Retired NBA referee Woody Mayfield grew up in Apache, graduated from Southwestern State, taught and coached in Lawton for six years and Norman for two before becoming a Big Eight basketball official in 1978. Ten years later, Mayfield began a 10-year career calling games in the NBA.
I started when I was in college. I guess I was poor and hungry. Me and a guy named Ben Looper started driving around southwest Oklahoma in the springtime. We'd just drive up to the gym, try to find the coach, ask him if we could work some ballgames. We ended up picking up 15-20 games. They were junior high games. That's how we started. I worked on every level.
My dad was a coach/educator. I was just a young kid. That's what I wanted to do. I was at Lawton for six years as a football coach and golf coach at Lawton Eisenhower. Then I moved to Norman for two years, coached football for a year. Then I got out. The reason I got out of education was you couldn't make a living.
I liked the NBA much better. In college basketball, it's all about the coaches, basically. They don't advertise about the players. They advertise Lon Kruger's Sooners against such and such. That's where the money is. The coaches are making all the money. So that's what they promote.
In the NBA, they promote the players. The coach is there, and they are making a lot of money, but nothing like the players make.
I think the NBA was probably better. It's not easier, because they're bigger, faster. I just enjoyed it more. The travel was better. When I was in college, I'd work 70-80 games a year. I'd call four or five games a week. Not just Big Eight. Missouri Valley, SEC. At the end of my college career, I was flying all over the country, trying to get to games. Believe me, you get tired. In the NBA, you probably work three games a week. I'd go out for four or five games, then I'd come home for three or four days. The travel was easier.
In the pros, especially when I was working, it was about a three-man game. Because you had only 24 seconds to shoot, a post player, a strong forward and a guard. And they'd play one side of the floor. Couldn't pass it much or you'd take a bad shot. It was really easy to anticipate.
It's not quite like that now, since they're playing zone defenses. I know they have some restrictions. But when they had to play man to man defense, it was a three-man game. And they walked the ball up the floor.
Joe Dumars was perfect. I loved Joe Dumars. Magic (Johnson) was good to work for or work with. Isiah (Thomas) wasn't too bad. (Larry) Bird, he was kind of snarly. (Hakeem) Olajuwon could be an absolute mess. Olajuwon, I'd get sick and tired of listening to him. I'd go grab an assistant coach and say, ‘look, if you don't do something with him, I'm going to.' They'd talk to him, he'd come out, give a little nod and you'd never hear from him again.
I loved Wes Unseld. Great guy. Pat Riley wasn't bad to work for. Jerry Sloan was one of my favorites. He didn't sit there and snip at you. If he had something to say, he'd come right at you. That's the kind of guys I liked.
I didn't have a lot of trouble with pro coaches. If you call a technical foul, in college it was like they took it personal. Then they'd blacklist you. It affected your schedule. Didn't get as many games, didn't make as much money. In the pros, a technical foul, it's part of the game. When it's over, it's over. But I tell you what, my feeling was, if a coach didn't show me up, I wouldn't show him up. That's what I determined how I handled coaches. They got it.