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Referee made bad calls with his neighbors, too

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 25, 2007

In addition to being the mob's conduit to the NBA, Tim Donaghy had what is euphemistically known as anger management issues.

That is a polite way of saying Donaghy was a jerk in desperate need of a beating, if only to readjust his malfunctioning brain cells.

NBA commissioner David Stern said Donaghy's explosive temper came to the attention of the league after a neighbor filed a lawsuit against the disgraced referee two years ago.

The suit, initiated by Peter and Lisa Mansueto and chronicled in the Philadelphia Inquirer, portrayed the referee as a nut job who yelled obscenities at his next-door neighbors, set fire to their lawn mower, set fire to their deck and drove their golf cart into a ravine.

The NBA investigated the dispute — Donaghy denied any wrongdoing — and prohibited the referee from working the second round of the playoffs in 2005, a modest rebuke.

Stern also said the NBA investigated reports that Donaghy was seen gambling in Atlantic City, N.J., which is a no-no and results in the automatic expulsion of the offender.

Stern said the NBA could not substantiate the allegations and Donaghy was able to keep the job that paid him $260,000 last season.

If the NBA sleuths had bothered to dig deeper into the questionable temperament of Donaghy, they might have discovered that he had a stalking/harassment problem with another neighbor in 1995.

They might have learned about his angry confrontation with a mail carrier in 2002, initiated after the mail carrier's postal truck knocked over a bin of recyclables in his front driveway.

They might have talked to the cop who suspected Donaghy was hitting the homes of his neighbors with golf balls that he would strike from his backyard.

They might have talked to the country club members who found him to be rude.

They might have connected the dots and decided that Donaghy was a poor ambassador of the NBA and terminated his employment.

It is hard to believe the close-knit fraternity of the NBA had no hint that Donaghy was a troubled character.

And if those paid to know such things did know, why did they not act on it?

Stern did not make that clear in his press conference yesterday.

Stern and his advisors can rue the lesson from this scandal.

If a person is setting off alarms in his social life, do not be surprised if there is spillover to his professional life.

That was the case with Donaghy.

He had a gambling habit that was in clear violation of the NBA rules, which led to low-level mob types using their power of persuasion on him.

He was told to cooperate or risk exposure and a threat to his physical well-being.

Now Donaghy is looking to slink away from the public eye and the mobsters who could be in the mood to undermine his quality of life in a permanent manner.

His home in Bradenton, Fla., is up for sale, he is getting ready to sing to the feds and considerable doubt has been cast on the 131 regular-season games and the eight playoff games he worked the last two seasons, none more unsettling than Game 3 of the Spurs-Suns series in May.

That series already was controversial because of the suspensions to Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw in Game 5.

A dirty ref in Game 3 only increases the torment of the Suns supporters who believe — and rightly so to an extent — that their team should have been the one hoisting the championship trophy in June.

This is what Donaghy has left the NBA, a tidal wave of doubt that will challenge Stern like no other situation in his 23 years as commissioner.

Stern and his minions had to have an inkling that they had a creep in their ranks.

To their everlasting regret, they chose not to put it all together until the creep had compromised the integrity of the game.