NEW YORK -- Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy clarified comments about an official telling him Rockets center Yao Ming was being
targeted by referees in the first round of the playoffs, and the
NBA now considers the matter closed.
"When I referred to an NBA official, people inferred that I was
talking about a working NBA referee, instead of an official with
the league," Van Gundy said Monday in a statement released by the
Rockets. "I was purposely vague because I had given my word that I
would keep his name out of it."
The league fined Van Gundy $100,000 -- the largest assessed
against a coach -- after saying that an official who was not working
the playoffs told him that Yao was being targeted following
complaints by Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks,
Houston's first-round opponent.
Van Gundy subsequently apologized publicly for the comments.
"He has also confirmed directly to an NBA representative that,
during the Houston-Dallas playoff series, he did not have any
communication with a referee [working or non-working] other than,
of course, during an ongoing game," NBA deputy commissioner Russ
Granik said in a statement Monday. "In fact, his only
conversations with league employees during the series were with
league personnel in the normal course.
"In light of these circumstances, we now consider the matter to
The National Basketball Referees Association, which represents NBA officials, however, disagrees the matter is resolved and wants Van Gundy fired according to a statement reported by USA Today.
"Van Gundy flat out lied to the public," the statement said. "And in the process he called into question the reputations of all NBA game officials and the integrity of the game itself. ... The matter will truly be closed only when Van Gundy is fired."
Lamell McMorris, NBRA spokesman and lead negotiator, addressed the latest developments in the Van Gundy case on Mike & Mike in the Morning on ESPN Radio on Monday morning.
"There is a tremendous amount of confusion, but the only thing that cannot be confused are the words that Jeff Van Gundy uttered," Morris said on the radio show. "And to now kind of spin it to say that he wasn't actually talking about an official, but for the last week, the integrity of the officials who officiate the games during the playoffs and during the regular season has been called into question.
"Fans have been enraged over the possibility of game fixing, and now he wants to come out and say a week later, after he's on a bit of the hot seat, if you will, that he actually was not talking about a referree, I think it's a bit of a stretch and I think it's unfair. And at the least he should be suspended, at the least. But I think to now say that he wasn't talking about an actual referee is a very egregious lie."
Van Gundy started the saga by telling three reporters at the
team hotel in Dallas that a referee not working the playoffs called
him after the Rockets went up 2-0 and warned that Yao was mentioned
in an online evaluation from supervisor of officials Ronnie Nunn.
Van Gundy also told the reporters that referees "were looking
at Yao harder because of Mark's complaints" to the league office,
referring to Cuban.
Commissioner David Stern said at the time that an investigation into Van Gundy's
remarks would continue once the Rockets were out of the playoffs.
Houston was eliminated by the Mavericks in Game 7 of their
first-round series on Saturday night.
Stern threatened more punishment -- perhaps even banishment -- if
Van Gundy did not cooperate and reveal the name of the referee who
was the coach's source.
"I did not want the issue to continue, so rather than
clarifying my original comments, I chose to let the matter die
since I was wrong to bring the official into it to start with,"
Van Gundy said. "I have been honest during this process, loyal to
those involved and have apologized for my comments. I look forward
to putting this behind me."
Stern, in Phoenix to present Steve Nash with the MVP trophy
Monday night, said he considered the case finished.
"He apologized. He accepted his $100,000 fine," Stern said,
"and he acknowledged that his previous statement that he got a
call from an NBA referee was, shall I say, in error, was
inaccurate. As far as I'm concerned, that makes it over."
In a SportsCenter interview before the Phoenix-Dallas game, Stern explained why, in a surprise, he stopped pressing for Van Gundy to name his source.
"Everybody [with every team] talks to somebody." Stern said. "I got phone calls today about officiating. That pressing [for a name ] is not necessary because as commissioner I encourage calls from coaches, GMs, owners. This was not a question about pressing."
When told that Van Gundy said that he never said it was a
referee who called him, despite stories to the contrary,
Stern offered a sarcastic response to the crowd of reporters.
"The media did it again," Stern said jokingly. "We're going
to bash you guys. You were taken in and you just ran with it. Shame
on all of you."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.