by Scott Kindberg
December 7, 2021
Nearly 40 local members of the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials sit in the bleachers at McElrath Gymnasium at Jamestown High School. It’s just after noon on Sunday and their rules interpretation meeting is coming to a close.
Before they adjourn, however, Roger MacTavish, one of IAABO’s most respected arbiters, makes an appearance, wheeled into the gym by his daughter, Meredith. Soon after, Marty Burroughs the Board 121 interpreter (Cattaraugus County), presents Roger with an IAABO award called the “Foundation Chair.”
“In order for one of these awards to be given out in somebody’s name, a donation is made to the IAABO Education and Development Committee,” Burroughs tells the gathering. ” … All of the education stuff that you see from IAABO and what is available to (rules) interpreters to use at meetings is produced with the money that comes from this foundation.”
Upon accepting the commemorative trophy, Roger receives a standing ovation from his peers.
Roger, 87, doesn’t officiate basketball anymore, but he hasn’t stopped watching the game, especially the men and women in the striped shirts. The games are part of his DNA, dating back to 1951 when he walked out on the court for the first time when he was 17.
“I just can’t believe that time has gone this fast,” Roger said.
To say that he’s done it all would not be an overstatement.
In addition to working high school games and college games at all levels, Roger is a life member of IAABO, the highest honor the organization can bestow on one of its members; was the past chairman of the Rules Executive Committee, which meant that he was responsible for making up a refresher test and a candidate’s exam for all IAABO members and potential members; and he also made up the exam for all NCAA basketball officials.
“We kind of take stuff for granted,” Board 39 official Tom Heppeler said, “but we’ve got Roger MacTavish. We clearly have the interpreter’s interpreter, and we’ve had it for many years.”
Added Rich Hill, who belongs to Board 39 and is president of Board 121: “I’ve had the opportunity to attend several of these conferences for IAABO and I can tell you Roger is the most revered person I’ve ever seen at these meetings. He’s special at the international level. In my career, whenever I had a question — and we’ve had some good interpreters in Cattaraugus County — I never called them. I always called Roger. … He would know the answer every time.”
Roger appeared clearly moved by the entire ceremony.
“I’ve been very fortunate to belong to Board 39 since 1955,” he said. ” … I really appreciate this situation this afternoon, to be able to be part of Board 39 and to be part of the people who are involved in running the board.”
With the tributes complete, Heppeler asked the officials to join Roger on the court for a group photo. Assembled in a semi-circle between the 3-point arc and mid-court line, the men and women looked toward the bleachers and smiled.
Sitting in his wheelchair, front and center, was Roger, grinning from ear to ear.