Former NBA referee Rashan Michel was arrested for starting an altercation with Dominique Wilkins at Philips Arena after a Hawks game last night. As you can see, Wilkins finished the altercation:
Michel claimed to the arresting officers that Wilkins owed him money for suits he allegedly sold to the ex-NBA star “several years ago.”
In 1997 Michel became the youngest NBA ref in history, joining the league as an official at age 23.
Michel was part of an influx of inexperienced league referees that prompted then-NBA coaches Lenny Wilkens and Randy Wittman to complain to Tomasson about the trend in a December 26, 1999, AKRON BEACON-JOURNAL article headlined, “YOUNGER OFFICIALS ADD UP TO TROUBLE THERE’S LOTS OF CRITICISM THESE DAYS AROUND THE LEAGUE ABOUT OFFICIATING, EVEN FROM HAWKS’ WILKENS”
Veteran officials these days are often hard to come by, especially since the NBA pulls most of its whistle-blowers out of the CBA rather than the college ranks, where experienced officials usually hold other jobs. There are a lot of officials on the court today younger than the players, something that was unheard of not too long ago.
Take the case of Rashan Michel, 25, who in 1997 became the youngest official in the NBA at 23. The NBA complains about 18-year-olds making the jump to the NBA, but a 23-year-old referee?
That’s right. Michel, who wears the highest number in the league at 74, has done four.
The Cavs have had 46 different officials work their 26 games this season. Guess who’s been seen at more Cavs’ games than any other official.
Former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Wittman had several run-ins with Michel during the ‘99 season, as documented in various game stories.
Wilkens, who was coaching the Atlanta Hawks at the time of the Tomasson piece, said of young officials in the article:
Michael Jordan used to say that if the numbers of the three officials add up to 120, you’re in trouble.
With that in mind, it’s no wonder the Cavaliers have been running into a lot of problems lately with officials, the most inexperienced of whom wear the higher numbers.
Over the last five games, the numbers have added up to 138, 123, 144, 160 and 145.
Is it any coincidence that during that period, forward Mark Bryant had an ejection and Coach Randy Wittman and assistant coach Bill Blair both picked up technicals?
Complaining about officiating is an easy thing to do. But it’s obvious it’s not as good as it used to be.
The dropoff in talent began in the 1980s, when NBA officiating crews went from two to three. Expansion has added the need for more referees (there now are 60 who work regular-season games). Many top officials have retired in recent years. Some less-than-stellar officials came into the league after several referees were let go for cheating on their income taxes. At least most of those who were fired have been reinstated.
Wittman has been quite vocal recently about poor officiating. It’s undoubtedly taking some time for Wittman, a rookie coach, to earn respect from some of the refs. But when the winningest coach in history, Atlanta’s Lenny Wilkens, isn’t sure what’s going on, you know there’s a problem.
“With today’s officials, I have no idea,” said Wilkens, who was responding to a question about whether it takes young coaches time to earn respect from the zebras. “I don’t know where half these guys come from or what their reactions are. They’re totally different. In the old days, when we had a lot of veteran officials, they would give you the benefit of the doubt and give you a chance. But the ones today, well, they’re different.”
Michel’s last year in the league was 2001. He went on to officiate SWAC and MEAC games before exiting basketball completely in 2004.
Michel subsequently started his own company making custom clothes called, “Rashan Michel Custom Clothier.”
Silver lining in Michel’s arrest: No longer will incarcerated ex-pro athletes have to endure orange ensembles right off the rack.