About- Basketball Referee
Where are you in your Basketball Referee career? Where do you want to go?
Ed T. Rush
Director of Officials donates all of his royalties from Court Club to Blow the Whistle on Cancer.
More times than not, those two questions have very different answers. Let’s be honest, if you are like me, you are a Type-A+ personality. You have goals that reach far ahead of where you are right now. Let’s face it, it’s tough to become a pro basketball referee at Division 1 or in the NBA.
I’ve been very blessed to have worked with many great basketball officials over the last 40 years years. In my mentoring, I have been able to identify the key qualities and traits that all great basketball referees possess. In this course, I’d like to share those qualities with you, so that you can accelerate your timeline and reach your basketball ref dreams.
This will not be simple…it WILL take hard work. But, if you are ready to roll up your sleeves and get serious, we can make some great strides together.
Ready To Become A High Level Basketball Referee?
Let’s get started…first, here I’d like to briefly tell you my story about how I got my start as a basketball ref.
I started as a basketball referee when I was a 14-year-old junior high school student. My basketball coach, Ken Truscott, was running a mini basketball league and he asked me if I would like to make $10 for some work on Saturday. This being 1956, I personally thought $10 sounded very interesting. All I had to do was be a basketball referee for the little kids’ basketball games. The games would start about 9 a.m. and run until around 5. It only took me a few weeks before I realized that while most 14-year-olds didn’t like to get up early on Saturday morning, I did. The 10 bucks was nice, but with or without the money, I just couldn’t wait to get to the gym. Perhaps you can relate about being this passionate about being a basketball referee?
This time also marked my official transition from player to official basketball referee. With some honest self-assessment, even at an early age, it soon became apparent that my trail-to-lead transitions were much smoother than my set shot! While in high school, I was an average competitive player — very average. It was then I realized that I enjoyed being a basketball referee more than I did actually playing it. Football in the fall and baseball in the spring, but for the winter, it was all about blowing the whistle.
When I was in college, I had the opportunity to become a basketball ref at a higher level and moved up to working high school games. I graduated from West Chester University and became a teacher and football coach at a suburban Philadelphia high school. Frankly, at that point, I felt I had already attained my goals. I wanted to be a teacher. I wanted to be a coach. And I wanted to be a basketball referee in the winter — no more, no less.
My goals were about to change.
Soon I was given an opportunity to work in what was then the Eastern Pro League.
At that time, the NBA had nine teams and was about to get its first national television contract. The league was about to expand into another major city, Chicago. And in 1966, when the Chicago Bulls became an NBA franchise, it also meant that the basketball referee staff needed to increase by two or three people. Legendary official Sid Borgia had seen me officiate in the Eastern Pro League and asked me to attend one of the NBA’s training camps.
To be honest, this was not a very sophisticated method of picking talent. I feel blessed because I was in the right place at the right time. In 1966, I was hired as a part-time NBA official basketball ref while retaining my job as a high school teacher and coach. Needless to say, this is very different from how one becomes an NBA official today!
During the next season, the NBA had plans to expand further. Whether they knew it or not, those plans included a 24-year-old basketball referee who still only knew how to get two calls right: out of bounds and technical foul.
It was when the NBA decided to put together a staff of full-time officials that I went to New York to have my first “negotiating session.” I can still remember that day! The commissioner of the NBA back then was Mr. J. Walter Kennedy. His office was in the Empire State Building. The entire NBA staff consisted of Walter Kennedy, a part-time public relations person, and three secretaries. (Today, there are close to 3,000 people who work in the NBA’s New York and New Jersey offices alone.) The negotiations I had with Walter Kennedy took about 12-and-1/2 minutes.
He asked, “What do you need for us to hire you?”
I said, “Well, sir, I make $5,000 a year teaching school, $500 coaching football, and $300 coaching baseball. I could not make less than $5,800 a year.”
He said, “Good. We can give you $100 a game and promise you 60 games.”
Some quick mental math revealed that I was being offered a $6,000 salary — a $200 raise! Of course, I couldn’t turn down the “big money,” could I?
He drew up a contract — which was only about three quarters of a page long in small type — that said I would get 60 games at $100 a game. I shook his hand and went back to Philadelphia a happy camper! I was now a professional basketball ref!
I petitioned the superintendent of schools to request a one-year sabbatical from teaching so that I could work full-time in the NBA. Thirty-two years later, I retired from professional sports as a basketball referee. During those 32 years, I worked five NBA All-Star games, 33 Finals games, over 300 play-off games, and over 2,000 regular season games. And perhaps my most impressive statistic is holding the record for the longest sabbatical in Marple Newtown High School history!
I Was Now A NBA Basketball Official!
Well…the rest as they say is history. I won’t bore you with the details of my subsequent career. Let’s just say that I worked a lot of games!
This, of course, brings us back to YOU. Getting to the NBA or even to high level college ball takes a lot more work now than it did 40 years ago. I commend you for getting this far in your career. Now, let’s go the rest of the way together shall we?
On this website we cover a lot of ground. I promise if you listen, take notes, and implement what you learn, you will see great improvement…very quickly.
I’ll see you on the court.
Ed T. Rush
Former NBA Director of Officials
Learn how to become a basketball ref now.