Some people questioned me when I began questioning the officiating after I bought the Mavs. They asked why i
was doing it. Didnt I know that there was nothing I could do to change the way the league runs things.
Personally, it wasnt about the officials. Certainly not them individually. They bust their ass to do the best they
can. Like most of us do at work. But as in any business, there are things that can be done to put people in a
position to succeed. When I got to the Mavs, I talked about putting the players in a position to succeed by
hiring more coaches. After all, if we have a multimillion dollar investment in a player, it only made sense to me to
provide that player with whatever individual instruction that was necessary to make them better. To put them in a
position to succeed.
Of course I was ridiculed early and often. To Nellie’s credit, he was supportive of it and I think it has paid
dividends for the orgnization and has since been copied by other teams.
The same was applied to our marketing and sales staff. When i got to the Mavs, I wanted to accomplish as much as
we could. To that end we let some people who werent comfortable with that go. We basically amped up every
interaction that the organization had with fans to a level where we hoped and tried that we would over deliver value
to our customers and fans. We made it clear to everyone that we no longer sold basketball. We sold fun. That few
people can remember jump shots, home runs and touchdowns, but everyone remembers the fun times they had a games and
who they were with. Every parent remembers the first game they tooktheir child(ren) to. Time after time I
get emails about couples that met or went on a first date to a game. People never want to tell me how great a fast
break, jumper or block looked. Its the personal things that they remember. The fact that we didnt let the focus of
our fan experience be only the game, didnt and doesnt sit well with some to this day.
The same desire to see success I expect on and off the court from the Mavs, I expect from the league. Im an
equity partner. IMHO, good partners try to contribute to make things better. They dont just go along to go along.
They raise issues and create discussion. Even if it may not follow tradition or protocol. Im not a
“this is the way its always been, and thats the way it
should be guy“
I have questioned quite a few things about the NBA. Publicly and privately.
To Commissioner Stern’s credit, he has always at least absorbed the commentary from me. Sometimes Im
right, sometimes not. At times, my approach may even be counter productive. Im far from perfect when it comes to
trying to elicit change. And when Im wrong. Im ok with that as well.
As a partner, I would rather offer up a topic for discussion and be told Im wrong, or even ignored, then not
present my perspective. You never knowthe impact if you dont communicate. Its usually just a short and
simple email from me for someone in the NBA to read and respond to, or not.
One of the things I have felt that the league hasnt done as well as it should has been the way it has run the
officiating group. I didnt and dont feel that the league puts officials in a position to succeed.
This isnt about officials and made or missed calls. Its about how the officiating group is organized and managed.
My biggest fine didnt come from criticizing an official. It came from criticing their boss. It took me a couple
years in the league to really get a handle on it, but once you take a close look, its very clear that its not about
the guys or woman blowing the whistles. They bust their butts every single night to do the job the way they think it
should be done.
The accusations they make have been that I “send emails and video to the league”. Which of course is true. Every
team does it.
We send emails to the league about officiating for three reasons.
1. To make sure we understand certain rules and how they will be called. How certain things are called can evolve
over the course of a season. Knowing how something is being called can be helpful.
2. To understand if maybe an officiating crew just had a bad game, or if we had the wrongexpectations on
certain plays. In other words, did we thinkcertain things were violations and they werent or were they missed
calls. this also can tell you about the tendencies of a given official. This isnt however something you can do
every game. This year we have sent in a list of calls to get confirmation three times. Probably a lot less than other
3. This is probably the most important reason. When a player appears to be routinely violating a rule and no
call is being made. For instance, two years ago, we sent a long list of tapes showing Chris Weber of the Kings at
that point, dragging his pivot all over the place to create passing lanes. It was never called. The league came
back and said we were right. They would look at it and they did. And they also looked at it for our players and ended
it up calling it more on Antoine Walker that serie than they did on CWebb. And you know what, thats ok with
We did the same thing with Shaq stepping over the free throw line. Which in reality was the real genesis of doing
this. It was so obvious to everyone and anyone that watched a game that he was doing it. No one could answer
why it wasnt being called. So we made a tape and turned it in. Theystarted callingit.
Shaq stared at me a lot when we played them, but he fixed it and it was done with. Thats the important thing to
note. Any of these things can be fixed. The players know when they are doing things that break the rules.
They would stop a pickup game if someone did it.They know how to fix them as well. When it gets called
consistently, they change. I consider that a big win for the NBA. Few things get under my skin more than emails
from kids and parents asking why something so obvious isnt being called. I have no response other than “Im trying to
get that changed”.
Im a purist. The rules is the rules.I dont care if you call it on us. I expect our players to adapt and play
by the rules. I alsoexpect them to take advantage of rules violations that arent being called.
When I decided to do this blog, after reading the comments from
Sam Mitchell in Marc Stein’s article
saying that he agreed with Phil Jacksons comments that officials were nervous nellies in Dallas, I had our guys go
through and do a quick run through of our lastgame and what we thought were calls that we could discuss and
were there any issues we should address.
We are not going to send this into the league. Its just a sample. You canbuy a copy of the game
here, and do your own
analysis and send it to me. If its good, I might even post it. If its great, maybe I will hire you to do these for me
:). And as far as issues that our guys thought we might be worth addressing with the league, we are looking at
carrying the ball on drives to the basket. We want to see if players may be getting an advantage by taking mutiple
steps per dribble while the ball is still on their hand. If we can get enough examples, we will send it in. If we
dont, it means it was in our imagination and we wont.
This is an example of an email we would send to the league. Its just a first pass, so it has some of the comments
we make in reviewand its far from complete. Im sure we have missed a couple. But as i said, we are not turning
it into the league. If someone out there thinks this could turn officials into nervous nellies when they come to
dallas, well, thats an explanation i would be curious to see