Ex-referee entertains QB Club

Published 11:40 pm Monday, October 19, 2009

SELMA — Former college basketball official Henry O. “Hank” Nichols said a good game has to have four things.

“You have to have good players, good fans, good coaches and good officiating,” Nichols told the Selma Quarterback Club Monday night at the Carl C. Morgan Convention Center. “If you didn’t have good officiating, you wouldn’t have things like ESPN or other games on TV.”

Nichols had a storied career as a referee, officiating in a record six NCAA men’s championship games, 10 Division I Final Four games and three National Invitation Tournament finals. He then became the NCAA coordinator of basketball officials, a job that he held for 22 years.

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He wowed the group with stories from his officiating career, especially games in the Atlantic Coast Conference with teams like Duke, Maryland, North Carolina and Clemson.

“Most officials do have fathers,” Nichols joked. “Normally they are standup guys and ladies who get into officiating because they love the game.”

One particular game he mentioned featured North Carolina State coach Norm Sloan.

“A lot of times a lot of stuff happens,” he said. “After the game, coach Sloan said, ‘Nichols, I’m sending film to your supervisor so you can see the times you messed up.’ I told him, ‘If you think I’m going to watch this [junk] twice, you’re mistaken.’”

Bill Foster of Clemson told Nichols the students didn’t like to see him officiate the Tigers’ games.

“’We’re 0-12 with you on the court here,” Nichols said. “Then I looked at the other end of the court and saw James Worthy, Sam Perkins and Michael Jordan. I asked him, ‘Would you believe 0-13?’”

Looking at today’s basketball games, Nichols said he likes the three-point shot.

“It made the game more interesting,” he said. “It makes the little guy more competitive. And it’s a shot in the arm for fans. Overall, I think it has enhanced the game.”

When he was on the basketball rules committee, Nichols helped shape the instant replay rule.

“I don’t like instant replay past looking at the end of the game,” he said.

He also said Wilt Chamberlain was the best basketball player he had ever seen. “He was a magnificent athlete,” he said.

At the end of the meeting, Selma Mayor George Evans presented Nichols with a key to the city and a copy of the proclamation naming Monday “Henry O. ‘Hank’ Nichols Day” in Selma.