Richard F. "Richie" Powers (October 14, 1930 – July 31, 1998) was a professional basketball referee in the NBA from 1956 to 1979. He worked 25 NBA Finals games, including the triple-overtime Game 5 contest in the 1976 NBA Finals between the Suns and the Celtics, considered "The Greatest Game Ever Played" as well as three All-Star Games. Following his career in the NBA, Powers was a sportscaster for WABC-TV.
Early life and career
NBA officiating career
1976 NBA Finals
Powers officiated the triple-overtime Game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals, which was notable for controversial moments involving Powers. With the score tied at 95 with three seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Boston stole a Suns inbound pass and the Celtics' Paul Silas attempted to call a time-out by giving the "T" sign to Powers. Boston had no timeouts remaining, which if recognized, would have resulted in a technical foul and a free throw awarded to Phoenix. However, Powers did not acknowledge Silas's request for the time-out as time expired. Mendy Rudolph and Rick Barry, color commentators for the CBS Sports telecast, were quick to note that Silas was signaling for a timeout, but Powers ignored the request. Boston went on to win the game in the third overtime period. According to the Suns organization, Powers later told a Phoenix golf professional that he didn't want to see the championship decided on a technicality. Angered over the incident, Al Bianchi, then-assistant coach of the Suns, ordered a ring in which the words "Fuck You, Richie Powers" were inscribed.
Powers was also attacked in the same game by an irate Celtics fan on the court after making the decision to put one second back on the game clock following a made bank shot by the Celtics' John Havlicek at the end of the second overtime that put Boston up by 1. The game clock expired as Havlicek made the field goal and fans at the Boston Garden stormed onto the court assuming the game was over. Rick Barry and play-by-play announcer Brent Musburger were quick to note on the telecast of the game that two seconds remained, but Powers made the decision that one second remained in the second overtime period after order was restored in the arena.
Decision to retire
Powers' strength among the referees was diminished considerably when he was one of two referees (with Earl Strom) who did not strike during the 1977 playoffs. Two incidents in the 1977-78 and 1978-79 seasons further reduced his reputation: In a February 1978 game between the New Jersey Nets and Atlanta Hawks, Powers, to avoid being badgered, told coaches Kevin Loughery and Hubie Brown that they could play zone defenses. One sportswriter in the arena reported this to the league which resulted in Powers being suspended for three weeks and fined $2,500. In a November 8, 1978 game at the Spectrum, Powers hit both Kevin Loughery and then rookie Bernard King with their third technical fouls, over the "limit" of two prescribed by an unwritten rule, although Powers claims he was not reminded that each person was hit with a previous technical foul by the other officials working the game with him. This resulted in Powers being fined and suspended again.
Powers retired from the NBA after the 1978–79 season.
After leaving the NBA, he became sportscaster on WABC-TV in New York, New York. After his contract expired, he became Director of Operations for the U.S. Basketball League in 1985. He left this position, presumably after the NBA signed most of the newly formed minor league's talent. After selling cable television subscriptions and cars, he returned to his former position with the USBL in 1990. Richie Powers was a longtime member of Westchester Country Club in Rye, New York. He later died of a stroke in 1998 in Allentown, Pennsylvania at the age of 67.
Powers, Richie; Mark Mulvoy (1975). Overtime!: An uninhibited account of a referee's life in the NBA. McKay. ISBN 0-679-50545-8.