By Terry Lyons, Special to Hoophall.com
SPRINGFIELD – Basketball officials dream of the perfect game. At each level of the sport, referees are in pursuit of a game in which every call is correct and every difficult play is judged flawlessly, with coaches and players competing at their best.
NBA referee Bob Delaney often speaks to groups about that elusive perfect game, telling them it is a dream he has yet to realize. But all that changed June 19, 2009.
Delaney experienced a perfect evening at center court of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. He was honored before an audience of 250 spectators, including Troopers from the New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island State Police, local law enforcement officials, the FBI and other agents from the Office of Homeland Security. They were on hand for the official paperback launch by Sterling Publishing/Union Square Press of Delaney’s book, Covert: My Years Infiltrating the Mob.
Covert – written with sports journalist Dave Scheiber -- has enjoyed tremendous success since its initial release February 2008 in hardcover. In the book, Delaney, a 23-year NBA veteran referee, tells the story of his undercover years in the 1970s as a New Jersey State Trooper infiltrating the Bruno and Genovese crime families in Northern New Jersey.
It also explores how Delaney found inner peace through basketball following his nearly three years of undercover duty. The book became the publisher’s all-time leading seller soon after its release. Covert was named one of USA Today’s best books of 2008 and it inspired critical acclaim with starred reviews in Publisher’s Weekly, along with in-depth first person reports by CNN, CNN International, ESPN, TNT and scores of newspaper publications and radio outlets worldwide.
Delaney made appearances on the CBS Early Show, NPR, CNN, ESPN, Bloomberg TV and TNT, along with numerous additional media appearances, speeches and book signings at Barnes & Nobles and other bookstores across United States and Canada.
At the Hall of Fame event, also attended by many of his family members and friends, Delaney took time to celebrate the success of Covert with a presentation about law enforcement, leadership and service. The story of Covert has offered insight regarding the issue of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as it relates to the military, law enforcement, firefighters and emergency services.
New Jersey State Trooper Thomas Cavello, part of the Honor Guard that traveled to Springfield, later wrote Delaney saying: “Throughout my 15-year tenure with the State Police, I have been fortunate to attend and sing (the National Anthem) at many different functions, but this event ranks right up there with the best.”
One particularly poignant story stood out. Mary Gallagher recently lost her husband – Gunnery Sgt. James Gallagher – when the veteran of more than 19 years in the U.S. Marines committed suicide after a tour of duty in Iraq. Joined by members of the Hope for the Warriors organization, Mary placed a pin on Delaney and asked him to wear it in honor of her late husband. She added that she only wished her husband could have heard Delaney speak about Post Traumatic Stress.
In addition, those honored at the event included:
Colonel Thomas E Boland (brother of NBA referee Matt Boland), Commanding Officer, 1109th Aviation Classification Repair Assistance Depot (AVCRAD), Connecticut Army National Guard, Groton, Conn.
The Colonel, after serving recently in the Middle East, received a heartfelt and spontaneous standing ovation when introduced.
Master Sergeant Daniel Henderson from the Connecticut Army National Guard presented Delaney with a special Army medallion, on behalf of the Connecticut National Guard Commanding Officer.
Delaney closed with a quote from Covert: “This book is not about one person. It is about the thousands of men and women who ensure that order is maintained in society – law enforcement, military and government – who serve us on a daily basis. Some have made the ultimate sacrifice. All are being saluted here.”
Choosing those words was a call that brought Delaney one step closer to the perfect evening.
Editor’s Note: For more information about the family of Mary Gallagher and Hope for the Warriors, click on: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2007-10-31-homefront-suicide_N.htm