NJB presented to referee Tom Marier the Greg Willard Award this past December for his outstanding dedication to officiating, and his contribution to National Junior Basketball and the surrounding community. Tom, the son of a high school basketball coach always had some involvement with the game.
It was in high school, in 1966, that his athletic director handed him a whistle and sent him to officiate a 4th grade recreational game. Though not his school’s star player, he said that refereeing become his way of staying involved in the game. He has not stopped refereeing since, with the games he has officiated tallying into the 1,000’s. He also officiates for high school and semi-pro football and basketball games, and in the past, has down some umpiring and officiating of volleyball games.
Officiating is a full-time hobby that he sees as a great way to get out of the house and get some exercise but, is also busily occupied with being the COO of a HOA management company in the area. Tom says that while pay is involved in officiating, you are not doing it for that reason; “you are doing it because you enjoy the games and want to give back to the community.
He expressed gratitude to Dennis Murphy, the commissioner and founder of NJB, for making the organization a reality. “The great thing about NJB,” Tom said, “is that it gives thousands of kids the opportunity to play basketball.” Tom has always been appreciative of the support that NJB gives to their officials. There is an organized structure and a process in place that prevent games from getting out of control. “For the most part, people are just there to ball, which makes it an enjoyable experience and overall a good thing for the sport.”
Tom has been an official for the NJB community for almost 20 years. Upon reflecting on his time spent refereeing, he recalled a specific kid from the Costa Mesa area. He said that he had refereed a 5th grade kid whose red hair was so memorable that he recognized him years later while refereeing a game for Costa Mesa High School. Even later, he saw the same “kid” on the Costa Mesa High School bench as a coach. “You just sometimes don’t necessarily realize how long you have been doing this.
During a meeting for NJB All-Net referees-the NJB program that plays with High School rules and Tom’s preferred NJB league to officiate- Dennis said that he had an award to give out. As Dennis began describing the individual, Tom, who was sitting towards the front, suddenly realized that Dennis was talking about him.
This award was huge surprise to Tom. He said, “My main focus is to do my best, go out there and call the most-fair game possible, so both teams get the best opportunity to win.” Showcasing himself was just the farthest thing on his mind saying, “people just simply do not come to watch referees run the court, they come to watch the kids play. So, to receive an award like this was a very big surprise and a great honor.”
The award honors the late Greg Willard, a NBA referee and Orange County resident who lived in Huntington Beach. Greg passed away in 2013 after a year-long battle with pancreatic cancer.