Shame of the father: Gerry Donaghy stands by his former NBA referee son
GERRY DONAGHY was the ultimate old-school referee. He applied the rules. He saw the action on the court. He reacted to what he saw. He made his calls. He did not socialize with coaches. He just did his job.
He did it well enough to officiate for 40 years, ref 19 consecutive NCAA Tournaments and four Final Fours. He retired in 1997. After that, he was seen regularly at Villanova or Saint Joseph's or the Palestra for games where he would talk with coaches, media and his many friends in basketball. He was at practices. He still loved the game. And he was very proud of his son Tim, who had become an NBA official.
Then, as it became apparent last summer that Tim had been providing information to associates who were gambling on NBA games, his father's world changed forever. Gerry had to hear his son called a "rogue official." And that was among the kinder things said about Tim.
Gerry likely will never get over the ordeal, which culminated Tuesday in Tim getting a 15-month federal prison sentence for wire fraud and gambling as well as 3 years probation.
All this has made Gerry Donaghy's life much more difficult. He misses being around town. He gave up his apartment in Glen Mills and now lives year-round at the shore.
"I don't feel I can go to a basketball game and somebody look at me and say, 'That's Tim Donaghy's father,' " he said yesterday from Sea Isle City. "I haven't been to a game since it happened. I used to go to Villanova and St. Joe all the time and watch the practices. I probably would have gone down to Temple because 'Dunph' [Fran Dunphy] and I are good friends. Jay [Wright] is a good friend of mine. Phil [Martelli] is a good friend. I don't do any of that stuff anymore."
Donaghy is not sure if he is going back. He knows what he might hear and he is concerned about how he might react.
Still, "we're going to stand with him until the end,'' and says adamantly that Tim never "fixed" a game. He then said that Tim actually wanted to get away from the "prediction" business long before he did and that he was threatened if he did not supply information about NBA games to a new client.
From December 2006 to April 2007, when the gambling ring that consisted of Donaghy and former Cardinal O'Hara classmates James Battista and Thomas Martino operated, indications are that Donaghy's information was right 37 of 47 times, an amazing 78.7 percent.
Any gambler would borrow money to bet games if he could be right 60 percent of the time. So how did Tim Donaghy do it?
"He would look at the point spreads," Gerry said. "He only bet on the point spreads. He never bet on the total or anything like that. Let's say it was Dallas by three. He would look at who was refereeing the games and then he would look who was injured. And he was picking them seven out of 10 times."
Tim knew which way to bet, Gerry said, "because of certain relationships with referees and coaches out there."
According to Gerry, there were a few occasions when Tim touted games in which he was officiating, depending on whom he was working with and which teams were playing. That would, of course, lead to suspicions of "fixing games."
Really, wouldn't he be tempted if the spread was in jeopardy in the final minute?
"The NBA spent [$16,750] reviewing tapes and they couldn't prove he fixed any games," Donaghy said. "He claims to me as a son to a father that he never fixed a game. He said he bet on a lot of them, but he never fixed a game."
The government agrees that Donaghy did not fix any games. One of the court documents said that Tim's "on-court performance'' might have been "subconsciously affected.'' Tim, Gerry said, fought that, until the authorities said they were going to pull the plea agreement and go to trial.
"If he did [fix a game], then I would have been really pissed," Donaghy said.
Gerry said his son and another Delaware County man were big bettors on the golf course. They bet football, baseball and basketball.
Said Gerry: "The guy said to him, 'Think you can pick an NBA game?' Timmy said: 'Yeah, no problem.' And that's how it started. This is back a while before Battista got involved."
Last week, Battista, of Phoenixville, was sentenced to 15 months after pleading guilty to illegal gambling in April.
Also last week, Martino, of Boothwyn, was sentenced to a year and a day in jail after pleading guilty in April to wire fraud.
According to Gerry Donaghy, a "big-time gambler" from the Delaware County area "picks up that they're winning because [Tim's friend] is telling them they are winning. He starts getting on the bandwagon, not with Timmy but watching the action and jumping on it.
