The General's replacement has been found.
The NBA announced back in June that U.S. Army General Ronald Johnson was leaving his post as the league's senior vice president of referee operations at the end of July, a position he had held since 2008. On Wednesday, NBA commissioner David Stern announced the hiring of Johnson's replacement: former NBA player and long-time league executive Mike Bantom.
Bantom will oversee the NBA's officiating program, including the recruiting, training and development of all NBA officials. He will report to Joel Litvin, NBA President, League Operations and his new role will begin immediately.
“Mike has been an invaluable part of the NBA for over 20 years and has excelled in leadership positions across both our domestic and international businesses," said Stern. “That experience, together with his considerable accomplishments on the court and his respect in the basketball community, make Mike an outstanding choice to lead the NBA's officiating program.”
Bantom was promoted from his position as Senior Vice President of Player Development, a job he had held since 1999. His 20-plus years with the NBA also included stops with NBA Events and NBA Europe.
Bantom, 60, averaged 12.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists during a 9-year career that included stops with the Phoenix Suns, Seattle SuperSonics, New York Nets, Indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers during the 1970s and 1980s.
While Bantom's position isn't particularly public, the conduct and performance of the referees he oversees are always hot topics. The unchecked outrage and conspiracy theories have cooled off a bit since the Tim Donaghy referee-gambling scandal first broke back in 2007, but the league will continue to find itself fighting a never-ending war for its credibility until error-free robots are invented to handle officiating duties.
The league has made real progress over the last two seasons by undertaking efforts to increase transparency, setting up websites and even a Twitter account to explain calls, correct misconceptions and admit errors. Hopefully that progress continues under the new leadership.