The news hit Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni hard.
NBA referee and Long Beach State alum Greg Willard died at age 54 Monday after a long fight with pancreatic cancer.
“Really. Oh really?” D’Antoni said. “I didn’t know that. That’s too bad. He was a good guy, good referee. That’s too bad. That’s way too bad.”
Willard officiated 1,494 games in his 24-year career, his last one marking a Lakers’ preseason game this season against the Utah Jazz in Anaheim. My colleague Elliott Teaford noted Willard’s final game and detailed how both he and Kobe Bryant talked with the long-time official afterwards.
“He was always on top of his profession and always a great guy,” D’Antoni said. “Even yelling at him or yelling at me, he was a great guy. I really feel bad about that.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at email@example.com