Donaghy has standards, just not high ones

BY foxsports • December 12, 2009

Apparently, Tim Donaghy does have standards after all. They just aren't very high.

That's about all I've learned from the media blitz that just happens to coincide with the release of Donaghy's book on the fun he used to have refereeing in the NBA. That, and the fact Donaghy seems to be one cold fish.

Prison can turn you into that, so maybe it isn't surprising that Donaghy didn't do what most disgraced public figures do when they return to the national stage and shed tears of remorse to show everyone that, yes, he understands that what he did was wrong.

Still, the path he's taking is both familiar and well-worn. It's helped keep Oprah on top in the daytime, and has been a mainstay on ``60 Minutes'' for nearly as long as Andy Rooney has been alive.

Televised confessionals are good for the soul, and even better for the ratings.

Sometimes they even help you sell a few books, as Andre Agassi demonstrated with such startling efficiency.

Donaghy, of course, has one coming out, though I can't understand why anyone would buy it. Actually, I don't know why anyone buys any of these books - Agassi's included - because all the good stuff is already out and the rest is usually filler that no one cares about anyway.

So far, though, Donaghy's good stuff isn't even that good.

So referees don't like certain players and do like others? Big deal, it's not like we haven't figured out before that the best players usually get the benefit of the doubt.

Teams also apparently don't like it when their superstars are called for fouls. Wow, who would have known?

And this just in: The NBA likes it when the star teams advance in the playoffs, and the more games the merrier. That may be true, but if the fix is in, then someone didn't get the memo last season when LeBron and company were unceremoniously dispatched before he could square off against Kobe in the finals.

Donaghy presents all of this like it is some insider tale of what really happens behind the scenes in the NBA. But it's the kind of thing that any wise guy who is betting his own money in Las Vegas knows just from watching trends and following teams closely.

The rest of Donaghy's claim of winning bets on three out of four games based just on what he knew from watching players and referees is certainly plausible. Good bettors can beat the point spread consistently if they pick the right games and understand trends and tendencies.

But anyone expecting Donaghy to blow the lid off of all kinds of NBA conspiracies and scandals had to be disappointed with the early returns. If anything, the most interesting thing Donaghy had to say on ``60 Minutes'' backs up the conclusion of both the league and prosecutors that he was telling the truth when he said he didn't call fouls in games simply to win bets.

Once a game began, Donaghy said he put his bets out of his mind and tried to uphold his duty as an NBA referee - even when it angered the mobsters he gave betting picks to. That included ejecting San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich one night in a game where he had a bet on the Spurs.

``I didn't think about the bet during the game,'' Donaghy said. ``And in my mind, he needed to be ejected.''

Donaghy's appearance on the show drew the predictable David Stern statement that nothing the former referee has said or done shows any evidence that the NBA's integrity was compromised by anyone other than Donaghy. But Stern had to be pleased that, instead of breaking open a festering scandal, Donaghy's book tour seems to be putting closure on one of the league's most embarrassing episodes.

The commissioner's reaction all along has been to call Donaghy a rogue referee and hope nothing more serious surfaced to prove him wrong. Nothing more has and, if anything, Donaghy's actions look less reprehensible now than they did at the outset when everyone just assumed he was blowing the whistle to make himself money.

Both prosecutors and league investigators who watched hours of tapes of Donaghy's calls say they have no evidence he was doing that. He was winning his money while keeping his hands clean, at least on the court.

That's not a small distinction, which is one reason why Donaghy is so eager to talk about it now.

He does, after all, have his standards.


Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)