Ref wore a wire

RYAN WOLSTAT, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:26 AM ET

Anybody that thinks insults from fans or angry stares from petulant players such as Rasheed Wallace or Kenyon Martin can intimidate longtime NBA referee Bob Delaney into making more lenient calls has not read up on his back story too well.

After all, if Delaney could get through wearing a wire for almost three years in the midst of murderous mobsters, a few lathered-up fans or mouthy players certainly aren't going to throw him off of his game.

Prior to his 20-year NBA officiating career, Delaney was a New Jersey state trooper, who, as "trucker" Bobby Covert, infiltrated the Genovese and Bruno crime families, even crossing paths with Joe Pistone, the real-life Donnie Brasco.

Delaney's work and wiretap evidence eventually was used to convict and send away more than thirty mobsters.

After mulling it over for years, Delaney finally agreed to turn his breathtaking story into a book, with the help of St. Petersburg Times feature writer Dave Scheiber. Covert: My Years Infiltrating The Mob, is a fascinating first-hand look into the underbelly of organized crime and how a dedicated member of the law enforcement community switched to enforcing the NBA's rules and regulations.

As one reviewer wrote: "This is no David Chase (of Sopranos fame) screenplay. This is the real deal."

Delaney, using his annual NBA-approved eight-week in-season vacation to promote the book, hits Toronto tomorrow at 7 p.m. to sign copies of Covert at Indigo's Yonge and Eglinton location.

LIVED UNDER FEAR

According to Delaney, it was easy to recall the past, because crucial events always are easy to remember and as, he put it in a phone interview from Manhattan: "I lived under a lot of fear and was experiencing life-changing moments all the time."

Delaney said that while many undercover operatives go into hiding when they finish their work, he chose not to do so.

"My thought was I'm going to go out and live my life," he said. "My personal security level has been at orange since 1978 ... but, I didn't do anything wrong. I was doing what the government told me to do."

The book will give Delaney even more notoriety and instead of having players questioning his calls, he might have a new problem on his hand ... players wanting to chat him up.

"A few years ago, Kobe (Bryant) committed a foul and was talking to me," Delaney recalled. "Watching the tape later, the announcers were saying: 'Kobe's giving Delaney an earful.' But really, he was asking what wearing a wire was like and said: 'It must have been wild.' "


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