NBA hires Albert Sanders as EVP of referee operations

The NBA on Thursday hired Albert Sanders as its new executive vice president, head of referee operations.

Sanders, who has spent the past several years working as Google's director of government affairs and public policy, spent another several years before that working in various positions in government, including as an associate counsel to President Barack Obama.

"I'm excited for the opportunity to use my experience in strategic oversight and planning to further enhance the NBA's officiating program," Sanders said. "It will be a privilege to work with such a talented group at a world-class organization that values innovation, creativity and integrity."

Longtime NBA referee Monty McCutchen, who has been in the league office for the past six seasons and is the NBA's senior vice president of referee development and training, is remaining in his role and will work "in concert" with Sanders, the league said.

Sanders will direct the NBA officiating program with responsibility for the recruitment, hiring, supervision and evaluation of all referees, and he will also oversee the NBA's Replay Center. While Sanders has a higher title than McCutchen, both of them will report directly to Byron Spruell, the NBA's president of league operations.

"Albert is a proven team leader who excels at bringing key stakeholders together to engage on challenging issues and identify needs and opportunities," Spruell said in a statement. "Our officiating program will benefit greatly from his expertise in operations management and organizational strategy."

Sanders is stepping into a job last filled by Michelle Johnson, who was hired in 2017 as part of a league office shift that included McCutchen transitioning from the court to his current oversight role. Johnson left her post, as senior vice president and head of referee operations, in October 2019.

Sanders' hiring comes in the wake of the NBA closing its investigation into longtime referee Eric Lewis over his social media activity, a closure that happened after he retired last month.

Lewis, who had refereed over 1,200 games across the regular season and playoffs in his 19 seasons as an NBA referee, was not selected as a referee to work the NBA Finals this spring between the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat after having been chosen to do so the previous four seasons.

Since-deleted tweets that were posted before the NBA Finals and were revealed by Twitter users appeared to consist of a referee defending themself, as well as other officials, from criticisms of how they were doing their jobs. The NBA's investigation, opened a short time later, was to determine whether Lewis had violated the NBA's rules governing officials speaking in an unauthorized manner.