WNBA Announces Officials for 2018 Playoffs

NEW YORK – The WNBA today announced the 16 referees who have earned spots to officiate in the 2018 WNBA Playoffs.

Playoff officials are selected by the WNBA Referee Operations management team based on three specific criteria throughout the season: WNBA Referee Operations’ graded rankings, play-calling accuracy and team feedback.  Officials will be evaluated after each round of the playoffs to determine future advancement in the 2018 postseason.

“These 16 referees have demonstrated extraordinary commitment and determination to be the best at their craft,” said Bethany Donaphin, Head of WNBA League Operations.  “Officiating in the playoffs is a well-deserved honor for them.”

The 2018 WNBA Playoffs will begin on Tuesday, Aug. 21.  Individual game assignments for referees are posted at NBA.com/official at approximately 9 a.m. ET each game day.  Each game crew consists of three on-court officials and one on-site alternate.

The 16 referees assigned to the 2018 WNBA Playoffs are below:

Isaac Barnett (2 WNBA seasons)
Tiffany Bird (5)
Eric Brewton (17)
Tiara Cruse (5)
Cheryl Flores (6)
Maj Forsberg (10)
Janetta Graham (7)
Tim Greene (8)
Roy Gulbeyan (20)
Byron Jarrett (11)
Brenda Pantoja (7)
Michael Price (19)
Billy Smith (8)
Jeffrey Smith (17)
Kurt Walker (19)
Jeff Wooten (7)

WNBA Referee Sue Blauch Named Head of WNBA Referee Performance and Development

NEW YORK– The WNBA announced today that Sue Blauch, a WNBA referee for 20 seasons, has been named to the newly created role of Head of WNBA Referee Performance and Development.

Blauch will step away from officiating games to assume the position with the league office immediately.  She worked her final game on July 24 at Indiana.

In her new role, Blauch will oversee the day-to-day management and on-court performance of the WNBA’s officiating staff.  Blauch will report to Monty McCutchen, NBA Vice President, Head of Referee Development and Training.

Blauch has worked the WNBA Finals since 2005 and officiated the 2006 and 2011 WNBA All-Star Games.  Her international career began in 1997 and culminated with the 2006 FIBA Basketball World Cup and the Bronze Medal game at the 2008 Summer Olympics.

“Sue is uniquely positioned to transition into a leadership role in the WNBA officiating program,” said McCutchen.  “That stems, first and foremost, from the fact that she has earned the resolute respect of players, coaches and, of course, her peers during an exemplary career.  Sue’s experience, knowledge and insight into how the league can best support its talented team of referees will prove to be invaluable.”

Blauch, 53, has 28 years of college officiating experience in the Big Ten, SEC, ACC, American, Big East, Conference USA and Colonial conferences. She has worked the NCAA Tournament since 1996, including the 2009 and 2011 Final Fours. Blauch also officiated multiple conference championship games, including the ACC, Big Ten and Conference USA.

“Officiating is a passion of mine,” said Blauch. “There are few things as exciting as being on the court.  And while stepping away from that is a difficult decision, this is an incredible opportunity to make an impact in an entirely new and innovative way with a fresh perspective while continuing to work closely with the dedicated and talented officials in this league.”

A native of Short Gap, WV, Blauch earned a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education and Psychology from Eastern Mennonite University and a Master of Education degree in Counseling Psychology from James Madison University. In addition to officiating, Blauch worked in higher education for 15 years in various roles, including director of housing and residence life and regional director of development at Eastern Mennonite University.

About the WNBA
The WNBA – which features 12 teams and is the most successful women’s professional team sports league in the world – is a unique global sports property combining competition, sportsmanship, and entertainment value with its status as an icon for social change, achievement, and diversity. Through WNBA Cares, the WNBA is deeply committed to creating programs that promote a healthy lifestyle and positive body image, support youth and family development, and inspire and empower women. For more information on the WNBA, log on to www.wnba.com.

Don Vaden Departs Position with WNBA Officiating Program

NEW YORK – Don Vaden, WNBA Vice President, Referee Operations and Director of Officiating Programs, is departing his position after nearly 30 years with the NBA and WNBA.

Vaden’s decision was announced today by Monty McCutchen, the new NBA Vice President, Head of Referee Development and Training.  McCutchen oversees the development and training of all officials in the NBA officiating program, which services the NBA, WNBA and NBA G League.

Vaden, the only person to serve as Director of Officials in both the NBA and WNBA, will continue to be available to the leagues through his new consulting venture, Don Vaden Interactive Consulting.  On the WNBA side, Shelley Russi will continue in her role with the referees’ performance and development.

“The timing is right for me to pivot and contribute to the game in a new capacity,” said Vaden.  “It’s been an honor to serve the league for over 29 years and I am grateful for all that this opportunity has afforded my family.  My role as the Director of Officials in both the NBA and WNBA has been the highlight of my career off the court.”

During his management tenure, Vaden introduced the concept of four-person officiating crews (which have been used in the NBA G League) and the development of a scouting group, which helps increase the available referee pool globally.  He was involved in all aspects of referee operations including the NBA Replay Center, the recruitment, evaluation and training of officials and a focus on building strong relationships between referees and teams.

Previously, Vaden served as an NBA official for 15 seasons, working 854 regular-season games and 59 playoff games before retiring in 2003.

“Don has been a tremendous asset to our officiating program, both as a teacher and evaluator,” said McCutchen.  “He has been a great advocate for our staff, and we will miss his leadership and guidance.”