Following an exciting 2023 season, TBL official Joshua Koch honors a lost comrade and mentor on the court while breaking down the upcoming ’24 season.

Last January, TBL Crew Chief and official, Joshua Koch, took time to share about his road to becoming a referee in The Basketball League and what it means to be the “third team” on the court in a league predicated on development.

Twelve months later, and Joshua’s own story — TBL Crew Chief Joshua Koch Serve And Protects On The Court And The Streets — remains one of the most read articles on Around The Basketball League. So, it’s only fitting that Joshua returns to help breakdown the 2024 TBL season for officials, while reflecting on the growth of referees suiting up around TBL in 2023, and what it means to lose a fellow comrade on the court along the way.

Much thanks to Joshua Koch for always being open and available to pass along some ins-and-outs of what it is like to step on the floor as a referee in TBL.


Reflections On 2023

The 2023 TBL season was — all in the same breath —the best yet, accomplishment filled, and bittersweet.

It was the best season yet because, the level of talent spread throughout the league was unprecedented to years prior. The games were more intense, closer in score, and players, coaches, and officials really began integrating themselves into learning how to be professionals. That journey has only begun, but I feel especially as an officiating staff we are starting to ingratiate ourselves with the mission of our officiating administrative team.

It was accomplishment filled because I was fortunate enough to work the playoffs and Game 1 of the TBL Finals in St. Louis between the St. Louis Griffins and eventual champion, Potawatomi Fire. Selfishly, I got to work the game with two of my favorite partners in Jerry Middleton and Dan Beauchamp. I also felt I grew as an official during the 2023 campaign from the standpoint of furthering healthier communication and understanding with players & coaches.

Honoring the late Jerry Middleton

It was bittersweet because our staff and this league lost an officiating giant in Jerry Middleton — #5, as he is so affectionately referred to, possessed an officiating trait that few have. Jerry (pictured above with Andy Permall and Joshua) had the ability to remain calm in the chaos. In the last two weeks, Alabama lost Nick Saban as head coach, the New England Patriots lost Bill Belichick, and the Seattle Seahawks lost Pete Carroll. The two former won multiple championships opposed to the latter, but I would argue all three were giants in their organizations. Within days all three were “replaced.” It makes for a good motivational phrase that “anyone is replaceable so cherish what matters most.” However, I would argue by hiring a new head coach still does not equate to “replacing” those former head coaches.

Intangibles matter.

Our officiating staff will fill the assignments #5 is leaving behind but we will not be “replacing” him and honestly that is acceptable. Jerry was a “replacer” himself.

He called me at the beginning of the 2023 season and told me this was going to be his farewell tour, but I would be remiss to not tell you he began mentoring me to “replace” him from the first game we had together back in 2015. He does that with all of the officials he works with because for #5, being a steward of the game is more important to him than himself.

That is his legacy.

The game is better because #5 picked up a whistle 40 years ago.

There are NBA, G-League, TBL, NCAA D1, D2, D3 officials that can attribute part of their development to the Richmond, IN legend. Last season Jerry and I were officiating a game in Potawatomi and a season ticket holder who had been yelling at us all night said, “what do the numbers mean on the back of your jerseys?” Jerry told them it was our rating on staff (which is explicitly not true). As you know from the article Jerry wore #5 and for those that do not know I wear #187. Jerry finished his joke up with “and we only have 186 on staff (which is also explicitly not true). We all laughed together. Jerry always had the ability to bring brevity where it was needed.

Referee Respect on the Rise

Another official I highly respect that is stepping up is the accomplished Dan Beauchamp (Beech, pictured above with Jerry Middleton and Joshua). Dan has a plethora of knowledge from his time in the NCAAM, CBA, and NBA officiating circles. Outside of #5 and Mark Sexton, I have never met another official who cares more about training referees like Beech. Countless text messages and time spent on the phone has been spent with Beech agonizing over how to improve the staff. How to set our men and women up for current and future successes, arguing over rules questions, and real emotional anguish that has been poured into caring about our people. (Mark is the current President and basketball chair of the Crossroads Officials Association in Central Indiana. If you are an Indiana high school referee and are looking for a home, please reach out to me.)

Lastly, is our supervisor Paul Carter.

My wife and I spent three days with Paul and his family in Tennessee in August of 2023. The intent was to relax and spend some time together during the offseason, but when you care about officiating like Paul and the three aforementioned men above, conversations tend to lean into officiating. I cannot begin to understand the stress being a supervisor of officials comes with. I can tell you – Paul cares. Paul taught me something early in my career – people are what matter. People above grades, assignments, call accuracy, and advancement. All the things listed are of utmost importance, but people fill the roles of players, coaches, and even referees. People matter.

Training and Development for the 2024 Season

I have a lot of thoughts heading into this season when it comes to preparing our staff for growth. Professional basketball is vastly different than NFHS or NCAA. Professional basketball is a business. Players and coaches are our colleagues. Caring about the game means caring about your colleagues. If you know a player recently became a father, it is appropriate to congratulate them. If you know a coach recently won an award it is appropriate to congratulate them.

Relationships matter.

Humanizing each other matters.

Elite professional referees stay current on the league they officiate because it helps to earn leadership capital. With that said, conflict accompanies all relationships. When competitors convene in a 94 x 50 playing court there is going to be conflict. Make no mistake, all referees are competitive. Having the ability to navigate, without emotion, the conflict is what separates the elite from the adequate. Sometimes it means a technical foul or an ejection, but often times it means listening, redirecting, and sometimes humbly acknowledging you may have missed it. Officials cannot, will not, and should never ‘always be right.’

We as a staff must continue to improve in becoming effective communicators. We utilize different mediums to do this. Beech loves sending quiz questions out, we discuss play situations, we role play conflict situations to name a few. It is immediately understood by the stakeholders that the players and coaches in this league are in a development league and the end goal is the NBA. The officiating staff needs to be afforded the same latitude while simultaneously understanding our mere presence in the game can affect the product.

* Joshua was visited by his cousin, Dani Lopp and her children, during the TBL Finals

Tipping Off TBL in ‘24

Legacy matters.

Building legacy matters.

NBA Finals Referee Pat Fraher told me a few years ago, “You do not need the Association (NBA) logo on your chest in order to make a difference in a referee’s story.” I think of a guy here in Indianapolis, who has quickly become one of my favorite men – Nick Morikis. Nick is a retired executive in the business world and began officiating in 2022. He is one of the most humble, eager, and kind humans I have ever come across. I am all in on helping him in his journey. The beautiful thing about this officiating community is I gained a friend in the process. He constantly throws praise my way, but truth be told he has made me a better referee and man. That is the thing about teaching – “students” offer a tangible knowledge and they have a discreet way in making effective and engaged teachers lock into their own development.

Development matters.

To close out this article, the veteran leadership on the TBL staff want opportunities for our staff members who are prospective and current candidates for higher levels. We have numerous staff members in the NBA Program and have seen past members make it to the NBA and G-League. That legacy, those relationships, and the memories we all share is why we do this at the end of the day.

Players have teammates and their coaches. Coaches have their staff and their players. Referees only have each other and I would not want it any other way.

Starting the game properly matters. Almost time for tip-off.


Wendell Maxey is the author of Around The Basketball League and has written about professional basketball and sports for 20 years. He’s been featured on,, USA Today, FOX Sports, and SLAM Magazine among other publications and media outlets. You can connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn or read through his archive on Linktree. This 2024 season, Wendell will also be a featured writer with the Basketball Super League.


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