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Order on the court

One Santa Clarita Valley family has quite a unique basketball story

Posted: April 7, 2009 1:03 a.m.
Updated: April 7, 2009 4:55 a.m.

(From left to right) Dave, Bill and Deron White watch a youth basketball game in Castaic on Saturday.

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You can almost alter the saying to: "The family that referees together, stays together?"

It sounds right for one family, at least.

The Whites, longtime residents of the Santa Clarita Valley, are veteran college basketball referees.

Deron and Dave are Hart High graduates turned referees.

Their father Bill officiated games in the Pac-10 when it was the Pac-8 and John Wooden was coaching UCLA.

Unique?

You better believe it.

"There's one or two people I've met who have a brother also as a referee," says Dave.

The uniqueness isn't so much that this family of referees are all in the same trade, it's that this trio has refereed at such a high level.

Deron currently works as a Pac-10 referee.

Dave spent much of this season doing games in NCAA Division II, even officiating the Elite Eight of the recent D-II tournament.

It's a different lifestyle, as the three explain.

One that includes patience from loved ones, patience at work and patience in their daily lives.

Dave's first week on this Earth was spent at a couple of basketball games.

He slept in the stands as his father maintained order at a couple of games.

"I took the boys everywhere," Bill says of his sons' youth. "I'd go to ball games and they'd see what dad does, so it's sort of been a way of life with the family."

Bill worked as a referee for 39 years.

He currently works as a supervisor of officiating for the California Collegiate Athletic Association.

Bill didn't urge his sons to become referees. They sort of took it on themselves.

Everyone started the same way.

Youth games, then high school, then junior college, then college.

Deron was an All-CIF point guard at Hart in the early 1980s. He then went on to play for head coach Lee Smelser at College of the Canyons during the 1984-85 season.

Deron received offers from Division I basketball teams to continue playing, but he decided to concentrate solely on his education.

He received a degree in psychology with an emphasis in business in 1987.

Refereeing became a side-project and a way to earn some extra cash.

Eventually, he worked his way up, but the start included doing games of his former team.

"That was very comfortable," Smelser says of Deron officiating his games. "We felt we'd get a good game out of Deron. There were favorite officials you'd like to see and he was one of them.

"I think he knew the game. He loved the game and was an excellent player for us when he played for us. He understood the game and understood the feelings of a coach."

Deron and Dave both say that it's such a key to understand coaches.

That's not goal No. 1 during games, but it helps.

It helps to know the intent of a coach, like when he's screaming and yelling and begging for a technical foul.

White describes a time when Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar, a coach he says is religious and somewhat reserved, stepped onto the court with arms flailing.

Cussing will get a quick technical foul, Romar spares the expletives.

Instead, he yelled: "Deron, I'm out of control."

With more emphasis, he followed: "I'm way out of control."
White understood that Romar was begging for a technical foul and he obliged.

Deron recalls Washington going on an 11-0 run afterward.

But the main job of a referee, Deron says, is: "We manage coaches and players and help facilitate the game. If we let egos or extraneous items interfere in the game, we're not doing our job."

Deron and Dave rose to the level they're at through evaluation.

The world of officiating is extremely competitive.

It's also very scrutinized.

Referees are watched during each contest, then again on film.

The good ones climb the ladder and get the better games.

Some even get fired, as Dave says he was from one conference, despite rating in the upper-half of referees.

So there is a heavy amount of stress on the lives of referees, especially being in the thick of things and being the object of much frustration and anger.

But Deron and Dave are referees during basketball season and basketball season only.

Deron has his job, he estimates working 60 to 80 hours a week, and spends a couple of days a week on the road officiating.

Dave is a minister at NorthPark Community Church in Santa Clarita.

"One (job is) more physical and athletic and running, but the both you try and resolve problems for people," Dave says of refereeing and running a church.

He'll tell couples: "Don't foul" or "Don't put the full-court press on your wife."

And speaking of wives, these men have held onto marriages for a long period of time, despite the grind.

Dave says he hears divorce stories about many officials and he is thankful for the work his wife has put in.

"Ah, they're great," he says of the White wives. "We used to have this little plaque (in the kitchen growing up). It said: ‘We interrupt this marriage to bring you the basketball season.'"

There is no interest from Dave or Deron to officiate in the NBA.

They're happy where they are.

They've stayed together.


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