CityNews.ca went behind-the-scenes at three Toronto landmarks where time is of the essence to learn about the timekeepers and their craft.
In the third part of this three-part series, Toronto Raptors timekeeper Brigg Harvey explains how an itchy trigger finger could affect the outcome of a game .
NBA timekeeper Brigg Harvey is comfortable in his pressure-filled job, but not complacent. Dramatic, game-changing events happen in mere seconds and a glitch on the clock can end with him at the receiving end of an angry tirade.
“I try not to make any mistakes but if I make one eight minutes into the first quarter people forget about it pretty fast. But if I make it with eight seconds left in the game and the game is tied, they remember it for a long time,” he said ahead of a Toronto Raptors game against the San Antonio Spurs Feb. 9.
“When we have a short period of time left in a quarter or in a shot clock situation when the clock has to start on time, teams are very cognoscente of timing. With 1.3 seconds to go they run an inbound play — they can do a lot in 1.3 seconds. If I happen to start the clock early and they lose half of that time because of my mistake they get very upset,” he added.
Harvey, a Barrie, Ont. high school math teacher by day and the Toronto Raptors’ timekeeper by night, said during his 14 years in the NBA he’s been yelled at by players, coaches and franchise owners. He’s also been accused of cheating.
“You’re dealing with some very intense people. I don’t take it too personally, or I try not to, but … this means a lot of money to players, to coaches to owners,” he said. “It’s very significant.”
Toronto Raptors home game timekeeper Brigg Harvey at the ACC, Feb. 9, 2011. CITYNEWS.CA/Shawne McKeown.
Raptors vs. San Antonio Spurs at the ACC, Feb. 9, 2011. CITYNEWS.CA/Shawne McKeown.
When the Raptors don’t make the playoffs Harvey is sent to other cities to manage the game clock as part of the NBA’s neutral time keeping program. He recalled a particularly intense situation during a playoff game between the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets in April of 2004.
The clock malfunctioned twice in the final two minutes of the game at Madison Square Garden.
“The NBA analyzed the situation and determined that I wasn’t at fault. I had a sleepless night in the hotel and watching the news and these analysts on ESPN … talk about the timekeeper from Toronto and essentially how I screwed up, so that was quite intense,” Harvey said.
“I say to people … I’ve never been yelled at by a billionaire before, but I was that night,” he said referring to the owner of the Knicks.
Harvey played, coached and refereed basketball before being called up to the NBA. He was in charge of training and recruiting table staff for the 1994 Men’s World Championship of Basketball in Toronto.
A year later the Toronto Raptors were born and he was asked to time keep for the team the following season.
“I was thrilled, terrified,” he recalled. “[The game] was at the SkyDome (Rogers Centre). The game was at 7pm and I think I got here about 3pm.”
Referees at Raptors game against San Antonio Spurs at the ACC, Feb. 9, 2011. CITYNEWS.CA/Shawne McKeown.
The referees carry belt packs that allow them to start and stop the clock and Harvey said the points in the game when they don’t use their packs are his “most important time”.
“In the last minute of the first three quarters on a made basket I’m responsible for stopping,” he explained, noting the refs won’t stop the clock at those times.
“That’s when everybody’s watching the clock and when you get down under 10 seconds, so much can happen in an NBA game in 10 seconds, my job is stopping when the ball goes through the hoop, wait until I see it touched legally on the floor and start.”
While his job at the Air Canada Centre revolves around a game, he said it’s “serious fun”.
“It’s a wonderful job if you love basketball because I get to see some of the truly great players in this world.”
Harvey’s favourite players:
“He was absolutely, in my opinion, the best athlete we ever had in this city. When he was here in his prime, he was electric.”