Judy Ruthko will always remember the first state championship girls' basketball game she ever officiated in 2000. As it turned out, however, it was the first of many for Judy, now a longtime referee with the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials (IAABO) Board 10 out of New Haven.
Judy, who is the Board 10 president, is a member of the organization's Better Officiating Committee. She has refereed in the Connecticut state tournament in 16 different seasons, with 10 state championship assignments, the most recent in 2015 at Mohegan Sun. Judy was the 2010 recipient of the New Haven Tap-Off Club's Nate Winnick Award as the Official of the Year.
It was the crew with whom Judy worked for that first championship game – held at Central Connecticut State University – fellow Hall of Famer Tony Candido and former referee and New Haven citywide athletic director Joe Canzanella, which makes it memorable, she said. Her love and appreciation for the game has only grown since then.
“I always enjoyed it. I enjoy staying involved with the game of basketball, the challenge every day, if you will, having people who yell and scream at me every day. The kids are always very good. I still love it,” she said.
Judy is a resident of New London and a manager of nuclear engineering at Electric Boat, overseeing the engineers who service the fleet of nuclear submarines. She is a graduate of Ubly (Mich.) High School and Michigan Technological University, where she earned a degree in mechanical engineering and played for the volleyball team. She moved to Connecticut in 1989 and was referred to officiating basketball through a friend.
Judy first joined the Connecticut Board of Certified Basketball Officials (CBCBO), remaining with that board from 1989-2004 until it merged with her current board – “It's an amazing board. There are incredible people that are on that board,” she said of Board 10.
Her officiating career has now spanned 29 seasons, including the transition to holding the state championship games at the 10,000-seat Mohegan Sun Arena in 2009.
“It's an incredible venue,” she said. “The kids are excited to be there. It's a whole different atmosphere for everyone, to this insane venue.”
Judy will have her Hall of Fame award presented by another fellow Hall of Famer, David Grossman, whom she calls “an outstanding official and a tremendous advocate of the women's game.”
“I always did it because I enjoyed it,” Judy said of her time as a referee. “I just learn over the years. You adjust and you learn things. I used to react to the crowd, I used to react to coaches. Now I have a whole different perspective. I understand more what's at stake for them. … Always look and act professional and give 100 percent at all times no matter what the level of competition.
“I love to play and officiate the game, but mostly because I have met and continue to meet some of my best friends through the game.”