For 3 Referees, NBA Finals Were A Long Time Coming

For 3 Referees, NBA Finals Were A Long Time Coming

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla.: Jared Dudley of the Los Angeles Lakers waited 13 seasons for his first look at the NBA Finals. Goran Dragics finals debut for the Miami Heat comes in his 12th season. Heat star Jimmy Butler is headed there for the first time in his ninth year.

Long waits, for certain.

They’ve got nothing on referees Pat Fraher and Tony Brown, who waited a whole lot longer for their opportunity on the NBAs brightest stage.

It took Fraher 19 seasons and Brown 18 seasons, but theyre now NBA Finals referees for the first time. The league released the list of 12 refs who earned the right to call at least one game in this series on Wednesday, a group that includes three first-timers Fraher, Brown and 10-year referee Josh Tiven.

What Ive been told from multiple people is youve got to approach it just like another game, Fraher said. We are creatures of habit and our success is built on our routines, so itll be the same routine that I go through for any other game. Ill be excited and nervous but Im excited and nervous before every game, so hopefully therell be some familiar feelings for me.

Tiven is on the crew for Wednesday’s Game 1 of the series between the Lakers and Heat. Fraher and Brown will work either Game 2, Game 3 or Game 4.

Tiven, Marc Davis and Kane Fitzgerald will be the trio on the floor Wednesday night. Davis has made the finals for the ninth time, Fitzgerald for the second time.

In addition to Fraher, Brown, Tiven, Davis and Fitzgerald, the other refs who earned finals trips are Tony Brothers (for the ninth time), James Capers (ninth), Scott Foster (13th), John Goble (fourth), David Guthrie (third), Eric Lewis (second) and Zach Zarba (seventh).

It is important that the culture represent who does the work gets the accolades of the work, and who has good years, then becomes someone that the league can trust for that year to provide excellent work, said Monty McCutchen, the NBAs vice president that oversees referee development and training. The games deserve that. Our franchises deserve that.

The NBA evaluates referees in a variety of ways all season long, with the goal being to have the best of the best working in the finals. McCutchen likens it to what the Heat and Lakers went through this season finals trips are earned, not given.

You cant just put people in because they theyve reached a certain amount of years or that theyve been before, McCutchen said. Its really important that our years represent what our teams have to go through, which is, they have to perform, and they have to do well and they have to live up to the standards or the competition of what their jobs require. So it is with referees.

Fraher said his first call after getting the news was to his father, who helped him get started as a teen in their native Minnesota and is still refereeing. Brown said he went through a wave of emotions when he got the word, his thoughts immediately turning to his family.

I was speechless when I found out, Brown said. The first thing I went through was the sacrifices that my family made to stand by my side during this journey. I was more happy for my family than anything else because were doing the job, theres a lot of gratitude, but theres a lot of heartache too.

Brown said it was equally difficult to see some referees leaving the bubble after the conference finals, after they learned they werent going to be part of the finals.

You feel good, but its really bittersweet, Brown said.

Brown said he expects to be nervous on his game night, until the ball goes into the air. Hes hoping instinct kicks in at that point and fellow referees who have been through the finals before say they have found thats exactly what happens.

Ultimately, its just about me realizing that Ive worked to get where I am, Brown said. And thats what makes me comfortable that Im going to do fine.


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