Tuesday night a Magic fan named Franz Hanning was caught on video heckling longtime NBA referee Joe DeRosa at halftime of the Eastern Conference Finals game between Orlando and the Boston Celtics at Orlando’s Amway Arena.
While Hanning was shouting at DeRosa from behind the halfcourt scorer’s table, the referee shocked the fan by tossing him a basketball. Hanning then immediately, softly tossed the ball back to the referee.
After receiving the ball from Hanning, DeRosa signaled arena security to descend on Hanning as the ref went to the locker room for halftime. Hanning was then reportedly “relocated” to another seat. (It’s not known what DeRosa’s intent was in calling for police to handle the situation.)
The incident is a big story in Orlando today, with local media outlets seeking comment from the NBA and Hanning on the situation. While the league this afternoon would only confirm that it is continuing to “review” the situation, Hanning has released a statement about the incident. A statement which might surprise you.
“As many people in Orlando know, I am a huge fan of NBA basketball and especially my home team the Orlando Magic. I think the NBA officials do a great job. I’m looking forward to the Magic going to Boston and evening up the series.”
Are we sure that press release is from the same Franz Hanning who was at the game last night?
I guess his comments aren’t all that surprising once you learn that Hanning is the CEO of a massive timeshare company based in Orlando and is a personal friend of Celtics Coach Doc Rivers. Of course, that didn’t stop Rivers from being amused about what happened to his pal. From the ORLANDO SENTINEL:
“I didn’t see it. Unfortunately, I know the fan,” Rivers told the Sentinel, with a slight chuckle in his voice. “But I didn’t see it. I didn’t know any of it had happened until I came back out. My Orlando buddies were telling me what happened. So I can’t have a comment on it because I never saw it. But Joe, no, he’s not an emotional guy. He’s great in any situation so I don’t know what happened.”
When was the last time you heard an NBA coach defend a league referee? Let alone after a confrontation with a fan who also happened to be a personal friend of the coach.
That’s a much bigger upset than the C’s sweeping the Magic 2-0 in Central Florida, but it does speak to DeRosa’s credibility as an old pro.
With that in mind, DeRosa likely will get off light in the aftermath of what happened. What he did was obviously inadvisable and could’ve complicated the confrontation with the fan considerably. But since Hanning obviously has no desire to lodge a formaly complaint against the league or DeRosa, I wouldn’t be surprised if the NBA rules, “no harm, no foul” on this one.