DeRosa takes an early break

Lowellville native comes home after championship week

By Greg Gulas


After working Saturday’s Big 12 men’s basketball championship game between West Virginia and Kansas, Lowellville native Joe DeRosa is looking forward to a well-deserved break as he hangs up his shirt and whistle until next season, his 42nd as either a college or NBA referee.

After working 60 games this year, by choice he won’t be working the upcoming NCAA tournament, telling the Curbstone Coaches during Monday’s meeting at Avion Banquet Center that fans should brace themselves for some outstanding play and coaching when March Madness gets underway tonight with two play-in games.

“The biggest difference between the NBA and college is the talent level,” said DeRosa, who worked 21 professional seasons and just completed his 11th collegiate campaign. “At both levels, the coaching is outstanding and you will see that during both the NCAA tournament and upcoming NBA play-offs.

“College coaches do a great job preparing because of the technology and data that is so readily available. That’s why this tournament will be so unpredictable. Several teams can possibly win it all.”

He noted that rules are the biggest difference between the NBA and college.

“The NBA rules are much simpler to understand and apply. They’re willing to make adjustments every time they have to,” he said. “In college, they’ve tried to make changes but there’s a lot more that can be made to make the game better.”

DeRosa worked five college games with son, J.B., a third generation official – father Joe, Sr., was also a well-respected area official – and was hired this past December 1 as a full-time NBA referee.

“J.B. started refereeing at age 13 and made good progress,” DeRosa said. “He’d get angry at me, but I wanted other people to teach him so that he could get another perspective. He got into the D-League four years ago, worked their finals the past two seasons, did some pre-season games and worked his way up. It goes without saying how proud my wife [Patti] and I are of him.”

Along with good friend Joe Forte, the officials are the only two ever to work an NBA Finals, NCAA Men’s Final and Olympics game.

He said he treated every game as if it were the most important game on his schedule.

“Every game that I ever worked was important to me because it was the most important game to the participants that were playing,” he said. “I relied on my work ethic, which I had instilled in me by my parents, had a willingness to change and adapt, trusted my training and stuck to the basics. My goals were always high because I always wanted to be better than I was the next time that I stepped on the court.”

DeRosa recalled two very funny NBA incidents, both occurring early in his career.

“It was the very first time I ever had Larry Bird and it was at the Boston Garden. After a time out, he walked by me and told me I didn’t know what a foul is,” he said. “That comment got me to thinking.

“The first time I had Michael Jordan he made a move, got fouled on his right hand then proceeded to finish with a left handed dunk. By the time he came down, I forgot the number of the player who fouled him and told the table the wrong number, which upset the player whose number I gave. I handed Michael the ball, he whispered to me who fouled him and after I changed the call, everyone was happy.”

Next week, John Caparanis, veteran broadcaster and local sports historian will be the guest speaker.

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