SPRINGFIELD, Pa. (AP) -To some, Tim Donaghy was quite a pal, holding clinics for mentally retarded kids and providing gifts for their Christmas parties. To others, the disgraced former referee was nothing short of a terror.
Real estate agent Kit Antsey got to see both sides.
Antsey once was Donaghy's golf partner in the Philadelphia suburbs and happily accepted free NBA tickets from him. In turn, Antsey went to great lengths to help when Donaghy wanted a prime home site overlooking a golf course.
But when the deal hit a snag, the friendship dissolved. Donaghy then lashed out, Antsey said.
``Mr. Donaghy's M.O. is out of control,'' he said.
Donaghy pleaded guilty Wednesday in New York to two felony counts in a betting scandal that stunned the NBA. He admitted taking cash payoffs from gamblers in return for recommendations about what team to bet on, and prosecutors said he also bet on games he officiated.
Those who know Donaghy described him as someone who was great to be around when things were going his way, yet could quickly turn on people when circumstances changed.
The son of a highly regarded college referee and nephew of NBA ref Billy Oakes, Donaghy played basketball for his parish team in Havertown, a suburb of hoops-happy Philadelphia. A small guard, he was the sixth man in 1985 at Cardinal O'Hara, where he also pitched on the varsity baseball team.
Donaghy worked at a funeral home during his high school years and went to college at Villanova. He swiftly moved through the officiating ranks, into the CBA in 1991 and to the NBA starting in 1995.
Making it to the NBA went to his head, claimed some. Pete Mansueto and Antsey were among them.
Mansueto, a former neighbor, ended up suing Donaghy during an ugly dispute. ``He thought he was very special,'' Mansueto said.
Said Antsey: ``He was a person very impressed with his position. He always brought it up.''
Robert Neely knew a different Donaghy.
Neely is the activities director at the Don Guanella School for developmentally disabled boys, located next to O'Hara. A decade ago, Donaghy started an annual NBA referees clinic with other local league refs at the school.
The clinic continues today, with refs working student games on off-days and helping at Christmas events.
``Ten years ago, Tim Donaghy came to me and said he wanted to give back to the community,'' Neely said. ``We did the clinic the first year, and I thought it was going to be a one-time thing. He called back the next year and said, 'Let's do it again.' And it's still going.''
In an old newspaper article posted on the school's bulletin board, Donaghy explained his reason for starting the clinic.
``When I was playing with O'Hara's team, I said, 'Someday I want to come back and put a smile on the faces of the guys at Don Guanella,''' Donaghy said.
Frank Capece, a friend and attorney, said, ``He's just a funny, decent guy.''
Capece is a longtime season ticketholder for the New Jersey Nets who befriended Donaghy more than a decade ago. He said he found the betting reports out of character for Donaghy.
``I just know he is a friend,'' Capece said. ``You are supposed to stick by your friends when they have problems.''
Capece said he gave unsolicited financial advice to Donaghy, always stressing the need to save for his young daughters' college fund.
``I yelled at him about saving, about his house in Pennsylvania. ... Do I think he lived over his means? Absolutely,'' Capece said, but not to the extent of having a luxurious lifestyle.
``If Tim had a big fault, in my opinion, he wanted to do everything for his kids,'' he said.
Mansueto, who lived next to Donaghy in West Chester, sued him for harassment and invasion of privacy.
``We didn't want money, we just wanted to live in peace,'' he said.
When Donaghy moved to Bradenton, Fla., the Mansuetos dropped their lawsuit.
``Now, we feel vindicated,'' Mansueto said after the gambling allegations surfaced.
Starting out in the NBA, the 5-foot-8 Donaghy earned a good reputation and was ultimately graded among the top tier of officials.
John Nash, a general manager for four NBA teams, had a daughter who went to high school with Donaghy. Nash watched Donaghy develop as an NBA ref and ``I always thought he was one of the better young officials.''
The FBI first contacted the NBA in June, and Donaghy resigned from the NBA on July 9.
The betting investigation reached deep into Donaghy's past, connecting him with a former high school classmate, Jim Battista, a professional gambler who was one of two men charged Wednesday as coconspirators in the case.
Donaghy's ex-golf partner said Donaghy just didn't do well when ``something didn't go the way he thought it should or he liked.''
``He became very irrational,'' Antsey said, ``and was difficult to have a peaceful or civil conversation.''

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