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Bobby Dibler overcame tragedy en route to basketball hall of fame nomination

EL PASO, Texas - ‌Basketball is played by following a set of rules, and ‌Bobby Dibler's job was to enforce those rules.

Dibler is one of the most accomplished college basketball referees.

He's officiated 14 NCAA tournaments, three final fours, and two national championship games.

"The career took off much faster than I anticipated or ever dreamed," Dibler said.

In December, Dibler got the surprise of a lifetime after he was nominated for the 2024 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

‌"I don't know how it all worked, but I was really honored, and humbled. Pretty much shocked," Dibler said.

‌Before Dibler began his journey to become a basketball referee he first had learn the game by playing it.

‌Dibler was born in Pennsylvania and later moved to Amarillo, Texas.

‌While playing basketball at Amarillo Junior College, Dibler was recruited by Don Haskins, the head basketball coach at Texas Western, now known at UTEP.

‌"I believe anyone that played for coach Haskins will tell you, they didn't have a lot of fun," Dibler said. "He was a real task master, but one of the things he did teach me is he taught me discipline for a lifetime and that's something that I carry with me to this day."

‌Dibler played two seasons with the miners graduating a year before – the famed 1966 Texas Western team would go on to win a national championship

"We always had fun with that. Those of us who played on the 64 team telling the guys on 66 that we would have beat them if we'd gone toe to toe with them," Dibler said.

‌But Dibler would pave his own way to success on the other side of the court.

‌He worked his way up to officiate men's division one college basketball games.

‌With the fast-paced style of play at the college level, Dibler admits he struggled when he first started officiating college games.

"I wasn't very good when I first started," Dibler said. "It was kind of a revolving door, and I was about to revolve out after I revolved in and I really knew the rules. but I really didn't know how to officiate college basketball."

‌Dibler improved and would go on to officiate more than a thousand college basketball games.

The game that stands out for Dibler was the 1982 national championship game between Georgetown and North Carolina.

In that game a young Michael Jordan would hit a game winning shot to help secure the win for the Tar Heels.

‌"That was a great game because it was a tempo game you kind of had a sense that whoever had the ball last was going to win.' Dibler said. "It's still a great memory for me."

It was a life filled with great memories, but in June of 2000 Dibler suffered the unimaginable.

‌Dibler's wife of 35 years Carroll and his 20 year old daughter Kristin Dibler were shot and killed by Kristin's ex-boyfriend.

He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 2002.

‌Caroll Dibler was a beloved teacher at Bel Air High School.

In 2020, Bel Air dedicated their new gymnasium by naming it after Carroll Dibler.

Dibler looks back fondly when thinking about his late wife.

‌"She was a special person," Dibler said. "I was very privileged to be married to her. Wonderful wife, wonderful mother she was loved by everybody that was just her personality."

Dibler's son, Rob Dibler has been the boys head basketball coach at Bel Air High School for more than 20 years.

‌"Working in her gym is an honor," Rob Dibler said. "It's such a blessing, and I try to carry that on through her to care about every single student as if they were my own."

For the Dibler family life without Carroll and Kristin was hard.

‌"We can smile about their memories, and that was a process and something that we really stuck together by," Rob Dibler said.

‌Through his faith and support from friends, Bobby Dibler found purpose.

He also found love again.

Missy Haywood lost her husband in 1995.

‌In their grief, Haywood and Dibler confided in one another, first as friends and in 2009 they got married.

‌"I was ready for the lord to call me home," Dibler said. She (Haywood) was so strong in leading me down a different path than I was thinking about. She's one of us and I'm one of her."

‌"Without her, I would have never got my dad back," Rob Dibler said. "He was describing some of the rough times, but she and him together brought him back.

‌But even with the passage of time, Dibler still feels the heartache.

‌"There's always something that triggers in me that makes that day more challenging," Bobby Dibler said. "I'm a person that believes in the power of prayer. Like today I prayed to get through this, and I know Carroll and Kristin are smiling on us right now."

In 2023, Dibler retired as coordinator of officials, a job that entailed overseeing basketball referees in 6 college athletic conferences.

He'll find out whether he's a finalist for induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame February 16 during the NBA All-Star weekend.

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Adrian Ochoa

Adrian Ochoa is ABC-7’s Sports Director.


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