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Abstract from interview with Ronnie Nunn NBA

I found this interview with Ronnie Nunn, NBA Director of Officiating very interesting. Read it yourself.

Referee: With all the various observations taking place, one of your biggest challenges has got to be making sure that all your people who are observing those games are "in effect" seeing the "same" game. How are you trying to ensure consistency in the observers´programme?

Nunn: First and foremost, we categorize our performance standards. The five performance standards are play calling, court presence, fitness, off-court duties and personal qualities. They are incorporated into our programming for the officials and the administration. The two biggest ones are play calling and court presence.

Let´s take play calling. As we home in on that, one of the things that we are really targeting is getting accurate calls, being accurate with calls and putting calls into two categories.The categories involve consistency and certainty, which means you´re certain for those pivotal times in the game when you don´t take calls lightly and you´re really honing in on what you are trying to get correct so we don´t leave ourselves open to any kind of major scrutiny or mistakes.

Consistency means the calls that we have decided to make are consistent with what we are being taught from the administration.Those are the calls we want. For example, we want handchecking called. Let´s take a look at what a handchecking call looks like. Is it just putting a hand on a person? In our teaching, we want guys to understand collectively what those plays look like, what they are what fouls should be attributed to that type of physical contact and what plays are play-ons that have no effect on the play; not in terms of advantage-disadvantage, we don´t referee that way.

Referee: It seems that the trend these days is to go away from the term advantage-disadvantage because people misinterpret it as refs calling whatever they want to call.

Nunn: Exactly.

Referee: But are you not still prescribing to judgement calls as they relate to the impact of a play?

Nunn: No, I am not. We´re not doing that. I know that has been a philosophy that has been up and down the basketball refereeing ranks and side to side over the years. We need to bring accuracy and tangible evidence to play calling. Any thing that is not a foul but where there is contact, should be determined as incidental, marginal, borderline or inconclusive. But anything that is a foul, that is clearly a foul, that should be whistled at any time in the game when it can be validated as a clear infraction of the rules. The onus is the players to conduct themselves along the guidelines that are set through the rules. We are the enforcers of those guidelines and we have to better at that.

Referee: Let me see if I can walk you through a specific example. Suppose you have got a player going to the goal and there is some level of contact but the player lays the ball in anyway. An old school philosophy was "well, it obviously did not impact the play so let´s no-call it and move on". Is that type of thinking still in place?

Nunn: We are trying to avoid that type of thinking. We are trying to say that the contact that goes from A to B, is it such that it warrants a whistle? Is the contact, at the start of the play, in the development of the play or at the finish of the play, such that a whistle needs to be blown? If it does not, whether the player finishes with a hoop or finishes with a miss, it´s our responsibility to see if anywhere along the line of that play, broken down into those three points, something warranted us to stop the game by blowing a whistle.

Referee: Are you comfortable with the amount of dialogue that takes place between players, coaches and referees during the game?

Nunn: I find it very, very healthy. We have to remember that officials and players have a real separate life out there. I think in all honesty that the separation created myths. The myths were this guy does not like me, or we lose all the time with that guy or they don´t call fouls on star players or we are supposed to lose this game because the league must believe that this has got to be more than a five game series or any number of things; it goes on and on.

Really, what we are doing first and foremost is trying to get people to understand the officials and the fact that they are very personable, that they do a job, they are the third team in every game and their goals are getting the calls correct.

[Alan Jan. 29th.2004.]

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