Friday, February 8, 2008

Q&A with Bob Delaney

Over at's page 2, Sam Alipour had a little Q&A session with current NBA referee Bob Delaney. Mr. Delaney if you've ever heard, used to work undercover in New Jersey trying to capture guys from the mob. This was mentioned a lot on message boards and a few blogs during the few days when no one knew who Tim Donaghy was yet. There was the speculation that perhaps Delaney had made the wrong guys mad, and his punishment was to fix games to help these mobsters out. Well, those speculations ended up being totally untrue and of course, you know the rest of the story. Here were a few of the questions and answers from this interview:

This may be hard for you to quantify, but what was the single most dangerous experience you faced?

It wasn't one particular situation. It's an ongoing thing. I'm wearing a wire in a jock strap between my legs everyday, knowing that if it's found on me ... in that world, informants die. You live with that cloud over you. If one wire wiggles out of place, if someone pats you on the belly or back, they find that thing. It's not like I had surveillance teams on me. In deep cover, that's impossible. And I have no credentials saying that I'm a cop. My identification said my name was Robert Allen Covert.

Covert. Wasn't that a bit of a risk?

It's a catchy name for an undercover guy, but back in the '70s before Watergate, that word wasn't common. It wasn't like we were being cutesy. We took a guy who died at birth, and I became that person. But today, it's obvious that people will think that's a pretty cool undercover name.

You put a lot of people away. Do you have any fear of retribution?

I'm no different than any cop who put someone away. Retribution could happen. I'm not naive. But I'm aware of my surroundings. I have security in place that I'm not going to discuss. Also, even though I work for the NBA, I have strong ties and still consider myself a part of N.J. state police. They're very helpful, as are other agencies, in terms of intelligence information and awareness of my situation.

In what ways did this experience make you a better referee?

The challenge is very similar: There's pressure, a lot going on, and decisions have to be made very quickly. Apparently, I'm attracted to that lifestyle. [Laughs] Also, I have an awareness that comes from my law-enforcement base: I recognize when the crisis may escalate, or players are at a point where it may become a fight. And people aren't happy to be arrested, nor are they happy to have a foul called on them, so I'm used to working with people who aren't pleased.

It's no secret that many ballers have an affinity for gangster tales like "The Godfather" and "Scarface." Do players ever ask you to regale them with stories?

Oh, yeah. After a game in L.A., I was doing tape review, and after I call a foul on Kobe, the announcer says, "Kobe's giving Delaney an earful about that call." In reality, Kobe came over to me during free throws to say: "What was it like wearing those wires all time? That must've been wild." And when Grant Hill was in Orlando, he came up to me and patted me down. He's like, "You still wired?" I'm like, "Yeah, and the last time I was wired, 30 people went to jail." You gotta laugh in this world, man. [Laughs] Shane Battier will always ask about what's real and what's fake in movies like "Training Day" or "The Departed."

That's pretty impressive stuff... It's always interesting to know more about the people you are used to booing.


MCBias said...

I wondered when someone was going to come up with a ref blog--looks like there was one up for a while. Good work.

Riggs said...

thanks mcb. come back - it's not updated often, but I try to keep it relevant.

JW Stringer said...

Riggs, I'll make sure to check you out.

Watching the Villanova/G-Town game this past Monday, it appears officiating is as awful as it ever has been.

I found some good analysis on the trends being set by individual refs in the NBA currently, and the influenee it may have on sports bettors.

Riggs, keep up the good work!

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