’t have been missed.

  • http://www.triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    hamond’s on point.

  • Karl Hungus

    Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

  • http://www.basketbrasil.com.br Rubens Borges

    Josh, soccer ain’t harder to ref than basketball, take it from a guy who tried to ref both. Failed BIG in basketball, did an OK job in soccer

  • Dave

    I have to say it’s pretty phenomenal how everyone in the basketball world seems to take for granted that NBA games are shaved by the NBA themselves and certain players are above the law.
    I mean, it really is incredible how out in the open it is. And yet…

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/officerbarbrady what

    If the rule as currently written is that hard to enforce, as the FREAKING COMMISSIONER, isn’t it YOUR COMPLETE RIGHT TO CHANGE IT TO MAKE IT EASIER TO UNDERSTAND???? I don’t hate Stern like many people seem to, because as many dumb things as he’s done he’s nowhere near as bad as Goodell or Selig, but damn he is an idiot when it comes to this ref issue.

  • Onions Baby Onions

    F*ck refs

  • PJ

    blame it on the crew, they criticizin too
    blame it on stern, when he gonna learn?

  • knock knock

    seriously the fact kobe has more techs than lebron has fouls (5) in this entire PLayoffS HAs to say something that the nba does not want the cavs to lose.

  • jon

    2002 game 6 was fixed , for the lakers to win over the kings . At that time it was controversial , 5 years later its in the spot light again for the game being fixed .
    And all david stern can do is stutter and say uh and lie .
    David stern took the game and sh*t on it ,lost all integrity , and its as fake as wrestling .

  • http://joeloholic.wordpress.com Joel O’s

    Again with the knee-jerk defensiveness of his referees. It seems to Stern that everyone else – the players, fans, his own commentators – is often wrong, but his referees are infallible.

  • Dave

    Wrestling’s fake?!

  • BostonBaller

    The officiating has been terrible and yes Mr. Ends they blew that call on G Davis but get over yourself and the notion that Howard is getting beat up down low and that he is a saint…Howard gets away with more pushes in the back to gain position than most nig men. Even in replays the announcers pretend not to see it. Oh yeah, by your statement that the L wants a Laker Celtic rematch you no longer get to write on SLAMonline…EVERYONE knows that the L would kill for a Kobe Lebron matchup. Don’t show your colors…

  • BostonBaller

    nig men = big men..I’m already too amped for tonight!!!

  • nba123

    NBA where david stern needs to quit

  • http://slamonline.com/online/category/blogs/fear/ Freedom Fries

    I blame rap music and hip hop. If those refs would stop wearing hip-hop stripey-strizzle shirts and instead wear three piece suits – they would bring a more professional attitude to their profession and therefore officiate more effectively.

  • http://slamonline.com/online/category/blogs/fear/ Freedom Fries

    Either that or make them retire at age 55 – what’s the average age nowadays? 60? 70? 80?

  • SD

    Hahahahaha freedom fries

  • hnnnsox

    Affirmative action rears its ugly head again….this time NBA officiating.

  • Daniel

    Does anyone else get really pissed about the NBA’s stance that it’s the “hardest sport to referee.” You’ve got to be kidding me, baseball, soccer, football, and ice hockey all involve more players on a bigger playing field, and football and ice hockey both have a much more intricate system of rules. Additionally There are three refs to make calls in Basketball. Hockey and soccer both have one official who works the whole playing surface. NBA has one ref who works length of the court and two refs who split halves and all refs have equal status to make calls. Hockey and Soccer have lineman to make out of bounds calls but only one referee to work the whole playing surface, much more demanding physically than the NBA. NFL has two paragraphs devoted to the coin toss alone. MLB, NFL, and NHL all have instant replay too so second guessing officials occurs at an official level all the time. NBA refs are irreproachable and their judgement can only ever be impeached on wrongful flagrant foul calls (after the fact) and on clock violations.
    If basketball games are hard to officiate it’s because David Stern is trying to make the refs call certain games certain ways, and that makes it a challenge.
    Quick fact: at one point over 11% of the NBA refs were convicted of tax fraud, and lying to the NBA. Have you ever worked at a job where over 11% of the workers had seen jail or prison time for tax fraud. And none of the refs lost their jobs for it!!! All NBA refs were found to have violated the specific terms of their contracts with regards to gambling, and several broke the gaming laws of their states.