TARRYTOWN, N.Y. -- When he entered the banquet hall on Monday, Dick Bavetta was in a bad mood.

Why wasn't the NBA referee feeling better? Well, he didn't like the cordial reception he received upon being introduced at this year's Rookie Transition Program. So he had the first-year players redo his welcome to better fit his liking.

"When I count to three, I want everyone on this side of the room to yell, 'Oh no!'" Bavetta instructed the left side of the room. "Over here, when I get to three, I want you to scream, 'Bad call!'" he told the middle group. And everyone on the right was instructed to yell "Get a job!"

After giving his audience their specific invectives, Bavetta counted slowly to three and gestured to the room to let him have it. A chorus of screaming rookies then unleashed a cacophony of catcalls upon the veteran official of 2,100 NBA games. Such harsh criticism would have sent anyone else into a funk. Bavetta, however, received the collective ire with a smile on his face and then thanked everyone for making him feel more at home.

Although they might not always see eye-to-eye, Bavetta has a solid rapport with most NBA players.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
For, it appears that only when being showered with criticism does a referee feel in his or her element.

As much as Bavetta and his fellow refs might welcome the wrath of players, coaches and fans, however, they very often do their jobs too well for anyone to complain. Bavetta and fellow referee Tom Washington addressed the class of 2003 at this year's Rookie Transition Program, lecturing them on what it takes to become an NBA official, and what their goals and philosophies are when it comes to calling a game.

Washington, who outlined his group's "serious commitment to our jobs" went over some interesting facts pertaining to his profession. Among them:

- Much like the players, NBA officials have annual training camps, where they hone their crafts. They are expected to arrive in top physical shape.

- It takes 10-14 years overall experience before a referee is considered for a position as an NBA official

- It takes seven years experience for an NBA official to call a playoff game

- It takes 14-20 years for an NBA official to work an NBA Finals game (an honor that Washington called "the pinnacle of our career")

Washington also reviewed what an official's focus should be on the court. Chief among these responsibilities: provide players with the freedom of movement; allow aggressive play, not rough play; and, ultimately, make the players look good.

Despite the countless hours of training and preparation, however, Bavetta acknowledged that, naturally, mistakes will occur. But Bavetta doesn't expect his charges to be perfect. The veteran ref went so far as to say that he and his peers will seek players out to admit mistakes during a break in the action, which helps them maintain better relationships with the players.

Of course, having a sense of humor doesn't hurt, either. When discussing the myth that first-year players never get favorable calls, Bavetta took the opportunity to crack wise.

"It's not true that rookies don't get the calls, and that you start getting calls in your second year," Bavetta joked with the rookies.

"It's in your third year in the league that you start getting the calls."

Welcome to the NBA, guys. He'll be here all season.