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Off-the-clock with Andy Evangelista

Andy Evangelista has worn many hats in his nearly 37 years working for UC in science and medical and HR communications, first at UCSF and at UCOP since 2005.

Now, as research communications coordinator, he spends most of his time working on UC Research, the website Communications launched last year spotlighting the cutting-edge research taking place every day throughout UC. He also supports units in UCOP’s Office of Research and Graduate Studies to help them reach their target groups.

It’s serious business, but when the workday ends, he takes his other passion just as seriously: refereeing basketball games all around the bay, at boys’ and girls’ high schools, adult leagues or youth leagues up and down the peninsula.

“I take pride in my work,” Evangelista says, “but my other source of pride is that, at age 58, I can still run up and down a basketball court.”

This time of year, from November through late February, is peak season — what he calls his “crazy period,” when he’s rushing off after work to some gym four nights a week and crawling out of bed on weekends to blow whistles, watch out for foul play, hear boos from fans who are unhappy with his calls, and keep everyone playing by the rules. He refs nearly 250 games a year and about a dozen baseball games on the side.

“I loved playing basketball up to about 12 years ago even though, at 5-foot-3, I was too short to play at a high level,” Evangelista says. “I believe in the value of athletics for the kids who participate; it was a great experience for me and for my kids when they played.”

When a friend introduced him to refereeing about 20 years ago, he realized it was a good way to stay in the game and make some extra cash. Enough cash to help put his three kids through college and, now that they’re grown, to finance Giants and 49ers season tickets for the family.

What, no Warriors?

“I used to be an NBA fan, and I admire the tremendous athleticism,” he says. “But pro basketball isn’t the team sport it used to be, so I prefer watching college games.” Another problem: when he watches basketball at any level, he finds himself watching the officiating rather than enjoying the ball game.

Evangelista’s idea of a good game is one with as few whistles as possible, and where, as a referee, he is nearly invisible.

“You want to make sure the game is fair and safe and that the players are having a good basketball experience,” he says. “Don’t mess it up with whistles unless people are not playing fair.”

While players, coaches and fans are mostly great with referees, he’s probably been called every name in the book at some point, he says. He remembers one game where he was chewed out by a disagreeing deaf player in sign language.

He makes fine distinctions between the types of games he has officiated: High-level boys’ games are fun because of athleticism and energy in the gym, and girls are good at basketball fundamentals even though they’re less physical. In youth leagues, where the players are not as highly skilled, it’s more a matter of what not to call. The adult leagues, he says, are where he’s likely to get the most griping.

“When they play, you can tell who had a bad day at the office,” he says. “And that’s when the whistle comes in handy.”

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