Entertainment or an athletic competition?

BDL Interview: Tim Donaghy

[excerpt #1]

BDL: The results of that system and methodology have come into question of late. A few claims made in the book have met with skepticism from reporters, statisticians and, in some cases, the principal people involved in certain conversations you cite in the book. How do you respond to the charges that some of these things are either remembered incorrectly or even fabricated?

TD: They’re not fabricated, and, in fact, I think the people that came up with these stats have a hidden agenda for trying to discredit me.

BDL: What agenda would you say that is?

TD: Well, you look at ESPN. I mean, obviously they have a broadcast partnership with the NBA and they’re trying to discredit what’s in the book, and they’ve come up with stats that have nothing to do with the way I picked the games. But I have my own stats that I’m compiling right now that are going to be released in the next few weeks that are going to show that there’s very much some consistency with what is written in the book.

BDL: Can you tell me a little bit more about the information that you’re compiling?

TD: Not right now — it’s still in the process of being compiled. But it’s something that we’re going to have out there in the next few weeks.

BDL: You say you used a variety of factors to make your betting determinations, rather than just saying, “Well, Steve Javie doesn’t get along with Allen Iverson(notes), so we’ve got to bang that game.” But you do reference frequently in the book that determining which officials to go after was really the key. Did you ever reach a point where you felt you’d bet too heavily on those particular officials and that you needed to diversify your approach? Or did you feel that, since you said you were winning, you should just stick with what works?

TD: Absolutely just stick with what works. And I was very consistent and successful in putting these lines on these games and betting these games on a consistent basis and winning.

BDL: You’ve been doing quite a bit of press surrounding the release of the book. Do you feel that you’ve been treated unfairly in any of the pieces? How have you perceived the reaction to the book at this point?

TD: I think the reaction to the book is that the fans are certainly well aware that there are some unusual things that have taken place in the NBA over the last 10 or 15 years, and we’ve received hundreds of phone calls and e-mails stating that they know what’s in that book is true.

BDL: In the afterword of “Personal Foul,” you reference some things you think could be done to restore fan trust in NBA officiating and some of what you see as the league’s failures in that regard. You write: “If I were an NBA fan, I wouldn’t know whether to laugh of cry.” Do you still consider yourself an NBA fan? And at this point, do you feel like fans, on balance, can trust what they see night in and night out?

TD: I think I’ll always be a basketball fan at heart, but as far as an NBA fan, I’m certainly not an NBA fan at this time. I haven’t watched a game in two years. You said you’re from Boston, right?

BDL: I’m from New York, but I live in Boston.

TD: OK, New York and Boston. Two meccas for sports. You can’t sit there and tell me that the fans in Boston and the fans in New York, who are very knowledgeable fans, do not sit back and say that over the last 10 years a lot of unusual stuff has gone on in the NBA, to the point where they feel comfortable with watching an NBA game and thinking that things are on the up and up.

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[excerpt #2]

BDL: Your father was a referee, and you say you respected his commitment to the idea that players should decide games; that it shouldn’t be about guys with whistles or anything else. You say that’s not the way it is in today’s NBA. What opportunities do you see for the NBA to get closer to letting the players decide things?

TD: Obviously, when you talk about the NBA, they have to decide whether it’s an athletic competition or whether it’s entertainment and a show. And if they’re going to say that it’s an athletic competition, then they have to have these referees referee the rules, have the hammer and basically not referee the games with an eye on the bottom line of what’s good for the league.

BDL: You mention that you don’t expect anyone in the league offices will take your advice on how to make things better. But from a fan perspective, the idea seems to have some merit — people don’t really want to see games decided by things like Brent Barry getting clocked and not getting a call.

TD: Right. Absolutely. NBA fans are very knowledgeable fans, when you talk about a lot of these major cities, and I truly believe that they’re not going to allow David Stern to keep his head in the sand and not comment on this. I think there’s going to be an outcry for some answers over some of these situations, and there’s going to be an outcry for drastic change to have these games officiated properly, and I think eventually it’s going to make the league much bigger, better and stronger than it’s ever been before.

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FWIW, this small corner of the blogosphere has little doubt that Tim Donaghy is, in fact, telling the absolute truth:

A. With his claims to have been able to predict a high percentage of winning games, for specific NBA match-ups, based on a combination of factors including his ‘inside knowledge’ of different referees and their biases/tendencies toward favouring/punishing particular players, coaches, owners, etc.

B. With the different accusations he has levied towards David Stern, the NBA League Office, and other referees/officials/employees who work for the Association. 

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