Longtime Massachusetts Basketball Official Dies After Collapsing on Court

Brian Babineau/Getty Images
Brian Babineau/Getty Images

A longtime basketball official in Massachusetts has died after collapsing on the court mid-game on Friday night.

Don McGillicuddy was refereeing a state tournament game in Watertown and was in the midst of making a call when he suddenly went down, sparking a frenzied reaction in the gym as spectators were cleared out and community members and athletic trainers rushed in to render aid.

McGillicuddy was initially revived but passed away in an ambulance on the way to a hospital, his colleague, John Rafferty, told local media. Just a few weeks shy of his 57th birthday, McGillicuddy reportedly suffered two heart attacks, one on the court and one in the ambulance.

Watertown Public Schools released a statement saying the entire community was left “deeply saddened” by the tragic turn of events, which happened in the final seconds of the Watertown-Old Rochester Regional girls basketball game.

“We understand that this incident was unsettling for those in attendance. School administrators spoke with students and families in the minutes after the game and counselors will be available for students on Monday. We encourage families to talk with their students about what they saw and how they are feeling, even if they are not showing obvious signs of being upset,” the school district said.

Tributes have come pouring in for McGillicuddy, who worked as a referee for 24 years.

“He really loved this time of the year. In fact, we were talking earlier in the day and he was excited about doing the game and was already looking forward to doing another tournament game in the next few days,” close friend Larry Kelleher told the Boston Herald.

“I’ll never forget - my father played in men’s basketball league my entire life. Everything he did, I went with him. Every game he played in, I was there shooting around or just being a kid,” his son, Wayne, told NBC10 Boston. “My dad started reffing because he had to hang up the playing shoes but wanted to be continued to be connected to the game...Him becoming a ref really made our relationship come closer,” he said.

“Donnie grew up in a tough neighborhood, but was gifted with a warm personality,” Rafferty, one of his childhood friends, told the Herald. “He had a desire to do better for himself and saw that way through sports.”

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