Jimmy Dyehouse ends a 35-year career

Submitted Photo

Jimmy Dyehouse (right) and his wife Judith are both basketball officials and met while officiating basketball games together. After 35 years in the profession, Jimmy Dyehouse retired from refereeing basketball games last month.

Last month, a basketball official blew his whistle for the last time.

A 56-year-old basketball referee sprinted upcourt, to keep up with a breakaway layup, for the last time.

A stern basketball official, with four decades of experience under his belt, listened patiently to a coach tell him how he 'blew a call' for the last time.

For Jimmy Dyehouse, all that came to an end after he officiated his last basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 22, at Transylvania's Beck Center. After 35 years of running up and down basketball courts on almost a nightly basis, during the winter months, Jimmy Dyehouse closed out a stellar officiating career. It was an officiating career that started out with Crab Orchard middle school games in 1985 and ended at the highest level of the collegiate basketball ranks.

"It has been a heck of a ride, and I have enjoyed every minute of it," Dyehouse stated. "Officiating allowed me to be a part of the game of basketball all these years, and it has greatly improved my health over the years and kept me in shape."

Dyehouse, whose daytime job is the Science Hill Schools superintendent, was honored during his last game at halftime of the Transylvania-Bluffton men's college basketball game.

As Jimmy Dyehouse was presented the game ball at midcourt in front of a cheering crowd at Transylvania's Beck Center, he reflected back on another midcourt moment, earlier in his career, where he was not treated as warmly.

"It was my second year calling junior varsity basketball, and I was still 'green' and still had a lot to learn," Dyehouse laughed. "It was Casey County versus Wayne County and there was a big court that night, even for the JV game."

"There was a loose ball at midcourt and two players started scrapping for the ball," Dyehouse recalled. "Next thing I know punches are being thrown and my first instinct was to jump in the middle of the fight and try to break it up."

"Within seconds, the grandstands started to clear with fans from both teams coming out onto the court...and they weren't coming down on the floor to help me out," Dyehouse laughed. "As a matter of fact, one gentleman was pulling on my shirt and pinched me so hard that he drew blood."

Finally order was restored and the game was completed without any other incidents.

It was a traumatic event in the early career of a young 22-year-old basketball official, but it was an event that might have defined Dyehouse's officiating career and his longevity in the tough profession.

"Yeah, that night shook me up a little," Dyehouse chuckled. "But I figured if I could handle that, I could handle anything."

After spending only two years at the junior varsity level, Dyehouse - at 23 years of age - moved up to the varsity level while he was still attending college. After only five years at the high school varsity level, he was recruited to officiate women's college Division-I basketball games in the Ohio Valley Conference. And six years later, Dyehouse started officiating games for Division-I men's collegiate games. Dyehouse spent 23 years officiating at the men's collegiate Division-I level.

Dyehouse has collected a lifetime of special memories on the hardwood floors and has made some lifelong friends along the way.

Dyehouse officiated in both the 2007 and 2008 KHSAA Boys Basketball 'Sweet Sixteen' State Tournaments at Rupp Arena, and worked the 2007 championship game between Scott County and Ballard. He also officiated the University of Kentucky Blue-White men's basketball game at Rupp Arena.

"Officiating games at Rupp Arena was something special," Dyehouse stated. "Standing at midcourt in front of 23,000 people will definitely get your heart pumping, especial for a little ole' boy from Crab Orchard."

But besides the memories of big games, Dyehouse cherishes the friendship and the camaraderie he has developed with his fellow officials.

"A lot of these guys are my lifelong friends, and they all know they can count on me if they are ever in need." Dyehouse said. "Likewise, I know I can call on them if I need to. If I was broke down on the side of the road, I could call any one of those guys and they would be there to help me in a second. I wouldn't take $1,000,000 for the friendships I made in my 35 years of officiating."

Dyehouse has even made some lifelong friends from some unlikely people - the coaches.

"The one coach that stands out for me was Wade Upchurch," Dyehouse said. "He would scare me because, he was loud, he was intimidating, he knew the rules very well and he demanded that I was perfect in every call I made, and boy did he let you know if you blew a call."

Several years later when Dyehouse was calling one of the biggest games in his career, in the KHSAA State Basketball championship game, a photographer captured those moments for him.

"Wade Upchurch, who was retired from coaching, was taking pictures in that state championship game and he told me he would take some pictures of me in acrtion," Dyehouse recalled. "A fews weeks later, Wade hand delivered all the pictures he has taken of me at Rupp Arena. To this day, those pictures still hang on my walls at home and we remain good friends."

But perhaps Jimmy Dyehouse's most memorable experience of officiating came when he met his wife Judith - who is a basketball official as well.

"We have been happily married for almost 10 years, and her being an official too helps, because she gets what I do," Dyehouse stated. "Officiating can be difficult on a relationship, because you are away from home almost every night during basketball season."

But for Jimmy and Judith Dyehouse, basketball officiating is a way of life.

"We have both learned a lot about officiating from each other," Dyehouse stated. "We will often sit down, watch game film, and critique each other's officiating."

But the Dyehouse couple has always been able to separate their officiating life from their personal family life.

"Judith told me a long time ago to never take it easy on her on my critiquing of her officiating just because she was my wife," Dyehouse stated. "But we have always been able to separate our officiating relationship from our personal relationship."

Dyehouse's 35-year basketball officiating career ended just days prior to all the massive sporting event cancellation due to the threat of the Coronavirus.

"I had a couple of buddies that were preparing to officiate the NAIA National Tournament when it was canceled over the loud speaker," Dyehouse stated. "I feel for those guys, because as an official you always want more and you want to do bigger and better games. Those guys can't get that one back."

"My heart goes out to all the referees, coaches and players - especially the seniors - who will not get to finish out their seasons and maybe not even get to play this spring," Dyehouse said.

Though retired from basketball officiating, Dyehouse still has to make tough calls as the leader of an entire school system.

But for Jimmy Dyehouse, he got to be a part of the game of basketball for over 35 years, he made his share of lifelong relationships and met his wife on the basketball court.

STEVE CORNELIUS is the CJ Sports Editor and can be reached at sports@somerset-kentucky.com.

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