Super Senior: Brian McCarthy

Published: Jan. 12, 2023 at 6:29 PM EST
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HYDE PARK, Vt. (WCAX) - Brian McCarthy is going back to where it all started -- the basketball court at Lamoille Union Middle School in Hyde Park.

“First game ever was here,” said McCarthy, who’s been refereeing games like this for over two decades. On this night, it’s the Lancers taking on the Hazen Union Wildcats.

“Basketball in Vermont is borderline religion,” McCarthy said. “It is a passion for the fans, the parents, the school, the neighborhood, and they love it.”

The game is one of three back-to-back that McCarthy is reffing. The secret, he says, is pacing. “You won’t see a whole lot of running out of me these days... I joke, there’s a lot of shuffling.”

At 70, McCarthy isn’t the oldest ref in Vermont, but perhaps the most dedicated. That’s because at halftime, he’s got another job. He’s also the commissioner of student basketball for half the state. “Oh, geographically, it’s huge. And also do a lot of middle school assigning within there,” he said.

There are 37 games on this day alone, from White River to Richford. McCarthy has to make sure there are enough referees under the nets. “My biggest fear is an athletic director calling me at 4:30 and he says, ‘Brian, my game is not in the system,’” he said. Except for a ref running late for a game, everything is moving smoothly on the courts.

“I can’t imagine how often either his phone pings or his computer gives him messaging,” said Tim Messier, the Lamoille Union High School athletic director.

Reporter Joe Carroll: How many days a week are you reffing, do you think?

Brian McCarthy: Oh, right now - seven.

He occasionally works a high school game to keep on his toes, but it’s the younger players he enjoys the most.

Jim Williams, a former ref himself, is a regular at the Lancer home games. “Every game he’ll come over and fist bump me. So, he knows I’m here watching.” Williams said.

In the end, the home team is triumphant -- Lancers 29, Wildcats 24 -- but for McCarthy, winning is just part of the game. “I love watching the kids compete and grow,” he said.