MESA, Ariz. (AP) -Darell Garretson, the longtime NBA referee who also directed the league's officiating staff, has died. He was 76.
The National Basketball Referees Association said Wednesday that Garretson died Monday at his Mesa home. The union said Garretson's health had been in decline following surgery and various illnesses.
``We are saddened by the passing of Darell Garretson,'' NBA commissioner David Stern said. ``Darell was a man of extraordinary character, who touched many lives during his 31-year tenure as an NBA official and supervisor of officials.
``On behalf of the entire NBA family, I extend my deepest sympathy to his wife, Jeannie, and two sons, Ron and Rick.''
Garretson began his career as an NBA referee in 1967. In 1981, he became the NBA Chief of Officiating Staff, while remaining an active referee. He held both jobs for 13 seasons and retired from the supervisor position in 1998.
``Our grief at losing Darell Garretson is not just about the loss of an icon, a refereeing legend, although he certainly is both of those things,'' NBRA spokesman Lamell McMorris said. ``It is much more personal. Darell discovered and developed so many of our current referees. ... He took them and he coached them, tirelessly, and he made them some of the most elite referees in the world. And they love him for it.''
Ron Garretson is a current NBA referee.

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