Southeastern Pennsylvania has produced an unusually large number of NBA referees, and the fraternity includes West Chester University graduates Ed Rush, Mark Lindsay, and Aaron Smith, as well as West Chester resident Mark Wunderlich, 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 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.”
Rush and Wunderlich are retired, while Lindsay, a Malvern Prep grad, is in his 13th season with the NBA, and Smith, a West Chester East grad, is in his fourth 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.”
“Aaron went through the system, but he lives up the street from Mark Wunderlich and he watches tape with Mark,” Joe Crawford, a retired referee and Newtown Square resident, said of Smith. “He’s been over my house watching tape. Mark Lindsey the same thing. See that advantage?”
Click here to read more about the NBA referees with ties to the area in The Philadelphia Inquirer.