Former ORU standout finds calling as NBA referee
BY STEVE HUNT World Correspondent
Monday, February 25, 2013
2/25/13 at 5:56 AM
Haywoode Workman has definitely paid his dues during his 25 years in professional basketball.
The former Oral Roberts standout played in the now-defunct Continental Basketball Association, had two stints overseas and played for five NBA teams before injuries encouraged him to retire in 2001.
That same year, a funny thing happened. While working out in Florida and preparing for a possible return to the NBA or even another stint abroad, veteran NBA official Bob Delaney asked if Workman had ever thought about becoming a referee.
Workman, 47, admits he had never contemplated making such a shift, but when no further playing opportunities materialized, he gave the idea serious consideration.
"It just became more intriguing the more and more I got into it," he said. "I was intrigued by what the refs do."
One point in his favor was that during his eight seasons in the Association, he wasn't regarded as a player who constantly complained to officials.
"The guys that are in their 15th, 20th year, you can ask any of those guys and they'd say no, he never said anything to me," he said. "I had (coaches like) Larry Brown to worry about and Wes Unseld, plus I was always that guy trying to make the team or stay on the team, so referees weren't my issue."
In 2001, Workman started out in the Tampa Bay Pro-Am League and then officiated in the CBA before landing in the NBA Development League in 2004. After several seasons in the D-League, he was hired by the NBA in 2008 and is now in his fifth season as a league official.
His schedule has him working 10 to 12 games a month, putting him on the road 18 to 24 days. His workload can fluctuate between two and four games per week.
Workman was a standout at Oral Roberts University from 1986 to 1989, days which he fondly remembers.
"It kept me out of trouble. It kept me focused on what I was really trying to do," he said. "I wanted to play basketball.
"In order to play basketball at a D-I school like Oral Roberts, I had to abide by the rules, tried to do that so I could play basketball."
Picked in the second round by Atlanta in the 1989 draft, he made his league debut that season with the Hawks. After one year in the CBA, he played with the Bullets (now the Wizards), Pacers, Bucks and Raptors and spent two years in Italy before retiring in 2001 after a short stint in Israel.
In November 1996, while playing in Indiana, Workman tore an ACL in his left knee, missing the rest of that season and all of the following season.
He returned for one more season with the Pacers but was never the same player that he was before the injury.
He still looks back on his time in the league as a player as a big positive.
"Five years too early and five years too late," he said. "I think my era was pretty good with the players that I played against. I really only made a name for myself two years out of the eight I get credit for. I think I had a pretty good impact on the game with the players that I played against. They all remember me and know what I brought to the table."
And even though he is the third former NBA player to become an official, he admits he never really considered becoming a referee, at least until he and Delaney had that fateful conversation back in 2001.
"Never in my life I thought I'd probably be an official," Workman said. "Looking back on things, I just wanted to play. You think you can play forever, but things happen.
"You say 'what will I do after playing?' You think about that later. I don't even know if I had a plan. Probably was leaning more towards being a coach, but never really thought about it."
Original Print Headline: Being a ref was not on Workman's radar
Chicago Bulls mascot Benny the Bull hugs official Haywoode Workman's leg on the court with official Eric Lews during an NBA basketball game between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Chicago Bulls last season. BRIAN KERSEY / Associated Press