Stern, Donaghy to talk after sentencing

September 14, 2009, 10:44 PM

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

SECAUCUS, N.J. — NBA commissioner David Stern wants to have a talk with Tim Donaghy after the disgraced referee is sentenced in July for taking cash payoffs from gamblers and betting on games he officiated.

"We just thought to close it out, if he has things that he’d like to say," Stern said Tuesday at his annual news conference before the NBA Draft Lottery. "We thought it would be in the interest of completeness that we would conduct that interview."

Stern said the league has already asked Donaghy’s lawyer, John F. Lauro, for a sit down and been rebuffed.

"We want to make sure we understand everything and we want to make sure we take steps to correct everything," Stern added.

In a letter filed in federal court on Monday, Lauro said Donaghy told investigators in the NBA betting probe that relationships among officials, coaches and players "affected the outcome of games.

Stern dismissed the comments.

"It seems that in an effort to cushion whatever sentence is coming, Mr. Donaghy’s lawyer has taken on the U.S. Attorney’s office, the FBI and the NBA," Stern said. "I think that all of the facts are out and are going to come out and those assertions will prove to be baseless."

Stern denied the league pressured the government to cut short its investigation.

"Not accurate," Stern said. "Untruthful."

He was just as certain Donaghy was the only NBA official taking payoffs and betting on games he officiated. He confirmed once again that other NBA officials violated NBA rules by betting in casinos.

"We’re certain as we can be that he is the only official on our staff that was committing felonies," said Stern, noting he felt sympathy for Donaghy who suffered compulsive gambling problems and depression, according to court papers.

The commissioner said the league plans to release a review of its policies regarding gambling and its referees after Donaghy is sentenced on July 14. It was prepared by former federal prosecutor Lawrence B. Pedowitz.

Stern also scoffed at a statement from Donaghy’s lawyer that his client’s actions led to league reform.

Commenting on officiating in general, Stern said the referees are doing the best job possible in a league with great athletes.

"The highlight I think of my career is when two teams called to complain about the officiating and one team won," Stern said. "We inspire emotion. We are asking our referees to decide things on the run in the middle of a very fast paced game and sometimes even (Jeff) Van Gundy gets something wrong."

The former Knicks and Rockets coach is a television analyst for ABC and ESPN.

Stern also defended the current draft lottery system that determines the order for the draft.

Last year, Memphis had the worst record and ended up with the No. 4 pick. Boston, which had the second worst record, got the No. 5 spot.

"I don’t think we will have a process that will satisfy everybody," Stern said. "Whatever we do there is going to be some view that it is not good enough. I think that means it is good enough. It is impossible to have a good thing that makes everyone happy."

Stern said Boston, which played Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals against Detroit on Tuesday night, proved teams can turn things around in a year.

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