Per John Canzano of The Oregonian, Van Gundy said:
They've tried to hurt me with my bosses. They've called my bosses and said, 'Nobody wants to hear that guy whine about officiating.' They're pretty sensitive about that sort of stuff. I'm not quite sure why. I think by critiquing them you're talking of their importance to the game.
NBA Director of Operations Rod Thorn refuted Van Gundy's assertion, telling Canzano, "I don't place those kinds of calls. I never have since I've been here. When I was here before, I didn't do it either."
Tim Frank, NBA Director of Communications, has communicated directly with the media in the past, according to Portland Trail Blazers analyst Mike Rice.
Per Canzano, Rice says he was approached by league officials after he made critical comments about officiating in 2013: "It was just a little sit-down," Rice said. "They wanted to go over some things, and tell me what a difficult job the officials have. You know, 'Try to see this through the eyes of an official' and 'They have a really hard job' all that."
The NBA is a business. As such, it's probably a little unfair (and definitely unrealistic) to expect it not to control the way in which its product is presented to the public. The game is a commodity, and while censorship is never a good look, we shouldn't be surprised if Van Gundy's comments are true.
At the same time, nobody benefits when officiating becomes a major topic—especially during the playoffs.
It's easy to complain about referees, and it's telling that a good percentage of the negative comments come from hyper-competitive former coaches and analysts who are necessarily biased by virtue of being employed by a specific team.
Transparency is a major item on NBA Commissioner Adam Silver's agenda, so expect more admissions of fault from the league after missed calls, more communication and, hopefully, less discussion about whistles that should or shouldn't have been blown.
Referees are vitally important to the game, a point Van Gundy makes all the time. And a little criticism is perfectly fine.
An emphasis on transparency is one positive step, but Silver and the rest of the league would do well to spend even more energy dispelling the notion that the NBA is secretly trying to silence criticism.
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