Back in early August, when l'affaire Donaghy was still a titan of an NBA story (funny how that has faded, isn't it?), ESPN's Ric Bucher wrote a fascinating story about Bernie Fryer. Here's one key passage:
While allegations that Tim Donaghy conspired to fix the NBA games he was officiating rocked the league's foundation, it was the resignation of Bernie Fryer immediately after he worked Game 3 of the NBA Finals that was the summer's first bombshell.
You won't have Bernie Fryer to kick around anymore.
Fryer, a 28-year ref regarded as one of the league's best, is hanging up his whistle because he can no longer stomach the league's current system of managing its officials. And his disaffection is shared by as many as nine other topflight veterans -- about one-sixth of the corps -- who also have talked about stepping down in protest. "It's so bad," says one, "guys buy lottery tickets everywhere they go. If they win, they're just going to leave their shirt hanging in the locker."
In short, the system is neither respected by veteran officials nor, it now appears, capable of weeding out miscreants such as Donaghy.
Well, guess what? He's back, and (under Ronnie Nunn) now in charge of assessing the performance of league officials. Eureka! The NBA has admitted some fault! They have done some soul searching! They no longer insist they were always right all along about everything!
Oh, not so fast. Yeah, they hired him. But they are not admitting squat. (That's OK, though. I'll take what I can get.)
The officiating program came under scrutiny this summer after federal authorities charged a veteran referee, Tim Donaghy, with providing inside information to gamblers. Donaghy pleaded guilty last month to two felony counts and is awaiting sentencing. The scandal also exposed a rift between some rank-and-file referees and the league officials who evaluate them.
Jackson said the decision to hire Fryer was unrelated to any of those issues.
"Bernie had discussed this with Ronnie and came to me a while back, before the Donaghy stuff ever happened," Jackson said yesterday in an interview between sessions at the N.B.A.'s annual referee training camp. "And because of Bernie's performance over the years and the fact that he was a high-level finals official and a crew chief, having his expertise and having him be a part of our observation staff we felt would really benefit us. It seemed like a natural."