By Greg Gulas
Joe DeRosa’s career as an NBA official over the past 21 years included working 1,500 regular-season games and 150 playoff contests.
He worked 11 NBA Finals, drawing a single game assignment eight years and two games on three other occasions.
The last game that the Lowellville native worked was Game 6 of last June’s championship series when the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics, 89-67 to force a deciding game.
Less than a month later, DeRosa filed his retirement papers, opting to spend more time with his family and his business — Smitty Official’s Apparel that manufactures and wholesales officials apparel for all major sports.
Speaking to the Curbstone Coaches during Monday’s luncheon meeting at the Blue Wolf Banquet Center, DeRosa said he considers himself blessed but admitted the one thing that he won’t miss, however, is the travel.
“I was gone 24 to 26 days a month and I knew when I didn’t want to get on a plane that it was time to stop,” DeRosa said. “At that point, I was refereeing for all of the wrong reasons.”
DeRosa spent three years on the college level prior to joining the NBA, working games in the Metro, Ohio Valley and Sun Belt conferences.
He has returned to the college game and will work approximately 40 games this season in the Horizon League, Big 12, Conference USA, OVC and Southland Conference.
“The best part for me was to be able to referee at that level, for that length of time with the best that have ever refereed a game,” DeRosa said. “Returning to the college ranks though, has posed its share of rules challenges.
“It hasn’t been tough to adapt and the major rules are pretty similar, but the smaller rules of the game have had me thinking twice before blowing my whistle,” DeRosa said.
“The biggest rule adjustment for me has been the block-charge,” DeRosa said. “In the NBA, the defender must be in position before the shooter starts his upward shooting motion.
“In college, the defender can get there before the player actually leaves the floor and I have had to catch myself before I actually make the call,” he said.
In the soon to be released March issue of Referee Magazine, writer Peter Jaeckel will feature DeRosa in an article that will also touch on his apparel line.
With a 14,000 square-foot warehouse that is located in Canton, his official’s apparel business sells to wholesale manufacturers throughout the country.