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Guide to the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials, Rhode Island Board #84 collection

Historical note

The organization of the First Board of Approved Basketball Officials by Phillip G. Lewis took place in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Board of Approved Basketball Officials was organized in November of 1912 by Phillip G. Lewis of Philadelphia who held the presidency of this board (the first organization of its kind in the world) continuously for 30 years of the board’s 82 years of existence.

Phil Lewis had as his ultimate objectives the standardization of the playing rules and officiating through interpretive meetings and demonstration games. The rapid development of similar local boards resulted in the first annual meeting of the present International Association of Approved Basketball Officials, which was conducted in the Hotel Astor, New York City, May 6, 1921.

Representatives from five of the seven chartered boards attended the meeting. The chartered boards functioning at that time were Philadelphia, Chicago, Montclair, NJ, Hartford, CT, Eastern Massachusetts, Detroit and Rochester. In 1924, Mr. Lewis presented to the National Committee a plan for the organization of the Pennsylvania State Board which was also the first state to organize. The plan was adopted at a meeting in Harrisburg, PA, to which the three districts of the state, namely Eastern, Central and Western had representatives. Out of the Philadelphia organization grew a number of eastern local boards.

Prior to the establishment of the board in the twenties, members merely sent their names to the Spalding Officials Basketball Guide, and they became listed as officials. Records indicate that from 1922 to 1925 about fourteen Rhode Island residents were listed with Spalding.

In 1926 a group of about fourteen individuals formed the RI Basketball Board. Louis A.R. Pieri who was then a teacher/coach at Central Falls High School was elected president. The membership of the RI Board jumped to twenty-one members in 1927, twenty-four members in 1928, and dropped to nineteen members in 1929. However, with development and expansion of the leagues it was clear more officials were going to be needed.

The early thirties saw further registration of officials nationally and their inclusion on the Joint Basketball Committee on Rules. Prior to this officials were just given a copy of the rules and an arm band (an indication of registered status) when they paid the one dollar fee.

In 1936 the National Association of Basketball Officials was formed and the Rhode Island Board became one of its nearly eighty board members. At this time the RI Board membership was twenty-six officials and grew to thirty-five members by 1939. The demand for more officials had became more apparent with creation of the Interscholastic League and with the growth of new schools throughout the country.

With the out break of World War II many officials entered the Armed Services and the national annual meetings ceased. However, from the end of the war to 1949 local membership grew to sixty-four members and at the national level discussions began for the adoption of an official uniform and the inclusion of the Manual of Officiating in the handbook.

The 1950s saw little change in membership numbers, but the official adopted uniform underwent several changes from the long sleeved grey shirt with navy cuffs and collar to a knit shirt with grey short sleeves. And at the national level, the NAABO changed its name to the International Association of Approved Board Officials (IAABO). Stewart Paxton was also elected as Executive Secretary of the IAABO during this time period.

The Rhode Island Board started off in 1960 with fifty members and grew to seventy members by the end of the decade. This rapid growth ended up having a negative effect on the number of high school assignments members would be able to receive.

On January 23, 1962 Eddie Jusczk died suddenly while officiating a game between Coventry High School and Chariho High School. The following year the Eddie Jusczk Memorial Award was established in his memory. On September 14, 1967 the RIBOA was represented at the Fall meeting of the IAABO in Hagerstown, Maryland by Jack Brady and George Tracy, who had requested to be included on the agenda at the behest of the RIBOA. At issue was the formation of a military board in the state of Rhode Island without the consent of the RIBOA. This being in violation of the IAABO constitution. After lengthy discussion it was agreed that the military board would be dissolved and those full members of IAABO would be absorbed by the RIBOA. It was also agreed to that the constitution would be adhered to in the future.

The decade of the seventies started with a membership of seventy-one members and finished with eighty-two members. With no major increase in the number of participating schools, competition for assignments increased. Many in the organization were concerned about the lack of equity in game assignments and the lack of ability to develop under pressure.

In 1973 RIBAO started the William "Bill" Kutneski Memorial Basketball Heritage Award in memory of Providence College graduate Bill Kutneski. Bill was not only a coach, an official, and an educator, but he also served for some time as the Commissioner of Basketball.

At the national level, Paul "Frosty" Francis succeeded Stewart Paxton who retired as Executive Director of the IAABO.

The 1980s started with a membership of ninety members and finished with eighty-eight. In October of 1983 Arthur "Buster" Iannotti, President of the RIBOA died suddenly and as a result the Arthur "Buster" Iannotti Memorial Award was established in his memory. The award, started in 1984, is presented to an official, past or present, who has made contributions to basketball by demonstrating outstanding leadership qualities. Chuck Vermette agreed to step in and serve the remainder of the presidential term.

In 1986, the Tom Lavery Memorial Award was established in memory of Dr. Thomas Lavery, a long time collegiate and high school basketball official and educator in the State of Rhode Island. The award is presented to a school participating in the Rhode Island Interscholastic League play offs whose team, coaches, and fans exhibit high levels of sportsmanship during playoff competition.

Text Source: Rhode Island Basketball Officials Association IAABO Board #84, 1993

The following is a brief timeline of the early history of basketball.

1891 Dec

Dr. James Naismith, an instructor at the School for Christian Workers (Springfield College), in Springfield, Massachusetts, invented the game of basket ball.

1892 Jan 15

The School for Christian Workers Triangle printed the first rules.

1892 Mar 11

The students and teachers of the School for Christian Workers, played the first public game before a crowd of over two hundred. (The students won, 5-1.)


International interest began with an introduction of the game in Mexico.

1893 Mar 22

Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, was the first school to allow women to play. (But the College did not allow male spectators.)


The first nets were manufactured by the Narragansett machine Company of Providence, Rhode Island. (The original peach baskets had been replaced earlier by metal loops.)


Trenton, New Jersey, was the site of the first professional game.


The Olympic games, which were held in St. Louis, Missouri, included an exhibition game, the National collegiate tournament.


The first group of officials began to meet at the Montclair, New Jersey, YMCA.

1912 Nov

The first recognized Local Board of Approved Officials formed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


The Joint Basketball Rules Committee was formed when the Amateur Athletic Union and the National College Athletic Association decided to produce one set of rules, publish a Basketball Guide and organize officials into an accredited group. A National list of approved officials was drawn up. (A grading system and arm bands were later discontinued.)


Chartered boards began to organize.

1927 Jan 7

The popularity of the sport increased greatly following the first appearance of the Harlem Globetrotters, organized by Abe Saperstein, in Hinckley, Illinois.

1935 Feb 28

Basketball was approved as an official Olympic sport.

1935 Apr 6

The chartered Boards organize the National Association of Approved Basketball Officials.

1936 Aug 1-6

The United States' early domination of the sport was evident in the presentation by Dr. Naismith at the Berlin games of the first Olympic medal in basketball. (The United States had defeated Canada, 19-8.)