- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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The NBA has selected longtime league executive and former player Mike Bantom as its new executive vice president of referee operations, the league announced Wednesday.
Bantom will replace former two-star U.S. Army General Ronald Johnson, who stepped down from the post in July after a four-year run.
The NBA hired Johnson from outside the league four years ago in the wake of the Tim Donaghy scandal. Johnson was brought in amid calls for more stringent governance of the league's game officials after a 2007 FBI investigation uncovered Donaghy's ties to gamblers betting on NBA games.
Bantom's own playing experience, his long tenure in the league office in a wide range of management roles and his strong working relationships with team officials and players -- after more than a decade of heading up the league's various player programs -- were key factors in landing him the new role, according to sources.
"Mike has been an invaluable part of the NBA for over 20 years and has excelled in leadership positions across both our domestic and international businesses," commissioner David Stern said in a statement. "That experience, together with his considerable accomplishments on the court and his respect in the basketball community, make Mike an outstanding choice to lead the NBA's officiating program."
Bantom will report to NBA president of league operations Joel Litvin and immediately take over the NBA's officiating program, including the recruiting, training and development of referees.
Bantom has been an executive with the league for nearly 25 years after a nine-season playing career in 1973-82. He has served as the league's senior vice president of player development since 1999, overseeing player endeavors such as the NBA's Player Substance Abuse program, its Rookie Transition Program and its Continuing Education Program.
It also was under Bantom that the league, for the first time, assigned a front-office staff member from each team to help players manage their off-court lives.
Bantom was a member of the 1972 U.S. Olympic team that controversially lost the gold-medal game to the Soviet Union. He averaged 12.1 points and 6.4 rebounds in his NBA career after being selected eighth overall by Phoenix in the 1973 draft. The 6-foot-9 forward played seven more seasons in Italy until his retirement in 1989.
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