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Former detective found therapy for stress working as basketball referee

Bob Delaney, a former New Jersey State Trooper and NBA referee, told about 300 non-commissioned officers today to find a balance when it comes to coping with post traumatic stress disorder.

“When you’re going through tough times, find your inner peace, find your balance,” Delaney said to members of the NCO Academy at Fort Benning’s McGinnis-Wickam Hall.

The former NBA referee was on post as part of the NBA Cares program, serving as an ambassador. Delaney experienced stress after working nearly three years as an undercover detective to nab members of a mob family on the New Jersey waterfront. The sting operation ended in 1979 but Delaney’s diagnosis of stress didn’t come until 1981.

“We locked up mob members of the Genovese family throughout the United States,” Delaney said. “After that experience, what I went on was an emotional roller coaster. I went into denial. People were trying to point things out to me.”

 Delaney, the author of two books, “Surviving the Shadows: A Journey of Hope into Post-traumatic Stress” and “Covert, My Years Infiltrating the Mob,” said he doesn’t believe stress is a mental illness. “It’s a normal reaction to abnormal situations,” he said.

Those who serve as firefighters and police officers see things the rest of the world doesn’t encounter, he said. It’s the same environment for soldiers in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Studies show that 37 percent of veterans have mental health issues, with 22 percent suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

When he stopped serving as a trooper, Delaney said he didn’t exist until he found something to give him an inner balance. While that might be music for some, it was sports for Delaney. He could no longer play basketball but he started working as a referee for local games.

He didn’t dream of becoming an NBA referee but got a break when he was asked to referee a basketball game for a youth summer program on the Jersey shore. The chief of officiating for the NBA was watching and Delaney was invited to Los Angeles where he was offered a job. He retired last year after working 25 years with superstar athletes. He found therapy in basketball.