Haywoode Workman – one of only 3 NBA players ever to become a referee in league

workman-indiana… Haywoode Workman tore down the court, just as he had done for eight years as a guard in the N.B.A. But now he wears a different uniform: that of a referee.

Workman’s shift from shooter to whistle-blower is unusual — he is one of only three N.B.A. players to ever become a referee in the league. If players and referees are sometimes antagonists, there are plenty of similarities between the two jobs.

Both demand fitness, steady travel and teamwork under the continual scrutiny of fans and bosses. But a referee who was an N.B.A. player has the additional burden of managing the expectations of former peers.

“If someone gets called for a carry on a discontinued dribble, they’ll say, ‘You did that,’ ” said Leon Wood, a referee who played for eight N.B.A. teams, including two stints with the Nets, over eight years. “I’ll say: I may have, but the rules back then were a little different than they are now. You may not want me to call it, but it’s there in front of me.”

Locker rooms can foster friendships, but the camaraderie ends as soon as a player puts on a referee’s uniform.

“When you go from being a player or coach to a referee, you’ve gone to the dark side,” said Wood, who will be refereeing in the playoffs for the ninth straight year. “You’re on this island, and your other friends are referees. It’s Refereesville.”

Referees have to endure the ire of players. Jerry Stackhouse, a veteran with the Nets, remembered Wood’s ejecting him from a game in 2001 for disputing a missed call.

“A good official, whether he played the game or not, would make that call,” Stackhouse said recently. “I haven’t had two words with Leon Wood ever since.”

Wood, who has worked as a referee since the 1995-96 season, shrugged off the criticism, saying he did not even remember the game.

“Eleven years go by, holding a grudge,” he said.

workman-refereeWorkman became an N.B.A. referee in 2008, after officiating in the Continental Basketball Association and the N.B.A. Development League.

Workman said he did not view the transition as a major change.

“You play for the company; you ref for the company,” he said. “You move from one department to the next.”

Workman played 8 seasons in the NBA, appearing in 359 games (159 started), averaging 5.5 ppg, 3.9 apg and 2.3 rpg in 20.1 mpg.

He averaged career best 8 ppg and 4.8 apg for Washington Bullets during 1990-91 season.

In other sports, the transition to referee from player is more common.

Southern Methodist Coach Larry Brown, who coached Workman with the Pacers from 1993 to 1997, said he believed that the N.B.A. would be well served to hire more former players as referees. He has called for a formal program to encourage ex-players to become referees.

“You take Haywoode, Leon, Bernie — they obviously love the game, love the sport and want to give back,” Brown said. “Not that you don’t respect all officials, but you look at those guys in a different light.”

Wood and Workman have sought to interest current players in joining their exclusive group. It’s been a tough sell, they said.

The players Workman eyes are journeymen like himself, he said during an interview. Two turned down his recruiting efforts during pregame warm-ups this season.

Referees earn playoff appearances for their performance in the regular season, just as the teams do, and Workman is still waiting to be tapped for the postseason.

“As a player, I wanted to be the best; as a referee, I want to be considered the best,” he said. “My next challenge is the playoffs.”

/NY Times/


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