"Now, with this going on, Battista gets to work. Battista comes to them and says, 'I'll give you five grand for every game you pick.' Then, it starts to get out of hand. Battista wanted more picks. Timmy says 'no more,' and tells Martino to tell Battista it's over."
According to Gerry Donaghy, Tim was in Philadelphia to ref a Sixers-Celtics game on Dec. 13, 2006. Gerry planned to go to the game and decided he wanted to take a friend. He was trying all day, he said, to reach Tim. He could not, which, he said, was very unusual.
Later, when Gerry and his friend picked Tim up at his hotel, Tim told his father he was working out all day, and Gerry did not believe it.
"You don't work out for 6 or 7 hours," Gerry told his son.
"I was with some friends," Tim then told his father.
Later, after Gerry learned of his son's involvement, he found out that Martino drove Battista to the hotel that afternoon. According to Donaghy, his son said that Battista wanted to get involved.
"Tim said, 'I'm done,' and Battista said, 'You're not quitting.' '' Gerry Donaghy said.
According to Gerry, and also Tim Donaghy's lawyer, John Lauro, in court documents, Battista threatened to call the NBA. Gerry said his son said he would deny it.
Also according to Gerry, Battista told Tim that he "had four little daughters that live down in Florida and I got friends up in Brooklyn. He says, 'They'll make a visit down there and we'll see what happens then.' "
The court account provided by Lauro also included the threat to Tim Donaghy's family.
When the court account was made public in May, Battista's attorney, Jack McMahon Jr., dismissed it as "ridiculous.''
"That Battista threatened Donaghy and his family in any way is all fantasy land. He didn't have to threaten Donaghy to gamble,'' McMahon said at the time.
If it had stopped at that point, there is a chance nobody ever knows. But it did not stop and gamblers, especially successful ones, often find it difficult to be circumspect. The scheme quickly unraveled.
"When it's all over and trying to be objective, not trying to be a father, I think it was the right sentence," Gerry said of his son's jail term. "I would never say that to him because he thinks everybody else was doing the same thing.
"He thinks other refs were betting. Now whether they were betting on basketball games, that's up for grabs."
There is no evidence of that. There obviously was more than enough evidence that Tim Donaghy was involved. Which is why he cooperated with federal authorities and why he eventually pleaded guilty to the charges.
Beyond the betting, Tim has not been portrayed as very likable. He had confrontations with several people through the years.
"Very little of it is true," Gerry said. "Tim was a hard-nosed kid. Whatever he did in sports, he did naturally."
But Tim did seem to find his way into more than just a few bizarre situations.
The coverage of the betting scandal has bothered Gerry.
"I just don't know why these guys have to write this stuff in such a demeaning way," he said. "Write the facts. I can live with the facts. He did a bad thing. He shouldn't have done it."
Martino, Donaghy said, was really a victim. "He was nothing but a go-between," Gerry said. "He was a wannabe."
Gerry Donaghy knows the cases pretty well. He has lived with them for more than a year. Now he will live without them and try to live his life again.
Nearly 4 years ago, he lost his right eye when hit by a practice swing from one of his playing partners at Avalon Golf Club.
"The doctor said 2 inches higher or 2 inches back, I wouldn't be here," Donaghy said. "Caught me right on the face of the optical framework."
There are 14 screws and plates in the bones under his eye. He has a prosthetic eye. You never knew it when you saw him at games because he never talked about it.
Donaghy had not talked about his son until Tim was sentenced. And he has not abandoned him, even when that might have seemed a reasonable alternative.
"I just hope that whatever you write, you portray Timmy as he is," Donaghy said, his voice catching.
That, of course, is difficult for an outsider. There is a portrayal out there of Tim Donaghy. Opinions have long since been formed.
"He has a disease," Donaghy said of Tim's gambling. "He's a sickie. He's not a bad person."
Whatever it was, Tim Donaghy's gambling and his uncanny NBA predictions made him a few thousand dollars. And cost him everything. *