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It's time to call him Jack Barclay, Hall of Famer

It was the great Mac Davis who sang, "Oh Lord, it's hard to be humble, when you're perfect in every way." Kind of feeling that way today about our corner of the world.

Turns out our modest acreage isn't just producing an extraordinary number of professional athletes. We have referees in The Show, too, notably Matt Boland and Josh Tiven in the NBA. And now one of the men who helped mentor both of them can call himself a Hall of Famer.

Jack Barclay learned recently that he became one of but 20 other basketball officials in state history to be awarded with a lifetime membership to the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials (IAABO) for "contributing to the growth, purpose and ideals of the IAABO and the welfare of the game of basketball in an outstanding way through service to his local area, district, state and national boards."

The Big Fella will attend a ceremony in honor of all new inductees April 9 in Ocean City, Maryland.

"I'm so thrilled," Barclay said last week. "It's funny, but when I got out of college I wanted to be a coach. Working at EB, I couldn't do it. But I enjoyed officiating immensely. Great bunch of guys."

Barclay's presence — usually with Phil Yering and Rich Radicioni — meant one thing: This must be a big game. Countless coaches saw him enter their gyms and happily realized they needn't worry about the officiating that night. The ultimate compliment.

"When you hear that, it gets you right here," Barclay said, pointing to his heart.

Pick one word to describe him and you again land here: presence. You don't mess with the big guy. He had what all great officials do: The instinct to know when to be harsh and when to be a negotiator.

Barclay officiated countless state and league championship games. Yet his words the other day suggested the old New London-St. Bernard games in the '80s might have been his favorites.

"When St. Bernard had Harold (Pressley) ... there was nothing like those games," he said. "Mike Pennella, Rich Pagliuca. Throw (former NFA coach) Chris McKeon in there, too. Their games were fun as well. Great memories."

Barclay also spent 31 years as a football official. Let's leave it here: There were nights when the officiating was more fun than the game. Barclay still laughs at nights with John Gomes, Jim Butler, Whitey Whitehouse and Bob Spreng, among others.

Everything from betting on how many hot dogs Butler could eat at halftime to Gomes throwing a flag one day as the umpire and reporting to Barclay that he forgot why he threw it.

The personal favorite: Barclay would announce that a team's timeouts were "exhausted" at the end of a half. Nobody else ever said that — or could pull it off the way Barclay did. (I couldn't wait for it and laughed faithfully at it.)

Now he's home nights watching Boland and Tiven in the NBA. Tiven recently officiated two games in the NBA Finals.

"I'm so happy for them both," Barclay said. "I hope they took from me some of the things I took coming up from George Dropo and Kenny Miller. Watching them is unbelievable. I still send them texts after games. They're very good at taking constructive criticism and always ask good questions."

Barclay spent many years as the Board 8 assigner. He'd often sit at the press table to get as close as possible to critique the officials. His seat often drew the occasional holler from coaches, who, loosely translated, would ask Barclay how he could possibly assign these two dopes to this particular game. (Some colleagues may have wondered the same thing.)

"As the assigner, you realize that everybody wants to bat third or fourth and everybody thinks they can do it," Barclay said. "Unfortunately, everybody can't. I just wanted to put the best out there. And I wanted to be as close as I could. Maybe I should have sat in the stands."

Now he sits with only 20 others in state history, commanding the highest honor a basketball official can receive.

"I'm tickled to death," Barclay said. "It was so rewarding. The games, the camaraderie with the guys. Lot of good guys there."

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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