4 Things You Should Know About Darell Garretson

This month, late NBA official Darell Garretson joined the NBA Hall of Fame.

Few would argue that after officiating more than 2,000 NBA games, including 269 play-off and 41 finals match-ups from 1967 to 1994, there is anything left to say to justify his election into the Hall of Fame.

Besides officiating countless big games, let’s take a look at the four extras he added to refereeing that are still in use today. 


As a tireless innovator, Garretson advocated the 3-person officiating system that was introduced in 1988-89 NBA season that was later adopted by FIBA, now used worldwide.

To me, he was the father of modern officiating.

— Former NBA Commissioner David Stern.

The addition of a third referee allowed for better coverage of the court and also provided mentoring for younger officials with two more experienced colleagues.

He was a guy who drilled into you to get plays right.

— Former NBA Director of Officiating Ronnie Nunn.

He also created and headed the first union for NBA referees, known as the National Association of Basketball Referees, a predecessor to the present day NBRA.


Later, when he became officiating supervisor, he developed the concept of “refereeing the defense”, a practice in which officials focus attention on a defensive player instead of watching the ball.

This year’s NBA Finals Game 7 referee Mike Callahan said in an interview that 90% of the fouls are committed by the defense. Therefore, it is important for officials to have primary focus on the defender.Darell Garretson

Offense might be more spectacular to watch, but it is essential to keep in mind that all players have the same rights on the floor. Garretson’s concept of refereeing the defense helped to create a more fair attitude.

Defensive players are not penalized when there is contact but they do everything right.


He urged all officials to continue improving skills and achieving personal goals by focusing on every possible aspect.

Darell discovered and developed so many of our current referees. … He took them and he coached them, tirelessly, and he made them some of the most elite referees in the world. And they love him for it.

— Lamell McMorris, NBRA spokesperson


His legacy can be easily seen on today’s courts as his son, Ron Garretson is also an NBA ref, having 28 years of experience.

Ron Garretson

January 11, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; NBA referee Ron Garretson (10) during the third quarter between the Golden State Warriors and the Miami Heat at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Heat 111-103. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Mr Garretson (1932-2008) is the 16th member of the Referees’ Hall of Fame, joining legends like Earl Strom, Mendy Rudolph and Dick Bavetta.

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About David

David Szots is an aspiring young basketball official who is passionate about studying the world’s top referees and is looking for quality content all over the web to help others and share information

  • Alessandro Pirisinu

    My favourite Ref (together with Earl Strom, Joe Vanak and Joe Crawford)… and a source of inspiration.
    In the 80’s, when they start broadcasting NBA games in Italy, I’d waited every week to see a game officiated by Darrell. Watching him was like joining a clinic for referees. One of the best… if not “The” Best.

    • Totally agree, Alessandro! Thanks for the comment!

      • Alessandro Pirisinu

        My 32nd season as a referee is starting these days… still, I’m reffing-the-defense, I’m pursuing the perfect game.
        Darell is like an Idol 😉

  • Pingback: De uitvinder van 3 PO officiating – Hoopsjunk()


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