Basketball ref walks the walk
Mike Corcoran’s impetus to start officiating basketball was rooted in his own playing experiences.
“I played high school basketball, played at the college level and played men’s league after that,” said the 64-year-old Toronto native, who was raised in Brampton. “I was a player who was maybe on the referees and I thought if I was going to talk the talk, I needed to walk the walk.
“I started in 1983 and I continue on.”
Corcoran was a firefighter and the shiftwork gave him extra time to officiate. As a member of the Peel Region Board of Approved Basketball Officials, he represented that group at four Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations boys and girls championships.
He retired as a platoon chief with the Mississauga fire department and moved to St. Davids in May 2011 when his wife, Roberta, a St. Davids native and Niagara District alumnus, also retired.
It didn’t take the former Sheridan and Laurier basketball player long before he hooked up with the Niagara District Referees Association and began officiating local games in the fall of 2011.
“It was a very smooth transition. The Niagara board was more than cordial and very welcoming,” said Corcoran, who played rep hockey, lacrosse, basketball and football growing up. “It was a great experience coming from the Peel Region officials association to Niagara.”
Corcoran noticed an immediate difference between the styles of basketball in Niagara and Peel.
“It was more structured in Niagara and the teams played a more structured game while Peel had some structure but there was a lot of street ball play. It was just the demographics,” he said. “It was a slightly easier to officiate (in Niagara) but basketball is tough to officiate no matter where you are. There are 10 people moving around in a small space.”
Corcoran officiates for a wide variety of reasons.
“It’s a good run, I enjoy interacting with the kids, I’ve created good relationships with coaches in Peel and down here, and it is a camaraderie thing,” he said. “And the group of officials down here, it’s a tight group and I have travelled out of the country to golf with some of the guys. We also get together a couple times a year when we can to go for beer and wings.”
He has officiated for so long that he is now reffing games for coaches who he officiated as players and for the children of former players.
“Whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, they recognize me and come up to me after games and tell me that I used to do their games. It doesn’t make me feel old. It makes me feel good that I left an impression on them and they remember me.”
Through the years, Corcoran has been consistent in his officiating philosophy.
“I ref to the defence and I try to let them play,” he said, adding he does a lot of talking on the floor to the players.
“I try to help them avoid fouling and I am a chatterbox with the kids. I talk to them between whistles and even while the play is going on, telling them to keep their hands off and that kind of thing.”
He is also quick to acknowledge a mistake.
“If I miss a call, I will tell them I missed it because I was blocked out or I wasn’t in a good position. That one was on me.”
He feels that honesty is crucial for a ref’s credibility.
“I try to treat them like they are adults and I am not reffing to try and get in the way of the game. I am just there to make it run smoothly.”
In non-pandemic times, Corcoran estimates he officiates upwards of 100-110 games a year and he can’t wait to get back at it.
“I miss seeing the kids, the coaches and the people I referee with, that social aspect, and the exercise. And I miss the game.”