Where do ref's in the NBA come from? Where can you find someone who won't back down when players, coaches or fans are calling for their head? In the case of Bob Delaney, they find you.
An article in the sport section of our local Sunday paper entitled "NBA referee shoots Hall of Famer tales", includes a picture of Hall of Fame inductee Michael Jordan in his playing days with the Chicago Bulls arguing with Delaney. Actually, it looks as though Jordan is trying to bite Delaney's head off! The picture was provided by Deleney and that's probably why I couldn't find it on the net, and believe you me, I tried.
Anyway, reading this article after seeing that picture had me searching out more about Bob Delaney. What a fascinating man.
Delaney's first career choice was in law enforcement and he joined the New Jersey State Police upon graduation from the New Jersey City University with a Bachelor's Degree in Criminology in 1973.
He took part in an undercover operation code named "Project Alpha" where he and other undercover policemen "posed as trucking industry businessmen trying to get out from under pressures of union interests." He "borrowed" the name 'Bobby Covert' from a deceased New Jersey resident to protect his own identity. The mobsters (yeah I know, "There is no mafia", says Tony Soprano) nicknamed him 'Bobby Smash'.
Delaney testified before the US Senate in 1981 about his experiences with the most powerful organized crime syndicates in New Jersey during his three year undercover operation. As a result of Project Alpha, over 100 cases were opened against mobsters with the majority of those charged ending up in prison, on the run or dead.
Shortly after that, Delaney retired from law enforcement and began his second career as a full time basketball referee at the high school level from 1972 to 1982 while still a police officer, and then with the Continental Basketball Association for four years until 1987 when he was selected by scouts to officiate in the NBA which brings me back to the article.
Mr. Delaney recently appeared at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA. as part of the shrine's MVP's of Character speaker series and for a book signing. Back in 2008, Delaney wrote about his undercover experiences in Project Alpha in a book entitled, "Covert: My Infiltrating the Mob", which is now in paperback. It is my hope that when he retires from basketball (he is now 57) he'll write about his NBA experiences officiating games of Hall of Famers such as Charles Barkley and this year's inductees Michael Jordan, David Robinson, John Stockton.
As I said before, what a fascinating man.