John Woods, 43, has been a high school basketball referee in and around Gwinnett County for the past four years. His full-time job is as field manager for T-Mobile.
In this latest installment of "Getting to Know..." the Detroit, Mich., native, whose youngest daughter, Melissa, was the starting point guard for two Collins Hill state championship teams, talks with staff writer Corey Clark on a variety of subjects, from how he got into officiating to the funniest thing he's heard on the court to how long he plans on doing it. CC: So you're from Detroit, huh? Anywhere close to 8 Mile?
JW: Yeah, about 15 to 20 miles away.
CC: So I can assume your upbringing was very similar to Eminem's?
JW: (laughs) No, not at all. I lived more like where we are now, in the suburbs.
CC: Did you play basketball growing up?
JW: Actually, no I didn't. I played hockey. My winter sport was hockey. I tried out (for basketball) a couple of years and got cut. So I gave it up.
CC: But you were a good hockey player?
JW: Yeah. I played for eight years. That's where I got my aggressiveness. I was the enforcer on my team. I'm only 5-10, but I ended up being the one out there as the enforcer.
CC: So how did you get into basketball officiating?
JW: When my daughter started playing basketball, she ended up playing a lot at the Suwanee Sports Academy. And she would get to know the referees pretty well, they liked the way she played I guess. One day I saw one of the head referees and I just asked him about it. And from there, that was how I started with AAU ball and rec ball. And then I moved up to high school when Melissa moved up to college ball.
CC: How do you put up with the things you hear from fans and coaches? It's got to be hard?
JW: For me, I've been an AAU coach on the national level and I've been a fan and I've seen the way I've acted. So I understand. The people and the coaches are emotionally tied to the game and the kids in the game. I try not to hold that against them when I make calls. There are times when they are totally out of line and make it personal. Then we assess technicals or throw a fan out of the game. But we try not to do that as much as possible.
CC: But as a former hockey enforcer, when fans are getting personal, don't you ever get so mad that you want to say, 'Oh yeah big guy, why don't you come down and say that to my face?'
JW: No. Now that I'm older and wiser - hopefully - I don't lean on the side of aggressiveness. And I just understand that there are a lot of rule interpretations that people just don't know. So mainly I just ignore them because they don't know the rules.
CC: What's the funniest thing anyone's ever said to you during a game?
JW: You probably can't write it, actually ... but the fans we have in Gwinnett are fantastic as far as their retorts to us on the floor. They're funny. I was at a Dacula game and the whole stands started yelling, 'Shave that mustache ... clap-clap-clap-clap-clap-clap-clap.' I had to hold my hand up to my mouth to stop grinning. The Norcross fans are great, too. Some schools just have great fans. And I think our administrators do a great job of keeping fans in control. And they look out for us because we are out there on an island by ourselves.
CC: So what coach in the county do you most like working with?
JW: Eddie Martin. Because usually if he's questioning something that was called on the floor, he's probably right about it. But he's very respectful, very professional.
CC: Many people around the county would probably like to know this. You don't wear glasses, but do you wear contacts?
JW: No, I don't.
CC: So perfect 20-20 vision, huh?
JW: (laughs) Well, I wouldn't say perfect. I can see the ball though.
CC: What's your favorite TV show?
JW: "E-ring." It's about the Pentagon. If I'm off on a Monday, I make sure to watch that.
CC: How much longer do you think you'll want to be a referee?
JW: As long as my body will allow me to. My goal is to someday do a number of games in college. I'm in a conference now (SIAC), but it was my first year and I only had a couple of games. I'd like a good balance of 15 to 20 games. I go to a lot of summer refereeing camps and I try to learn as much as I possibly can.
CC: So in the end, why do you like it so much? Because obviously you have to deal with a lot of stressed-out people who are saying rude things? Why do you do it?
JW: It's just a great time. I enjoy it. I love staying in shape, and it's great to watch the talent of the kids we have nowadays. It's just a joy. When I have a great game between two good teams, I am totally satisfied when I come off the floor.
(Pauses) As long as we make the right calls.