Ray Floriani of College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent for the NEC and MAAC conferences. He also officiates youth league basketball in his spare time.
WEST ORANGE, NJ – Chalk it up under the ‘you never know who you will meet’ department. This past weekend called for officiating assignments at an AAU tournament here at West Orange High School. Both days called for three games and an appreciable supply of water as the local mercury rose. On Saturday, after finishing two girls and a boys game, I ran into coach and New Jersey Senator Richard Codey whose team played on the adjoining court. “No column today,” I joked. He got a laugh and told me about the highly touted recruit (6’8 Ferrakohn Hall) Seton Hall just signed.
On Sunday the schedule called for three games beginning at 8:30 a.m. Not the easiest time to begin boys 17 and under games but definitely advantageous to beat the expected 90 degree heat. As it turns out I have Codey’s 17 and under West Orange team. There are two games that go on simultaneously. I am chatting with my partner Sue Lisanti and the officials from the next court Leslie Porschen (an excellent player in her day at FDU) and Mary Ann Conboy. Codey interjects and jokingly challenges political correctness by saying “the women are taking over.” Leslie notes that our Board 33 chapter is actually low on women’s officiating numbers and could use more members. “I mean we have had a lot of women working this tournament,’ he said in a joking manner. After a little more small talk it’s toss the ball up and get to work.
West Orange is playing a team from Ocean County, New Jersey, the Wolfpack. Early on it’s a good competitive game. Codey’s team is running some nice flex offense in half court sets. It’s obvious he is not an AAU coach that ‘rolls out the basketballs’ but teaches offensive and defensive structure. If he is looking for a call he usually implores my name but overall he spends a greater deal of effort on his team’s execution. On one play his guard got the wind knocked out of him. We stop play and summon Codey on the floor. “He’s getting hit harder than the Germans in World War II,” Codey says as he smiles and winks. “I like that one coach,” was my reply. We move on and at the half it’s still close.
“My center is getting more hits than Susan Boyle on YouTube,” Codey says at the scorers table so tournament co-director Mary Alice Zavocki can hear. He is laughing as he says this and asks if I saw Boyle on You Tube over the weekend. More small talk in good fun.
Second half, West Orange has a ten point lead then proceeds to lose all but one point of it. We have a transition play coming to me on the lead position. The Wolfpack player executes a jump stop that looks funny. In a split second the information is processed in my mind. Years of Edgar Cartotto’s officiating camp drilled into us his philosophy, “if you not sure it’s a walk don’t call it. I’d rather you blow a walk call than screw (Edgar’s verbiage is colorful) a kid who didn’t walk by calling it.” I’m not sure, I let it go. The player scores and out of the corner of my eye I can see Codey jumping and making a walk jesture while saying, “ohh Ray.” My thoughts are of Bobby Gonzalez who has made similar moves on the Hall bench. During a time out, Mary Alice, keeping the clock, said it was a nice no call. I just told her my view and Edgar’s philosophy.
Codey’s team never lost the lead, regrouped and earned a nice 68-60 victory. Post game, I tell both teams nice effort and both coaches it was a pleasure to work their game. As it turned out a noticeably tall assistant joined Codey’s bench during the game. It was the Hall’s John Garcia. I introduced myself, spoke about the writing and covering his games and commended his Hall club on working hard and doing a nice job this season. Garcia refers to Hall and says, “wait till you see us next year, we are going to surprise people.”
Codey heads out, I say good game again and jokingly note today we had no cheerleaders today (the above is provided from a Seton Hall game earlier this year). He got a laugh out of that one.