NEW YORK - Gerry Donaghy remembers the toughest day.

"It was the very first day," said the longtime NCAA referee and father of Tim Donaghy. "It was last year, Father's Day. That's when I first found out about it."

That's when the father found out his son, an NBA official for 13 years, was being investigated for trading inside information on NBA games in 2006-07 for cash payments.

"He called me and let me know," Donaghy said of his son. "He was a man about it."

In his first public comments, Gerry Donaghy, a longtime Havertown resident who now is retired and living in Sea Isle City, N.J., talked to a reporter in the Brooklyn courthouse just after his son was sentenced to 12 to 15 months in federal prison.

Like his son, Donaghy made it clear that he harbored bitterness toward Tim Donaghy's former employer.

"I think the NBA has big problems," he said. "I refereed college basketball for 31, 32 years. I refereed 18 NCAA tournaments, four Final Fours, and I never ran into things like they have in the NBA, where you give guys preferential treatment. Michael Jordan in that one game pushes the guy off and scores the winning goal. You just had one with Kobe Bryant in a game this year. A foul at the top and not one whistle."

Gerry Donaghy referred to his son's own handicapping expertise.

"Anybody that can pick seven out of 10 basketball games in any given week, pick the winners by the point spread - there's got to be something wrong with the NBA," he said. "Nobody can do that."

Gerry Donaghy, one of the most respected college officials in the country in the 1980s and '90s, immediately added about his son: "He did a bad thing. He should have gotten punished for doing a bad thing."

In the courtroom, Gerry Donaghy, sitting in the front row, grimaced a little when the sentence was announced.

"I thought the sentence was a little over the top, but the judge looks at it different than I do," Donaghy said. "I'm his parent."

The father said he had held up fine over the last year.

"I get by very easily because I haven't done anything wrong," he said. "Timmy's the one that had the problem. He has to get by. His mother's having a tough time getting by because it's her son. I can face things head-on, just like I told him upstairs, just before we left [the courtroom]."

Gerry Donaghy tried to go over to the defense table after the court was adjourned, but a court officer said his son would have to go to him. Tim Donaghy quickly did so.

Recounting that quick conversation, just after the sentence was announced, the father added: "He got caught doing a bad thing. I can't emphasize that too much."

Gerry Donaghy talked of how the Rev. Bob Hagan, a priest and assistant athletic director at Villanova, as well as a chaplain for the sports teams, came to the sentencing because he was best friends with Jim Donaghy, Tim's brother. Gerry Donaghy talked of Jim and his two other children.

"Three of them have prosperous careers. One is a dentist, two are engineers," Donaghy said. "The two engineers are traveling all over the world. They're well-respected. Tim decided to be a referee, [then] he treaded in the wrong hole."

Donaghy said he talked to his son a lot in the last year and went to Florida a couple of times to see him. And when Tim Donaghy came north for court hearings in New York, he flew to Atlantic City to see his parents. The father offered his input, Gerry Donaghy said, probably more than he did when his son was officiating.

"But he's 40-something years old," Gerry Donaghy said. "He's a grown man."

Contact staff writer Mike Jensen
at 215-854-4489 or mjensen@phillynews.com.