Delco Renowned for Producing the Long Arms of the NBA Law

David Bjorkgren

Southeastern Pennsylvania has produced an unusually large number of NBA referees, and the fraternity includes Cardinal O’Hara graduates Joe Crawford, Mike Callahan, and Ed Malloy, as well as Clifton Heights resident Jake O’Donnell, Lansdowne-Aldan alum Mark Wunderlich, and Aston native Mark Lindsay, writes Frank Fitzpatrick for The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Red Auerbach, the legendary coach and executive of the Boston Celtics, the 76ers’ longtime rivals, often complained about how too many NBA referees hailed from the Philadelphia area.

“Every league meeting, he’d rant and rave about all the refs from Philly,” said Ed Rush, once the NBA’s supervisor of officials. “We’d say, ‘Red, some of these guys are from Trenton or western Pennsylvania.’ And he’d say, ‘That doesn’t matter. They went through Philadelphia.’ He was probably the loudest voice in the league, and he was always on his soapbox about that.”

Crawford, a Newtown Square resident, Callahan, Wunderlich, and O’Donnell are now retired. Malloy is in his 18th season in the NBA, while Lindsay is in his 13th season.

The connection between the Philadelphia area and basketball refereeing runs so deep that it prompts questions about how it began. Some of the answers include geography, personal connections, word-of-mouth, and, perhaps, a feisty attitude.

“One thing these guys all had that really made them successful was a little edge,” said Rush. “And that’s a Philly thing. … You’d know without question that Joe Crawford was running the game. The game’s not going to run them. So, if you’re running the league, you want to make sure you put someone out there you can trust, someone who will take care of all the junk.”

Click here to read more about the NBA referees with ties to the area in The Philadelphia Inquirer.