Military man to head NBA refs

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NEW YORKûûThe NBA has hired Army Maj. Gen. Ronald L. Johnson on Tuesday as senior vice president of referee operations, a newly created position to help strengthen the league’s officiating programs following the Tim Donaghy scandal.

The move splits executive vice president of basketball operations Stu Jackson’s role into two positions, a plan commissioner, David Stern announced last fall. Johnson will oversee all aspects of officiating, while Jackson will continue to handle all other domestic and international basketball matters.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, a frequent critic of the league’s officiating, is glad to have Johnson in charge.

“I’m thrilled,” Cuban said. “I think it’s the perfect hire. He has experience managing professionals in high stress situations.”

Johnson recently retired after 32 years of service as a combat engineer. He was commanding general of the Army Corps of Engineers, Gulf Region division, from 2003-04, responsible for overseeing $18 billion of reconstruction in Iraq.

“Ron’s wealth of leadership and management experience, together with his engineering expertise in areas, such as systems analysis, processes and operations, make him an ideal candidate to lead our officiating program,”

Stern said in a statement. “Our referees are the best in the world, but they never stop striving to improve, and Ron has made a career out of getting the very best out of people.”

Stern defended his officials during the NBA Finals after Donaghy’s accusations of misconduct, including helping the league manipulate playoff results in 2002 and ’05. The former referee is scheduled to be sentenced later this month for betting on games he officiated and taking cash payoffs from gambling associates. (AP)

______ Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. 

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