If you think you’re reading a movie script below, you’re wrong, but it’s not a far off assumption. Bob Delaney, the current NBA referee, had a previous career working as an undercover cop in conjunction with the FBI in order to bring down organized crime in New Jersey (yes, it’s true, not everyone involved with sports has a low IQ). Delaney joined the police department after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Criminology and the rest is his story. He’s since written a book, Covert: My Years Infiltrating The Mob, which he made seem like quite the read by his stories in this interview. The mobsters, the double kissing, the wires – all were a part of Delaney’s life before he joined the Association. Delaney joined ESPN Radio LA to discuss the horrible side effects of the his work, the day it ended, and the transition to the NBA.
Where you constantly looking over your shoulder while undercover?
“The entire time that I was working undercover, you live in fear, however, cops like to think of themselves as leaping tall buildings in a single bound and Superman kind of mindset. The military, paramilitary go through the same thing. You’re afraid you’re gonna be found wearing a wire and I was wearing a wire almost every day. In that world if you’re caught with a wire, they’re gonna think you’re an informant, and informants die.”
How did you get by day-to-day?
“I was good at doing undercover work, we’re all good at doing something at life, I could meet with the wise guys and kiss on the cheek and do the whole meeting routine. I’d get two miles down the road and have to throw my guts up, find the first gas station I could find because I had diarrhea. Now, I didn’t tell anybody that – I repressed a lot of normal reactions to emotions in those situations. That’s not a healthy thing to do.”
How did it all end?
“When the investigation was coming to a close, I thought it was gonna be the greatest day of my life. We were arresting these guys and I had been close to three years in an undercover capacity. The grant was six months, I guess we had an aggressive mindset, we thought we were gonna end organized crime in New Jersey in six months, it was almost three years.”
Why basketball? That seems like an odd fit.
“I know people say, ‘Well, you’re in the public eye.’ There is no safer place to me, a more secure place for me than out on the basketball floor. I just have an inner peace that comes from that, and that’s how I got to basketball. I knew I was going through tough times, I had an emotional roller coaster ride after after having done undercover work – I was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder which we didn’t know clinically, that wasn’t in the terminology that was used commonly back in the 70’s. I got lucky.”