NBA D-League Casting Large Net For Referees In Order To Improve NBA Officiating
“Development is a process, not about what you did today. You want to find referees that will work on getting better.” – George Toliver, NBA Director of D-League Officials
In 15 seasons, George Toliver worked 742 regular season NBA games. His knowledge of the officiating process both at the NBA level, and International stage is astounding. With an educated yet driven mind such as Toliver behind the development process for officials in the NBADL, the NBA stands to be the true beneficiary.
The NBA D-League has impacted the NBA in various ways throughout it’s existence, but perhaps the most unrecognized and under the radar avenue has been in regard to officials. Every referee in the NBA since 2002 has started their career in the NBA D-League.
The process for officials to reach the NBA stage now goes through the NBADL, and the various camps which feed into the NBA D-League selection process. There is also an open tryout which according to Toliver, 60 people are roughly taken from, and is a good way for unknowns to get their foot in the door.
Toliver spoke with DleagueDigest.com recently, and explained the overall position which the NBADL has in relation to the NBA, and WNBA’s search for officials. “We’re not complacent, we’re always looking for ways to get better. Years ago, people would never work NBA games before they actually had to work one. Now that’s changed. We’re opening the door, and trying to find the best referees in the country. Our numbers are greater, and we’re excited about the future.”
Similar to the reason why NBA teams assign their prized draft picks to the NBADL, repetitions are incredibly important for officials. With the NBA D-League season ending in April, the need for officials to find ways to get in more games is incredibly important. This is where former NBA long-time referee Tommy Nunez Jr., and the IBL (International Basketball League) come into play.
Nunez Jr. was hired by IBL commissioner Sharleen Graf last season as Director of Officials. With his second season on the horizon, Nunez Jr. hopes to implement even more experienced, but also eager officials into the IBL, and perhaps help them get on track to earning a gig in the NBA D-League.
Nunez Jr. officiated in over 200 NBA games from 2004-2012, and is also known as one of the three officials who attempted to break up the events leading to the Malice at the Palace.
Like Toliver, Nunez Jr. brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to his current position at the IBL. “I can teach things based off my own experiences. The process is always changing with regard to finding officials. I’m trying to direct guys who want to be professionals to the right places for the best exposure. I’ve made a lot of connections, so this is where I can help them.” Nunez Jr. told DleagueDigest.com.
The IBL season runs from late April to early July, a sweet spot between the end of the NBADL season and the beginning of numerous overseas leagues. It’s also a great primer before NBA Summer League. For officials, it is a great opportunity to get in real-time reps at a high-speed pace.
Two officials who have spent time in the IBL and NBADL are Sir Allen Conner and Matt Morales. Conner has also officiated games in the NBA. Morales is in his first season as a referee in the NBA D-League, but has an extensive collegiate officiating background. The ability to have Conner and Morales share their insight with officials in the IBL, is huge for Nunez Jr. and his future plans.
With an emphasis on proper training, and by casting the largest net in the NBA D-League’s history for officials, Toliver and Nunez Jr. are ultimately providing the NBA with well-prepared officials for the future.
However, the jump from the NBADL to the NBA is a large one as Nunez Jr. explained, “there are so many good officials available, and they all do certain things well. The jump from the NBA D-League to the NBA is huge though, I know how different it is. There’s guys that labor down in the D-League for 7-8 years.”
In the end, timing and proper preparation are the keys for D-League officials to get a look from the NBA. In order to be ready, the path which Toliver and Nunez Jr. have created, and continue to work on, will help officials take the next step in their career.
The development of officials is just another way the NBA D-League is positively impacting the NBA, and solidifying itself as a true minor league system for the Association.