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Smooth sailing for Kantner in her first NBA game

November 6, 1997

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Philadelphia 76ers fan Ken Kind gave Dee Kantner some unusual words of encouragement when she became the second woman to officiate an NBA game.

``I told her that, right off the bat, she’s better than Ronnie Garretson,″ Kind said, referring to one of the other officials working Wednesday night’s 76ers-Atlanta Hawks game.

``Who can worry about sexism when you’ve got blatant nepotism running rampant in the league?″ he added. Garretson’s father is NBA supervisor of officials Darell Garretson.

Kantner, 37, earned her job by working many college and professional women’s games, according to NBA vice president Rod Thorn.

``She’s worked in a whole lot of meaningful games over her career,″ Thorn said. ``She’s been at the top of her profession on the women’s side for the last five or six years.″

The players paid her the ultimate compliment, saying they didn’t notice her.

``She called a regular basketball game,″ 76ers guard Allen Iverson said. ``All refs make bad calls. She made a couple, but overall, it was a good job.″

Kantner, of Charlotte, N.C., follows Violet Palmer, who became the first woman to referee an NBA game in Vancouver when the season opened Friday.

League vice president Rod Thorn said the league approached the two about four years ago, believing they had the makings of NBA officials.

NBA rules prohibit officials from talking to the media, so Kantner didn’t speak with reporters, but she chatted with fans at courtside.

The crowd at the CoreStates Center barely reacted when Kantner was announced, but cheered when she made her first foul call _ against Atlanta’s Mookie Blaylock midway through the first quarter.

Minutes later, she made her first call against the home team, on Philadelphia’s Eric Montross, but the fans didn’t boo the obvious foul in the lane.

She got her first boos in the second half when she called a foul on Philadelphia’s Scott Williams, but that seemed to be as much a reaction to the fact that the call blunted some Sixers momentum.

``I just noticed three refs out there,″ Philadelphia coach Larry Brown said. ``She fit in very well.″

Thorn said it was just the luck of the draw that Kantner didn’t work before Wednesday night.

The league hired five new officials this season, and all but one, Derek Richardson, have now worked games. Richardson is scheduled to work his first game tonight, Thorn said.

Kantner brings many strengths, Thorn said.

``I like her poise,″ he said. ``She’s a very good student and she’s terrific with the rules. She’s good with people, and she’s got good instincts. In essence, I think she’s got everything you need to be an outstanding referee.″

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