Saturday, July 28, 2007

Next stage in Donaghy scandal

The next stage of the Donaghy scandal has begun. We moved from the story itself, to the view of odds makers and now we have arrived at each city looking at specific games. In today's paper the Houston Chronicle and the Indianapolis's Star breakdown games that Donaghy officiated.

Whenever you go micro in this fashion the result seems a bit more intense.

From the Chronicle ....

"The big trend with him in particular is that the first 15 games last season he refereed where we saw line movement of at least 1 1/2 points were a perfect 15-of-15 for the big-money people betting," said Matty O'Shea, general manager of content at and a handicapper. "The odds of that happening randomly are only 33,000-to-1."

"He led the NBA in calling fouls, in free-throw attempts the last two seasons. That's kind of a red flag. He's a whistle-happy ref. There's a game (between) Miami and New York, the free-throw differential was 39-8. A four-point favorite won by six, and the total went over by a half-point.

"Last season, 13 games he did fell within a single point of the point spread. We found in the last two seasons, 14 games were decided by two points or less."

However, when you really get into the specific game it is hard to find the play or plays that convince you the game was on the take.

with 1:50 left and the Suns leading 96-89, Donaghy called John Lucas III for a blocking foul while official Gary Zielinski called a charge against Leandro Barbosa of the Suns.

"This could tell us a lot," Whitworth said.

Instead, it seemed to indicate Donaghy was not trying to influence the result. With the score close to pregame lines, he quickly deferred to Zielinski, who changed the call to favor the Rockets.

"If Donaghy was trying to keep the Rockets under the spread, he likely would not have made the call against Lucas. If he was trying to favor the Suns, he would seem unlikely to so quickly defer to another official, particularly given Donaghy's very assertive officiating style.

"Even knowing what we know, I see zero, absolutely zero (suspicious). There were a couple ticky-tack calls, but we have those in every game. There was one play, with the wrong number (called), but there was no pattern. If I said we're looking at these referees being corrupt, you would have no idea which one it would be. And if I told you which one, you could not say which (team) he was favoring."

From the Star ......

Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs on Feb. 12, 2006.
The Pacers had just taken an 86-81 lead on Stephen Jackson's 3-pointer in the final 90 seconds. With the fans at Conseco Fieldhouse buzzing in anticipation of an upset, a shrill, staccato whistle stopped the proceedings. Donaghy had called a defensive three seconds violation on Anthony Johnson.

The spread for that game was five points. The Spurs failed to cover, winning by four, but was Donaghy trying to aid their cause? Replays show the defensive three seconds call on Johnson was a quick whistle, and it was questionable whether he had both feet in the foul lane.

I think we are at a point where we can convince ourselves of anything. The intergrity is comprimised without question. How much we may never know and that is what is terrible. It forever allows us and anyone else to believe whatever they would like.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


It looks like back testing and data mining won't be all that easy to find abnormalities:

From the Friday July 27, WSJ

Statisticians contacted for this column suggested creating a database incorporating both in-game action and Vegas gambling, hunting for unexpected changes in ref behavior. "At best, though, this system would simply indicate a ref's games should be reviewed," says Benjamin Alamar, editor of the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports. (An NBA spokesman and Mr. Donaghy's attorney declined to comment for this column.)

Brigham Young University statistician Shane Reese demonstrated how such a system might work by examining all referees last season to see whether any of their results on over-under bets were outside normal variation. No refs would have tripped the switch on this warning system -- not even Mr. Donaghy. "There's nothing suggesting he was an outlier," says Prof. Reese.