PHILADELPHIA -- Nuggets coach George Karl sat on the scorer's table at the Wachovia Center Monday morning, perusing the box score I'd printed out and handed to him after his team's shootaround. The game in question -- the Jan. 6, 2007 game between Karl's Nuggets and the Utah Jazz -- didn't evoke any particular memories about the officiating.
"My belief has always been that refereeing in the NBA is an impossible job," Karl said. "You’re never happy."
In light of former ref Tim Donaghy's assertion Sunday night on 60 Minutes that he had conspired with two fellow crew members to officiate then-Denver star Allen Iverson unfairly in a game Donaghy had wagered on, Karl couldn't recall whether the whistle went against his team that night. But the Denver coach has very strong feelings about what the NBA and coaching community should do to combat Donaghy's allegations, which are only beginning to come to light.
The NBA, Karl said, should start fighting back.
"There’s circumstances in life that a lot of people don’t want to go into the battle, the Heat of the kitchen," Karl said. "But maybe it’s necessary right now to go in there."
Karl suggested a town-hall meeting where coaches, general managers, and league officials could address en masse Donaghy's continuing efforts to further undermine the NBA's integrity, which he damaged by betting on games -- many of which he officiated -- and passing information to gamblers. Donaghy pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges and was released from prison last month after serving nearly all of his 15-month sentence. The 60 Minutes interview was his first, with more national appearances to come with the release of his book detailing the scandal, "Personal Foul."
"It’s a tough place for me to comment and the league to comment," Karl said. "They should have a town hall meeting, and that one day we can say whatever we want to say and get it over with. Because if it has to linger around for the next six weeks, when the book comes out and when he’s on TV all the time, then we’re going to be responding to questions that the league probably doesn’t want us to respond to. But in this same sense, maybe there should be a forum. Let’s address this one time or two times and then let it go. For me that’s the way I would like it.
"Put 10 guys in the league or 20 guys -- two coaches, two GMs, a couple of guys from the league office, a couple of referees," Karl said. "Sit them down and have some forum of discussion on all the details and subjects so you have enough information so you can write whatever you want to write, rather than every day he tells another story or the book comes out and we’re responding to this over six weeks or eight weeks. I think it’ll become very tedious."
In the 60 Minutes interview, Donaghy said he bet on the Jazz that night because he had conspired with the other two officials -- Bernie Fryer and Gary Zielinski -- to punish Iverson with their whistles. A day earlier, Iverson had been fined $25,000 by the league for criticizing referee Steve Javie, a punishment Donaghy said the referees felt was too lenient. CBSSports.com reviewed the play-by-play and video clips of key plays Iverson was involved in and found that the Nuggets' star didn't get an unfavorable whistle. Iverson committed two fouls and drew nine in the game, attempting more free throws than any other player that night; he made 11 of 12. Also, on Iverson's 12 drives to the basket, he made two driving layups, missed four, lost the ball once, and drew five fouls.
While Karl didn't remember the officiating nuances in the game, he did point out several factors that might've compelled even the most casual gambler to pick the Jazz: Denver played without Carmelo Anthony (suspended) and Marcus Camby (hand injury). J.R. Smith also didn't play, though that was a coaching decision and wouldn't have been known prior to the game.
"There seemed to have been a lot of things that were not good for us in that game," Karl said.
The NBA has declined to make Fryer, Zielinski, or any other league official available for an interview to address Donaghy's latest allegations. Stern issued a statement after the 60 Minutes program aired dismissing Donaghy's assertions and saying that any allegations about officiating improprieties would be forwarded to former federal prosecutor Lawrence Pedowitz for review.