Brian Shelley officially cements legacy among Utah basketball communityMar 08, 2023 11:55AM ● By Daniel Olsen
From left to right: Fred Thompson, Brian Shelley and Rob Cuff at a banquet at Little America on Jan. 23 when Shelley received his award. (Photo courtesy Solhee Shelley)
The Utah Sports Hall of Fame Foundation has inducted Brian Shelley into the Utah Officials Hall of Honor, joining the UHSAA (Utah High School Athletics Association) in recognizing someone who has dedicated over two decades of their life to being involved as a basketball referee.
“I played high school basketball at American Fork and graduated in 1993,” Shelley said. “I volunteered to be a ref because they paid 13 bucks to ref an hour of basketball.”
Shelley would serve a two-year Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints mission and would later go on to be the youngest referee to officiate in the UHSAA 5A playoffs. He has worked in the high school, collegiate and professional levels and now works on training the next generation to handle this high pressure role.
“You obviously need to have some tolerance and patience,” Shelley said. “When I was younger, people told me to be patient and knowledgeable. I tried to incorporate those two values. I always take the approach of being open and honest. I tell them what I see. If they know I am working hard then there’s a certain level of respect. I’ve been able to gain respect from players and coaches. I find out that there is a level of respect. I might say I didn’t have a great view on the play.”
While it isn’t an easy job, there are ways Shelley has been able to set himself apart as he’s been able to ref at all levels.
“You need to understand the game of basketball,” Shelley said. “After patience, it’s just a desire and a commitment to try and improve. I tell people that the game is about the players and coaches who put in a lot of time, and it also includes officials. We are stakeholders in the game of basketball. We are there to adjudicate and administer the game.”
Technology has enabled Shelley and other refs to analyze and improve officiating through training.
“I’ve worked with the PAC-12, Mountain West, WAC and other NCAA conferences along the West Coast. We focus on the rule book and then analyze video clips. Patience and knowledge are important, but commitment is what makes someone a good official.”
One of the toughest calls to make is a technical foul as it is determined by whether the person is displaying unsporting behavior instead of breaking the rules on the field of play.
“A technical foul is an unsportsmanlike act,” Shelley said. “When somebody crosses the line then that’s a personal attack or clearly unsportsmanlike behavior. I didn’t give technical fouls because I felt good communication was necessary, but I wasn’t afraid to give one if it was warranted. It’s just another call in the game like a blocking or charging foul.”
A few years ago, Shelley decided to pivot his focus as a referee in a way that would allow him to balance his work and family life that includes three sons who attend Skyline High.
“I came off the floor as a ref years ago and was hired to be the leader of the UBOA (Utah Basketball Officials Association),” Shelley said. “I’ve been able to teach many officials throughout my career. I use in-season training tools to improve officiating performance through technology. I felt the need to continue contributing to the game of basketball. With my knowledge, I was able to still add something to the game. That’s allowed me to be involved with recruiting referees. I have three sons who are growing up. I decided that traveling wasn’t something I wanted to do at this stage of my life. That’s when I got into administration. I’m able to stay involved in the game of basketball that I love.”
While it is tough for fans to feel that refs are biased toward their team, Shelley strives to focus on being in the moment.
“I look at every call as it happens,” Shelley said. “Whether the reaction from fans and teams is positive or negative, it doesn’t affect the next play. I try to give them the best call. We are only as good as our last call so I tell the officials to just make the next call a good one. We need the ability to communicate properly to coaches/players. It’s important to listen and give short responses. When officials acknowledge what they are saying then it goes over better. Good refs and coaches move on. Every official who puts on a shirt needs to have the mindset that they are impartial. I always strive to live by those principles.”
While Shelley has accomplished a great amount in his career, he is quick to point out how blessed he is.
“I was fortunate enough to start when I was in college,” Shelley said. “I was the youngest official at the time and moved on quickly from high school basketball. I am currently a CFO and owner of a company and I have a work life balance which is important to me. I am still involved on a leadership team of six conferences.”
Shelley is also quick to point out how many people helped him get to this level he is at now.
“Many mentors have contributed to my success,” Shelley said. “Without them, I wouldn’t be able to have the knowledge or skill set that I have.”