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Expert

Photograph by Adam Hunger/AP Photo

1. LOSE THE EGO
When you get to the NBA level, you’re going to get it from all sides: the players, the coaches, the fans, everybody.

You’ve got to learn how to talk to the players. You’ve got to learn how to respond to them, when not to respond. But the one thing I’ve always learned is you’ve got to put your ego aside.

2. REMIND THEM THAT YOU’VE BEEN IN THEIR SHOES
The last three to five years, the NBA put out bios on us. Once the NBA did that, I had players come up to me and say, “Hey, Curtis, I didn’t know you played ball.” I’ll say to them, “I tried to tell you: I know what I’m doing.”

I think that was really helpful to me and other ex-players on the [officiating] staff. That gives you a little extra credibility with them.

You can't always want to be right.

3. TAKE LESSONS FROM BEING MARRIED
Listen, I’ve been married 22 years — you have to learn to listen. I think communication is the No. 1 thing in this profession. You have to learn how to defuse situations. You have to be patient.

Being [a referee] in the league for a long time and an ex-player, this is a game of emotions. As long as those emotions don’t cross a specific line, you have to be able to listen. And another thing: you can’t always want to be right.

4. PREPARE FOR THE UNEXPECTED
In our veterans camp meeting that we have in September, we go through a little role-playing — if coaches or players come at you, how to respond. And we have little catchphrases to use, what not to say, and things of that sort.

But I think the more you are in this business, you look at the older veterans and see what works for them — and conversely, you see what doesn’t work for them. You try to implement those things, so when you do have these situations where a player or a coach comes at you, you know what to say. Some you can joke with. Some you have to be 100 percent serious with.

5. DISCUSS THE GOOD TIMES YOU’VE HAD TOGETHER
Right before our veterans meeting, they have a coaching seminar up in Chicago. All the coaches and 10 to 12 referees are there. We talk about rules, the relationships between coaches and referees, players and referees. I happened to sit beside [a former NBA coach].

He was the funniest guy, but you would never know that by watching him on the sidelines because he’s always intense. So, the times I had him after that, I used to say, “What happened to the guy I sat beside for two days?” and he’d start laughing.