Ken Pink wraps up his 28th year officiating high school basketball games in mid-February, but he will finish with a bang. Pink was one of 21 officials — one for each sport in the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) — who was named an Official of the Year.
In his case, Pink was selected for his work officiating girls’ basketball, though he has called both boys’ and girls’ varsity games throughout his nearly three decades in the sport, though predominantly girls’ in recent years.
Winners are nominated by their peers in respective officials’ associations, before IHSA staff members voted on the winners based on factors such as character, skill as an official and levels worked in the IHSA State Series.
In Pink’s case, he has been selected to work the Girls’ State Finals three times, the maximum number of times an official can work the tournament. Consequently, he has called the game he loves on the floor of Redbird Arena on the campus of Illinois State University in Normal.
He also is a state clinician for the IHSA and VP of Basketball for the Athletic Officials’ Services (AOS). The group hosts camps every summer at Hoffman Estates High School for up and coming officials. They are held in conjunction with high school summer basketball games where clinicians, like Pink, are on the court with campers helping teach and evaluate them to become the best officials they can be.
“At this point in my career, I am seen as a role model for younger officials, a position I take very seriously,” Pink says. “I want them to emulate the way I officiate a game: hustle, work hard, use proper high school mechanics, act and communicate professionally, and apply the rules correctly.”
Pink grew up in Des Plaines playing baseball in the street with the neighborhood kids. His officiating career started when he umped prep baseball games. When he and his wife moved to Buffalo Grove, he played pick-up basketball with other young men he was meeting, but it was when he was coaching his three sons in Buffalo Grove Park District basketball that he was challenged to become a ref.
By his own admission, he was hard on the referees when he was coaching, and was called for many a technical foul. One of the refs called him out on it, suggested that if Pink thought he could do it better than why didn’t he contact the IHSA and become an official.
“And there was the beginning of my basketball officiating career,” Pink says. “I passed the initial open book test and obtained my license. My second game was more memorable than my first. My partner on that game was none other than the aforementioned official.
“He certainly did remember me and gave me the treatment I earned from my time as a coach,” Pink added. “A huge and valuable lesson very early in my career that I’ll never forget.”
Pink says he has cut back on his work load in recent years and now calls between 4 and 5 games per week. He hopes to ref at least two more years, or until he reaches 30 years of service, or possibly as many as four more years, until he reaches 70.
“I’m so proud to be a member of the IHSA and can absolutely say that when I was still working, I conducted myself with the same professionalism on the court as I did in the corporate world,” Pink says. “Both parts of my life made me better at each.”