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Irish Coffee: All you need to know about Marc Davis

Don’t believe everything Tim Donaghy says, but at least the disgraced NBA referee is right about one thing.

“It’s not the first time Marc Davis has had problems with some of the Boston players,” said Donaghy, a one-time official who pled guilty in 2007 for his role in a gambling scandal, in his appearance on Dennis & Callahan [1]. “I’m sure, again, that there’s a history there. This isn’t the first time something like this has come up with him.”

Davis, of course, is the official who, in a span of about 90 seconds from 2:14 to 0:41, handed the ball to the Hawks [2] on a ball that clearly went off Atlanta [3]‘s Josh Smith, whistled Brandon Bass [4] for a foul on an apparent jump ball and subsequently called Rajon Rondo [5] for a pair of technical fouls — the first for arguing on Bass’ behalf and the second for the infamous chest bump stumble [6].

“Davis is one of those guys that has rabbit ears for certain people,” said Donaghy. “He’s a referee that thinks people pay for their tickets to come and see him. He’s one of those guys that has a little bit of an ego. So, I’m sure it’s not the first time that he’s had a problem with Rondo, or something else happened in that game for Rondo to go after him and bump him over that call right there during that point of the game. Something else triggered that.”

There is no excuse for Rondo’s chest bump, but the Celtics [7] point guard’s frustration is understandable. After Davis whistled Rondo instead of Smith for knocking the ball out of bounds, Jeff Teague [8] pushed a six-point Hawks lead to 78-70, softening the blow of back-to-back buckets by Kevin Garnett [9] and Paul Pierce [10] that cut the advantage to 78-74 with a minute remaining.

A fight for the ball between Bass and Smith — called a jump ball in that situation more often than not — was the last straw. And the last gasp for the Celtics, who saw their four-point deficit balloon to 91-84 after free throws by Joe Johnson [11] and Smith. Not only that, but Rondo’s ill-advised argument could lead to his Game 2 suspension.

Perhaps the frustration that boiled over on Sunday night had been steaming for quite some time in the Celtics locker room. In a chapter of Donaghy’s book “Personal Foul” entitled “How I Picked the Games,” the ousted official discussed at length a contest involving Garnett and Davis on Jan. 1, 2007.

This was a New Year’s Day game and I was in Charlotte for a matchup between the Bobcats and the Minnesota Timberwolves [12]. Before the game, I spoke with my group supervisor, Jim Wishmier. Jim mentioned that Minnesota’s star forward Kevin Garnett had been getting away with a lot of traveling violations and that no one was paying attention to his footwork. Jim expected us to keep an eye on Garnett and to start enforcing the rule.

I worked the game with referees Joe Forte and Marc Davis, two veteran officials who weren’t afraid to take on a superstar player. Prior to the game we specifically discussed Jim Wishmier’s comments and decided to watch Garnett closely and rein him in on traveling violations.

In addition to the anticipated crackdown on Garnett, I liked the way Charlotte coach Bernie Bickerstaff had his squad playing high-energy basketball most nights. I called Tommy and told him to bet Charlotte.

The Bobcats played well early but fell apart during the second half, getting outscored 34-18 in the fourth quarter. Garnett played exceptionally well for Minnesota, while Charlotte’s players were arguing amongst themselves all night. Much of the angst was directed at the Bobcats’ Adam Morrison, who took several off-balanced, ill-advised shots down the stretch in what had been a fairly tight contest.

Minnesota kept its composure and pulled out the road win 102-96. It was a loss for me, Tommy, and Ba-Ba, and there were no apples coming my way.

The investigators once again expressed amazement at the seemingly subtle factors I used to make the pick, albeit a losing pick. I reminded them that we often received directives from supervisory staff to key in on certain players, enforce certain rules, and generally change the dynamics of a game. The experience and strength of an officiating crew was also a critical factor, especially when it came to interpreting those directives. It was all rather uncomplicated, but the Minnesota-Charlotte game reinforced the fact that there was no such thing as a guaranteed winning pick. Still, the inside information was reliable enough that I was right on the money seven on eight times out of 10.

Davis was also one of two officials involved in an officiating conspiracy during the 2009 Eastern Conference quarterfinals between the Celtics and Bulls. Both Chicago natives, Davis and Dan Crawford were seen exiting the United Center after a 121-118 double-overtime Celtics loss in Game 4 accompanied by their families, dressed in Bulls gear, according to multiple media outlets [13] at the time.

Although, you don’t even have to go back that far to discover history between the Celtics and Davis. During an 88-86 overtime victory against the Hawks in Boston on April 11 of this season, both Garnett and Greg Stiemsma [14] fouled out in a game officiated by Davis. Those two had almost as many personal fouls (12) as the entire Hawks team (16), and their frustration afterwards was palpable if not verbal.

The Celtics aren’t the only team with an unsatisfactory history with Davis. In a 2005 altercation, then 76er Allen Iverson [15] claims Davis threatened to “whoop my ass” [16] after he challenged the referee following a loss to the Bulls. Last season, Davis ejected Kings forward DeMarcus Cousins [17] for a phantom foul [18] that was later rescinded, and he was part of the crew for Game 3 of the Western Conference finals between the Thunder and Mavericks, one of the worst officiated playoff games of last season [19].

This year, Davis threatened to call a technical foul on the Magic before a game even started [20] for waiting too long to take the floor, and then threw the opening tip before Dwight Howard [21] was set to jump. Heck, just a week ago, he tossed Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan [22] from a game.

None of this excuses Rondo’s second technical foul and likely suspension for Game 2, but it helps explain why things reached that point. In terms of officiating statistics [23] (i.e., home/road win percentage, point differential and personal/technical fouls), Davis is as middle of the road as referees come, but his history with the Celtics isn’t exactly glorious, even if he received the notorious Rafer Alston smooch [24] for a call that benefited the C’s.

Somehow, it doesn’t seem likely Rondo and Davis will be kissing and making up anytime soon.

Have a question, concern or conception for the next Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach [25] on Twitter.)