Birthdate: April 9, 1957
Birthplace: Youngstown, Ohio
High School: Lowvell (1975)
Colleges: John Carroll University (1979)
Year Inducted: 2023
Northeast Ohio native Joe DeRosa is one of only two people ever to have officiated an Olympic medal-round game, the NBA Finals and the NCAA men’s Final Four – a clear indicator of his stellar standing in the profession.
A graduate of Lowellville High School in the Mahoning Valley, DeRosa was a standout student-athlete at John Carroll University, earning multiple all-conference honors in football and also participating in track and field. He began officiating high school basketball games even before earning his degree in business administration in 1979 and continued to work games at the prep level for 10 years.
In 1984, he moved up into the college ranks by officiating at the junior college and Division II levels then made his mark in the Ohio Valley, Sun Belt, Metro and Southeastern conferences. The NBA came calling in 1989 and he elevated to the top of that league in his 22 seasons before retiring in 2010. What followed was another impressive run refereeing NCAA basketball games in the Big 12 Conference, ACC, Atlantic 10, SEC, American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, Ohio Valley Conference, Southland Conference and Missouri Valley Conference.
His reputation for fairness deeply solidified, DeRosa officiated more than 1,500 regular-season games and 150 playoff games, including 11 in the NBA Finals. He was a mainstay at the Big 12 Conference Tournament from 2011-20 and worked that league’s championship game six times. Likewise, he had the whistle for the Horizon League Championship Game six straight years. His NCAA Tournament resume includes the 2014 and ’15 title game and the memorable Final Four matchup between rivals Kentucky and Louisville in 2012.
Some other highlight moments for DeRosa include being assigned to the 1989 NIT semifinals in New York City; the 1995 Junior World Championships in Athens, Greece; the bronze medal game at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta; and the 2006 NBA All-Star Game in Houston.
DeRosa has served as a supervisor of officials for several collegiate conferences, conducted various clinics in the United States and abroad, and served in the NBA Referee Operations Department for several years. He and his wife, Patti, also have contributed to the game as owners and operators of Smitty Officials Apparel, LLC in Canton, which manufactures and wholesales apparel and accessories used by sports officials and umpires throughout the world.
DeRosa has received many plaudits including induction into the Lowellville High School Football Hall of Fame and Summit County Sports Hall of Fame, and receiving John Carroll’s prestigious Jerry Schweickert Award. He enters the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame at age 65.