With college basketball's Big Dance in full swing, we couldn’t think of a better time to sit down with Boston Police Officer Evon Burroughs who has been officiating college basketball games since 2004. BPDNews recently caught up with Evon to get his take on, among other things, the similarities between policing city streets and officiating college hoops, as well as, what it takes to be a successful referee.
BPDNews: How old were you when first started officiating?
Evon: I was 14 years-old when I first started officiating basketball.
BPDNews: How did you first get started?
Evon: I got started at the Ron Burton Training Village Football Camp during my sophomore year in high school. We put together a small basketball tournament and my team came in third which meant we didn’t make it to the championship game. I remember there was a kid from Virginia who was easily best ball player but - because we used to call our own fouls - this kid called fouls like they were going out of style. So, because of this kid, another friend of mine asked me if I’d ref the championship game. So, even though I didn't know anything about reffing, I gave it a shot, loved it and have been addicted to it ever since.
BPDNews: How much do you enjoy it?
Evon: I love it. I love officiating basketball. There is an art to it all and learning the craft has been challenging. But, when you get the play right and do your job well, there’s no better feeling.
BPDNews: What's the best part?
Evon: The best part of officiating has been the friendships made along the way.
BPDNews: What's the worst part?
Evon: I honestly can’t think of a worst part. The traveling can be tough but it’s all worth when you love what you do.
BPDNews: What's the biggest game you ever officiated?
Evon: To date, the biggest game I’ve ever officiated remains my first league game in the Big East. It was at Notre Dame and I had to calm my nerves because I knew the game was being televised and my former boss was watching and scrutinizing every call I made or didn’t make. I knew the veteran members of the crew were watching to see if I could handle the game which is huge because once you earn their trust and confidence, they start to show you the real nuances and nuggets needed to be a great official.
BPDNews: Is there one character trait all successful refs need or must have?
Evon: Every successful referee that I’ve ever met has been humble and honest with themselves and the people they work with. They get angry at themselves for a bad call or a missed call. They're passionate students of the game and officiating and they want to be at their best every time they take to the floor.
BPDNews: Do you see any similarities between policing and officiating?
Evon: Yes, I do. As in life, referees work to keep the peace and make sure the game is played fairly. Obviously, on each side of the ball you have passionate people who at times let their emotions get the best of them. In those instances, just like in policing, you have to enforce the law or rules of the game. When a line gets crossed, fouls are called and offenders pay the price.
BPDNews: How important is to keep your cool on the court?
Evon: It is very important to keep your cool. The players, coaches and fans can and should be fired up, excited, super passionate about trying to win. An official, on the other hand, has to remain cool and calm and see the game for what it is. Each play for what it is. It doesn't matter that the kid with the ball is projected to be the next Michael Jordan or a 1st round draft pick in the NBA. My job is to focus on the play at hand and get the play right.
BPDNews: Is there a right way and a wrong way to treat a referee?
Evon: There is definitely a right and wrong way to treat a referee. There's a right and wrong way to treat people in general. We understand that what we do is hard and at times controversial so we fully accept some of the spontaneous utterances and outbursts including some of the funny lil antidotes about refs being blind. But, at the end of the day, respect gains respect and I would encourage folks to treat people how you want to be treated.
BPDNews: To a young player who thinks it's okay to yell at a referee - what advice would you give?
Evon: Well, that is something that a good coach or a parent should recognize and address with the player. But I also remember a time when I was young and played ball and thought I knew everything when I obviously didn’t. Kids need to be coached out of that habit and shown a better way. My advice for the kids would be to just play the game. If you have a question about a call, approach the official politely and inquire. After you get your answer, respectfully move on and keep playing but I wouldn’t make a habit out of questioning the ref every time he makes a call you don't like.
BPDNews: Last question Evon and we thank you so much for your time. Have you ever been compared to the 'Three Blind Mice’ or been accused of being visually challenged during a game?
Evon: Let me answer that last question with a question: What official hasn't been?
BPDNews: Thanks again Evon.
Evon: The pleasure was all mine.