It’s one of the jobs where the person doing it rarely gets noticed unless something wrong happens: a high school basketball official.
Mark Shannon, 51, has lived in Sparks for 19 years and for him, becoming a referee was a way for him to remain in touch with basketball. He has worn the stripes for 23 years.
“(I enjoy) the camaraderie with the other officials, the challenges of trying to do a good, great job each and every night out, being able to stay in the game, basketball is a sport I love so being able to stay in the game is tremendous,” Shannon said. “(I enjoy) the relationship with the kids coming up … and of course the relationship you get to have with the coaches, which I truly enjoy on both the girls and boys side.”
Growing up in southern California, Shannon played high school basketball at the now prep power, Mater Dei High School, before playing collegiately at Mira Costa Junior College and Vanguard University, a NAIA school located in Huntington Beach, formerly known as Southern California College.
After graduating, Shannon was an assistant coach for the boys and girls programs at Edison High School, also located on Huntington Beach.
While coaching, Shannon worked a security job that included working in the luxury suite of Los Angeles Lakers late owner, Jerry Buss, at The Forum.
“He always had a 21-year-old, 22-year-old unbelievably gorgeous lady with him…,” Shannon said, recollecting on his time working in Buss’ box. “He was always very kind. He didn’t big-time me or anything like that. I would say ‘hey, Mr. Buss, anything different we’re doing tonight’ and he would say ‘nope, just making sure everyone is supposed to be here, I appreciate it.’ It’s not like he ever gave me $300 or a big tip or anything but at the same time it was a great gig.
“There were a lot of guys who could not always work that because they were in awe and they couldn’t do their job or were looking at the girls and talking to them. I kept my professionalism and had a great spot for Lakers games, it was cool.”
Despite sitting in the Lakers’ owners’ press box for home games, Shannon decided it was time to move on, applying for a job at the post office where his brother was a clerk. He immediately got the job.
The father of two, a son who is now 28, and a daughter who is 22, Shannon wanted to relocate from southern California to a place that would allow his wife to stay at home with his children. The post office required transfers to move to a place that was considered growing and 19 years ago, Reno-Sparks fit that description.
While living in Sparks, Shannon works for the post office in Reno.
“It was the best move I ever made for my family,” Shannon said. “While I left a lot of (officiating) opportunities in southern California… it was clearly, clearly, clearly the best move I could have made for my family and the fact that my wife got to stay home with my children.”
Shannon started officiating junior college games in southern California after just a couple years with the whistle before moving to the Truckee Meadows. He continued officiating junior college games after moving to Sparks until this season.
Shannon officiated Division I games for the University of Nevada women’s basketball team, for a year, while the Wolf Pack was in the Big West but was not picked up when Nevada switched to the WAC (Western Athletic Conference).
An experienced referee, Shannon holds himself accountable on the court just as any athlete could or would.
“You don’t want to walk out that night and go, ‘dang that was a really good game except for that last 15 seconds, or that was a great game except for that one call.’” Shannon said. “So that’s the challenge, that you try to each and every night, to have your best game and always try to do your best for the game itself.”
Musical artist: Phil Collins
Movie: “Remember the Titans”
Book: “Season on the Brink”