January 11, 2018
By: Steve Degler
When you read an article on an official, most times it has to do with a blown call or a huge disagreement with a coach or player. This will not be one of those times.
Jim Haney has carried a whistle and worn black and white striped shirts for a long time. And that's a good thing. Bad officials usually don't get to hang around too long. Haney, an Easton resident, has been hired by the NCAA as the Division 3 Men's Basketball Coordinator of Officials. There are many times when one can question the governing body of college athletics but not with this decision.
My initial interactions with Jim came many years ago. I'm sure he has no recollection. But I do. I was hired as the public address announcer for basketball games at my alma mater, Kutztown University. When he walked onto the floor at Keystone Hall, you knew the game was in good hands. He ran the show with precision and respect. He was in charge and everyone knew it. And I mean that totally as a compliment. There wasn't an arrogance about the way he officiated a game. If a coach wanted an explanation, he got a thorough one. He maybe didn't like what he heard, but he was clear about the call and why it was made.
Over the years, Jim progressed to the upper levels of Division 1 basketball. Big East. ACC. Several NIT finals at Madison Square Garden. Three trips to the NCAA Sweet 16. He endured heart bypass surgery and two knee replacements. All for a job where you can't please everyone. Or anyone on some nights.
A quick step away from the basketball court. Keep your dribble going for a moment so Jim doesn't call traveling or a five-second count.
Haney has also been a long-time high school football referee in the Lehigh Valley. He led an EPC crew to Hershey to officiate the PIAA Class 6A final between St. Joe's Prep and Pine-Richland last month. The Lehigh Valley officials did an excellent job that night. Jim told me before the game it was the first chance he's had to referee in the state football tournament because he has always been working college basketball games by the time the PIAA moved into state play.
Back to hoops, Jim's new job with the NCAA is a tall task. His responsibilities include selecting the officials who will work the NCAA Division 3 men's basketball tournament, based on recommendations from conference coordinators of officials and conference offices. We're talking 44 D3 conferences, 27 officials' supervisors and nearly 900 officials. As if that isn't enough, he is also tasked with developing a means to evaluate all of those referees during the season and into the post-season. He told me in December that there currently is no system in place to determine which referees should work in the tournament. There will be now. He will also be trying to identify officials who can maybe move up to the Division 1 level at some point.
"It’s been terrific to see the support I’ve been getting from everyone around the country," Haney said. "The opportunity that’s been presented to me fits perfect with how I’ve always been: willing to share and teach to make others better. I love being able to go into gyms and watch the officials, provide incite, then watch them again later on and see them get better. No better feeling at this point in my life."
There will be quite a bit of travel involved for Haney. He's been to Miami and Albany among many other stops already this season. But the NCAA has made a great hire here. Jim's passion, organization and attention to detail will be huge assets. And he cares about the game. That's maybe the most important ingredient. He wants the game of basketball to do well. Both played and officiated at high levels. And that would be a win for everybody.