The NBA has never been more profitable, and it appears that commissioner Adam Silver is going to invest some of those funds into improving how the game is officiated. USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt interviewed President of League Operations Byron Spruell about his role, and what changes are on the horizon.
“Initially, it was about observing and assessing,” Spruell told USA TODAY Sports, “and now I’m at a point where we’ve done all of that, and I can definitely see some areas for improvement.”
Researching since his appointment last June, Spruell is now ready to act. Zillgitt unveils the changes that are in the works.
The league has created an Officiating Advisory Council that will include former NBA player and coach Doug Collins; retired Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of USA Basketball and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Arne Duncan, the former U.S. Education Secretary; ex-referee Steve Javie; and Kenny Smith, a TNT analyst and former NBA player. Together, they will help determine the future of NBA officiating.
Along with implementing a new board of advisors, Spruell is determined to lower the stress that officials endure over the course of the season.
The NBA will increase its pool of 63 referees by 25% within three years, including 10% next season, with a more global and diverse approach to sourcing and hiring – meaning the possibility of international refs calling NBA games.
On top of a larger pool of employees, the NBA is looking into how to improve the travel schedules of referees during the busy regular season. According to the new initiatives, officials will be allowed to work consecutive games together, reducing the travel burdens associated with working back-to-backs.
The overhaul includes changes to how officials will be trained. The league will utilize new technology in its education process for referees, and mentions the use of virtual reality as a tool that will be used.