NBA: Stern's 'separated' officiating

Tyler JonesAnalyst IJuly 1, 2008

Although David Stern's hire of United States Army Major General Ronald L. Johnson is a good thing for the league, it won't produce better officiating in the NBA.

General Johnson was hired as senior vice president of referee operations, a new position created to separate referee and basketball issues of the league, something many people thought was instrumental in a new structured system of how officiating should be handled. What the hire won't do is improve the officiating of the NBA. Johnsons' responsibilities of overseeing officiating will be recruiting, training and development, scheduling, data management and analysis, and work rules enforcement. Because basketball is so subjectively officiated, it will still be hard for a strict enforcer to hold referees accountable.

The majority of people inside the league trust the referees they have although they may not agree with them all the time. The quickness of the game requires such split second decisions in certain situations that changing the rules of the game are not going to help either, something Johnson shouldn't do, or be expected to do, anyway.

What it might help is the fan's trust of the integrity of the officiating. It doesn't mean the fans might think the refs are better, it just means it might make them trust that the refs make honest mistakes. A military man like Johnson can be some kind of figure head to put trust in fans that everything is being done to make sure the officiating is non-objective. One way that happens is through that separation. If the league hires a separate entity to head officiating operations, it dissipates the reasoning that the league is leading refs to favor teams like the Celtics and Lakers in order for high rated finals.

The only way that Johnson improves officiating is through making a few decisions on how the games are officiated, like special treatment of star players. I wouldn't count on it though. What Johnson will really be is how he was mentioned before, as a figure head. Johnson represents seperation. He represents integrity. Knowing David Stern this is nothing more than a public relations move, and that's it. Some fans might be sold, but not this one.