Asking Casey Gaynor for a detailed list of the Indiana high schools where he’s officiated at least one varsity basketball game isn’t advisable.
That is, unless one has serious free time on his or her hands.
Requesting that Gaynor either alphabetize those schools, name them in order of games worked, or, worse, break the list down geographically, and you might as well bring a pillow, prop up your feet and get cozy.
It’s going to take a while.
The 57-year-old Gaynor, a Plainfield resident who grew up on Indianapolis’ Westside, accomplished his profession’s version of hitting for the cycle when he worked the boys game between Indianapolis Tech and host Herron on January 2.
Competitively speaking, well, let’s just say the Titans rolled to an 83-22 victory.
Historically, however, the four quarters of action proved significant as Gaynor running the Herron court represented the 404th different high school Gaynor has been to officiate either a girls or boys during the course of his 26-year career.
For those counting at home, that’s everywhere, meaning Gaynor knows his Oregon-Davis from his Jac-Cen-Del. His South Bend Clay from his Clay City. His Boone Grove from his Center Grove.
You get the idea.
Gaynor’s start to whistling personal fouls, traveling violations and the like, while somewhat unorthodox, lit the fuse to what’s been an impressive career.
“I referred bitty ball with a buddy in college for beer money,” said Gaynor. “I also played in adult leagues when I was in my 20s. In my Cardinal Ritter alumni league, I was always the guy complaining about the officiating. Bill Nester ran the league.
“After a particularly grueling loss, I went nuts on the two refs. Bill stepped in and told me, ‘Since you’re always complaining about the reffing, I’m putting you down to ref next year.’ I was so mad that I said, ‘Fine.’ The following year started my career. I found that I loved it.”
So much, in fact, that Gaynor eventually began piecing together his own type of game plan regarding officiating as his career evolved: Get your plays right, manage the personalities in a game, study tape and be open to being told that you’re wrong.
Certainly, an official who over the years has made the drive to as many cities and small towns as Gaynor must have his favorite gymnasiums to work. And some that, shall we say find themselves much further down on the list.
He’ll happily share the former.
“New Castle (Chrysler Fieldhouse) and Connersville (Spartan Bowl) because those are the mecca of high school gyms,” said Gaynor, who also mentions Washington Catholic, Tyson Auditorium in Versailles – where the legendary 1953-1954 Milan squad played its home games – and the since-closed Anderson Wigwam.
Gaynor’s time exhaling into whistles, explaining calls to coaches (and their assistants, in many cases) and just flat-out immersing himself into this state’s prep sports scene includes officiating 22 boys basketball and five girls basketball sectionals.
Moreover, he’s been on the court for 17 boys regionals and three more on the girls side, and one boys hoops semi-state. Gaynor has worked 14 seasons as a high school baseball umpire in Indiana, and officiated volleyball for five.
One of Gaynor’s favorite officials to work games with is Lance Ringler, 53, who lives in Ellettsville, and has been at it since the age of 19. Ringler has officiated games in five other states (California, Idaho, Minnesota, Nevada, and Washington) with a variety of other officials.
He places Gaynor in his own category.
“With Casey, I would say we’ve worked close to 30 games this season, and we’re probably over 100 games over the last seven years or so. Mostly boys games,” said Ringler. “Working with Casey . . . I’ve learned a lot from him. The thing about Casey is he’s all business.
“When we go on the road, we have a lot of fun, but every ‘I’ is dotted and every ‘T’ is crossed. He’s there to do his job, and he’s made me a much better official because of his approach. You better bring your ‘A’ game, or he’s going to let you know about it. His focus for the whole basketball game, he’s always on.”
Gaynor has no precise timetable regarding when he’ll hang up his black- and white-striped official’s shirt. Still healthy and enjoying the weekly interaction he has with players, coaches, administrators – and, yes, even fans – Gaynor plans to finish out this basketball season and looks forward to those ahead.
“I want to make 30 years, then see how my body feels,” said Gaynor. “My first licensed high school year was the 1998-1999 season. I’ve seen too many guys who are hanging on way too long. I promise, I won’t be that guy.”