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Photo by Amanda Sebastiano
Former NBA ref Bob Delaney received the 2014 Mannie Jackson — Basketball Human Spirit Award and the Armed Forces Foundation Leadership Award this week.
East County Wednesday, Apr. 9, 2014 8 years ago

Former NBA referee enters polo world

by: Amanda Sebastiano Staff Writer

EAST COUNTY — As a police officer turned National Basketball Association referee and crew chief, Bob Delaney has spent a lifetime on his feet.

Today, the 62-year-old, who retired from the NBA in 2011, after more than 25 years on the court, hasn’t been keeping busy with leisurely, post-retirement activities.

Although he finds comfort in spending time in his “Zen room,” a patio with a view of a lake in the backyard of his Lakewood Ranch condominium, with his wife, Billie, a life without involvement in sports isn’t one for him.

“In my life, there’s no retirement — just transitions,” Delaney said.

His latest transition, however, introduced him to a sport he knew little about — polo.

In January, Delaney sprinted into his next role in the sports realm when he accepted a leadership adviser position with the U.S. Polo Association (USPA) — an idea that “sort of came out of nowhere.”

USPA Manager Maggie Mitchell followed the former shot-caller’s sports background and thought his expertise, although on a different sport, could help prepare polo officials for making difficult calls.

For the last four months of the polo season, Delaney has led monthly lessons as often as Charlie Muldoon, USPA umpires’ executive director, asks. He addresses how to be a leader on the field, effective communication skills and mental and physical health and strength.

He travels to Muldoon’s office in West Palm Beach two to three times per month to attend polo matches, review the recording of the matches and advise the umpires on what he observed.

Although his career mostly consists of chasing after lanky basketball players on slick wooden floors, Delaney has noticed similarities in officiating for all sports.

He believes the ability to communicate with the players and coaches — to explain a call on the field — is equally as important as physical fitness.

“They have to be able to interact with players,” Delaney said. “My training on focus and leadership skills helps them understand the courage and ability to make a call and say something isn’t right.”

Delaney prefers to use life experiences and everyday examples to educate his adult students on proper officiating form.

Using his hands to aid his explanation, he reveals his favorite example — a car’s speedometer and its relation to being at the right place on the field to see the right angle.

A passenger looking at the speedometer will see a higher number of miles per hour than the driver because of the angle at which the passenger sits, Delaney said. The same holds true on the court.

“Officials need to be able to see the beginning, middle and end of a play to make a decision on a call,” Delaney said. “To do that, they need to be in the right position.”

The former ref has also learned a few things along the way.

His recent involvement with polo showed him the sport he had always thought of as more of a social event requires players to have stamina and athleticism to ride their horses, and the horses need to match their riders in raw physical ability, he said.

While he prepared for polo season to wrap up, Delaney also had his sights on his most recent recognition.

This week, the New England native will add two more plaques beside the dozens of pictures of himself dressed in black-and-white threads beside Shaquille O’Neal, Michael Jordan and other sports all-stars.
Delaney received the 2014 Mannie Jackson — Basketball Human Spirit Award April 7, and the Armed Forces Foundation Leadership Award April 9.

The Armed Forces recognition comes in response to Delaney’s involvement addressing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, from which he also suffered after three years of undercover fieldwork.

Since 2009, Delaney has traveled to Germany, Iraq, and other countries in the Middle East to educate military men and women on early detection of the condition.

“Maybe it was growing up during the Vietnam era, I don’t know, but I always wanted to serve people,” Delaney said.

Contact Amanda Sebastiano at [email protected].


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