After more than 8,500 games over the course of 41 seasons, Joe Davis has decided to hang up his whistle as a basketball official.
“I wanted to retire when I wanted to,” Davis said at a recent Wilmington High School girls basketball game. “I didn’t want to be THAT guy limping around, hanging on.”
Davis’ last game was Jan. 17 at Whiteoak, which was, ironically, the site of his first varsity game back in November 1978.
“I didn’t plan it that way,” said Davis, who in recent years has been an officiating instructor in Wilmington.
A 1972 graduate of East Clinton High School, Davis officially passed the test to become a licensed official in November 1976. His first game — a junior high basketball game — was that month.
But Davis wasn’t always sold on being an official. Just after graduation, Davis was approached about donning the stripes.
“I thought about being a coach,” said Davis, who will continue to officiate volleyball matches. “Bruce Taylor asked me to become a referee and I said no.”
Davis thought he was still ‘too involved with East Clinton” and wasn’t certain if he could be unbiased if he had to officiate an East Clinton event.
In the summer of 1976, though, at the Clinton County Fair, Davis heard his name over the loudspeaker. He was told to report to the secretary’s office. Taylor, a long-time official and member of the Clinton County Sports Hall of Fame, also was the long-time fair secretary.
“He threw papers at me and said study this and come back in two months to take the test,” an astonished Davis recalled.
Davis took the test and passed, and with the exception of 1984 to 1988 when his job took him away from the basketball court on a regular basis, Davis has been a fixture in the area as an official.
“I did very limited (number) then because I had a second shift job,” said Davis, who worked many games with Mark Garen. “I thought I was done (officiating).”
Davis said among his fondest memories was his first East Clinton game in the new gym. His first post-season tournament game was Troy versus Miami East.
“I thought I’d be nervous but once I got out on the floor it was just another game,” he said.
When Davis started officiating, only the varsity officials were hired by the schools to do a game. The varsity officials then selected the officials to work the reserve game.
One night while going to West Union with Bruce Taylor, Davis remembers the officials riding in a car trying to negotiate a foggy trip south.
“It was so foggy we had to open the door to look down to see the white on the road,” Davis said.