When Connor Young was 4-years-old, he and brother Jared would watch their father, John, officiate high school basketball games and hear some pretty rude comments hurled his way.
“I was like, ‘They don’t really know him as well as we do, why are they yelling at him?” Connor said.
Jared, who was 6 at the time, added, “At first I was like, ‘All right, I don’t want to go up to him after the game with people bashing him and stuff.’”
With that in mind, it would seem the Young brothers would shy away from wanting to officiate basketball. It was quite the opposite, however, and on Jan. 18 the Hamilton Township family will be making area history.
For the first time, a father and his two sons from the local referee’s organization IAABO 193 will officiate a game together when Steinert High School visits Florence on Jan. 18. In the past, veteran officials Rob Riley and Fred Dumont, among others, officiated games with their sons. Even John Young has worked with Jared doing varsity games.
“A lot of fathers and sons have reffed together,” said John, more commonly known as Bing. “But as far as anyone knows, this is the first time a father and two sons from 193 will ref together since they put the three-man crews on games.”
For the 58-year-old Bing, whose nickname came from the 1960’s cartoon Ricochet Rabbit, it will be a dream come true when his trio takes the court.
“It’s very rewarding, this is something I always hoped for,” he said. “I’ve been doing varsity for so many years. These guys actually motivate me, they keep me going. They’re so much younger and quicker, it makes me work harder to keep up with them as long as I don’t hurt myself.
“I just think it’s a cool thing. Going through all the years of coaching them when they played AAU ball, now that they’re through playing, to referee with them, it’s cool. When me and Jared did a game at Florence, they’d say, ‘Tonight’s referees on the game are John Young and Jared Young.’ That’s cool hearing your name over the intercom when it’s your son with you.”
Born and raised in Hamilton, Bing played basketball and soccer for St. Anthony’s High School (now Trenton Catholic Academy) and played soccer at Mercer County Community College until injuries cut that short.
He began officiating AAU ball at age 23 while looking for some pocket money. Enjoying the job so much, Bing attended camps, went through the evaluation process and began doing varsity games five years later.
His first game was Trenton against Hightstown, where he was paired with veteran official Vince McKelvey. The coaches were Trenton’s Billy Clark and Hightstown’s Don Hess; and the latter was known as one of the great referee baiters in the county. To top it all off, the game was being filmed by the now-defunct WBZN TV station so Bing was on film for the world to see.
“Vince McKelvey made me feel so relaxed in a rough game to work,” Young said. “Trenton won in overtime, and Vince and I became good friends.”
And a career was underway. Young lived in Bordentown when his sons were in high school and both played for the Scotties basketball team before the dad and both sons moved back to Hamilton. When the boys weren’t playing, they would watch as many of Bing’s games as possible.
“We’d talk about it a lot,” Young said. “We’d sit around the dining room table and talk about the rules of the game. I’d take them to games, and we’d point to the referees. They didn’t like that I’d get yelled at, but I’d tell them, ‘Listen, it’s part of the job.’ They actually used to critique me. When it was over I’d say, ‘What did you think?’ The younger one would always say, ‘Dad I think you missed that call over there. I would have called a charge but you called a block.’”
Connor wasn’t the only critic in the family. When Bing and Jared did games together, Bing’s late mother, Lucy, would also provide her analysis.
“She would tell me all the time, ‘I think my grandsons are better than you,’” Young said. “She would watch them and say, ‘They can run quicker than you, they’re in better shape then you.’ I said ‘They should be, I got 30 years on them!’”
Jared, now 27, began officiating nine years ago and was influenced by his dad.
“I liked watching my dad, and I always liked the sport,” he said. “Once I got older it was a way to pay the bills and I like helping kids out. It’s just a fun thing to do.”
Even with fans yelling insults?
“I thought about that,” Jared said. “You’re always going to get it from everywhere. You can have a perfect game, and there’s still gonna be people bashing you. I kind of just took it. You have to.”
While Jared has been doing varsity games for several years, the Florence game will be the first for Connor at age 25. He has done recreation, AAU, middle school, freshman and junior varsity games since starting five years ago.
“Varsity is a little more stressful,” Connor said. “I like to go out there and just ref now. I guess a year or two down the road I’ll be doing nothing but varsity games.”
The reason he chose this game is two-fold. For one, it will fulfill his dad’s dream, and Jan. 18 would have been Lucy’s 90th birthday.
“This is a tribute to my dad and my grandma too,” Connor said. “It kind of worked out, two birds, one stone. I can honor them both.”
“She’ll be looking down watching us, and she’ll be happy,” Jared said.
Bing has worked with both his sons separately, but never together. He noted that coaches would try and work on Jared when he first started because he was young.
“He would say, ‘Dad, I don’t understand why is he busting my chops? I’m a lot quicker than you, I get up the court more, I’m in better shape than you,’” Bing said. “I said, ‘Do you want me to handle it, or do you want me to handle it?’ He said, ‘No, I got this.’ He went up to the coach and said, ‘I know I’m competent and my calls are right,’ and he said it with confidence.”
As the Young brothers continue to earn the respect their dad already has, it will be interesting to watch the game unfold when they are all working together.
Connor feels it will be a smooth operation.
“The good part of reffing with those two is I know they’ve got my back,” he said. “We don’t step on each other’s toes. We might at home; but on the court it’s not about any one of us, it’s about controlling the game, and everyone has their own area.”
Jared is just happy to give Bing the opportunity he has waited for.
“This means a lot to my dad,” Jared said. “I’ve reffed with my dad and my brother, but never at the same time. It should be interesting, the three of us together. It should be a game to see.”
According to Connor, plenty of people will see it.
“I work in a tuxedo shop, and I have my boss coming; and I work at a restaurant and some guys from there are coming,” he said. “It should be a packed house. There will be more stripes on the sidelines than shirts for the teams. It will look like a Foot Locker team.”