Longtime NBA referee worked more than 1,600 games
Greg Willard, 54, a longtime NBA referee who worked more than 1,600 games before he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, died Monday at his home in Huntington Beach, according to NBA spokesman Tim Frank.
Willard was diagnosed with the illness during last season's playoffs and worked only one more game, a Lakers exhibition at the Honda Center in October.
Moments of silence to honor him were planned at all NBA games Tuesday and Wednesday.
FOR THE RECORD:
Ronnie Ray Smith: A brief obituary of sprinter Ronnie Ray Smith in the April 3 LATExtra section said that he once held a world record of 9.9 seconds in the 100-yard dash. The record time was for 100 meters. —
"The entire NBA family joins me in mourning the loss of one of our own, Greg Willard," said NBA Commissioner David Stern. "Greg touched all those with whom he came in contact thanks to his extraordinary spirit, dedication and hard work. As a Finals referee, he reached the highest level of his profession while at the same time demonstrating a strong commitment to his family and his community."
Willard officiated 1,494 regular-season games, 136 playoff games, two NBA Finals games, the 2006 All-Star game and Europe Live games in 2006 in Italy, France and Germany.
All league officials will wear wristbands or patches with Willard's jersey No. 57 for the rest of the season.
Born Nov. 5, 1958, in Pasadena, Willard began officiating athletic events for the local parks and recreation department when he was a student at Edison High School in Huntington Beach in the 1970s.
He attended Orange Coast College and Cal State Long Beach and began working as an official for high school football, basketball and baseball games. He spent four years as an official at the college level and four years working games in the Continental Basketball Assn. before joining the NBA ranks in 1988.
Willard and his wife, Laurie, had three children. He was active in several youth programs in Orange County, particularly ones supporting athletics and the performing arts.
Ronnie Ray Smith
Manual Arts High runner won Olympic gold
Ronnie Ray Smith, 64, a 1967 graduate of Manual Arts High School who won a gold medal as a member of the 4x100-meter relay team that set a world record at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, died Sunday at a hospice in Los Angeles, according to former Manual Arts basketball Coach Reggie Morris Sr. The cause was not given.
Smith ran the third leg on the Olympic relay team that included fellow sprinters Charles Greene, Mel Pender and Jim Hines. The winning time was 38.24 seconds, a world record.
Smith once held the world record in the 100-yard dash at 9.9 seconds.
He finished third in the 220 at the state high school track championships in 1966 and went on to compete for San Jose State University along with fellow Olympians Tommie Smith, John Carlos and Lee Evans.