By Greg Gulas
For 21 seasons, Joe DeRosa was an integral part of the National Basketball Association as one of its top game officials.
He counts 11 games worked among his eight NBA Finals assignments and he also officiated an NBA all-star game.
The Lowellville native retired after the 2009-10 campaign and for the past three years has been working NCAA men’s college hoops in five major conferences.
Last year he worked 65 games as a member of the Big 12 Conference, Pac-12 Conference, Horizon League, Missouri Valley Conference and Conference USA officiating crews, drawing the title game assignment in both the Big-12 Conference and Horizon League.
Speaking to the Curbstone Coaches at their weekly Monday meeting, DeRosa said that the move from the professional ranks back to the college game was smooth.
“The transition was a fairly easy one, with the biggest adjustment coming in the application of rules as they applied to the game,” he said. “Overall, though, it was a relatively smooth transition.”
DeRosa began his officiating career in college and has now completed his sixth year at that level.
He still works for the NBA as an officials observer (he worked Cleveland’s home finale against Miami on Monday night), working also with the league’s young officials.
“When I first started, our fellow referees were our mentors. Back then our boss, Darrell Garretson, let us grow and develop at our own pace and I remain indebted to fellow officials Joe Crawford, Ed Rush, Hugh Evans and Jack Madden because they cared enough to take me under their wing,” DeRosa said. “Billy Oakes was also a great mentor, because he would sit us down at the end of a game and tell us where we screwed up.
“He would tell us that we cannot be making these types of mistakes if we expected to stay in the league. Oakes had a great game awareness and always explained the impact of our calls on the game.”
DeRosa’s work with young officials includes monitoring their progress and development while transitioning them to a successful professional career.
“What referees do is a big deal and today there is so much more scrutiny,” he said. “At the end of the day, you have to be right and you do that with maximum effort, accountability, training and continued development.”
Since 2007, DeRosa’s company — Smitty Officials Apparel — has been one of the country’s top distributors of apparel for sports officials. The company makes, available only to wholesalers, everything from lanyards and shirts to jackets and pants.
“We started with two employees and did $40,000 in sales. We’ve grown to almost $4 million in sales less than six years later and now have eight employees,” DeRosa said. “We’re built on customer service, while maintaining a quality product at a competitive price. It’s been a lot of hard work, but it is now paying off.”
Sales for DeRosa’s company were up 217 percent in February, 62 percent in March and 84 percent thus far in April.
Smitty’s Officials Apparel has a 14,000-foot warehouse, located at 303 14th St. in Canton.
The phone number is 330-639-4107. The company’s website can be found at www.smittyapparel.com.
Next week, Bernie Profato, Ohio Athletic Commission director, will serve as the Curbstone Coaches’ guest speaker.