State of Maine Commissioner of Basketball Peter Webb has been at all this refereeing stuff for a long time.

The 2008-2009 high school basketball season marks the Houlton native’s 47th as a referee, assistant commissioner, or the head guy, a position he has held the last 19 years.

In addition to Peter’s current duties in-state, he also serves the country as the National Coordinator of Rules Interpreters and Trainer of Officials.

Consider that, then consider what goes into such work.

It has been my good fortune for a number of years — 30, to be exact — to spend an afternoon or an evening each year with the likeable fellow and discuss the basketball landscape.

Often, those discussions go well into the early hours of the morning. You see, it sometimes takes that long to get our points across.

Peter’s son Michael, the fine girls basketball coach at John Bapst Memorial High School in Bangor, once said this to me: “Boy, I’d like to sit in on one of those sessions and see who could get a word in edge-wise.”

I value those annual get-togethers for Webb brings a different theme to the table each year.

This year’s session saw Webb reiterating a common theme, one which is repeated often throughout the course of his travels: “Officials are part of the whole education process.” A step further, he goes on to say, “Properly trained officials enhance the entire education process.”

Like a lot of my fellow coaches, I was always of the mind that the gymnasium was simply just another classroom.

What say you, commissioner?

“Oh, absolutely,” he responded.

“The schools and the programs that buy into that theory are the ones who are giving the kids and their communities the most educationally-oriented athletic offerings around.”

Webb also views the entire athletic process as a privilege for all of its participants. From stage band to cheering, the outside-of-classroom stuff enhances the process.

Oh, that more people felt that way.

At 70, Peter Webb has pretty much seen it all. His travels have taken him worldwide, but he still views our basketball offerings at or near the top of any hoop listings he’d make for quality and success.

I asked the Commissioner what other states would rank up there with Maine for educational emphasis and quality of tournament play.

Webb lists Connecticut, West Virginia, Kentucky and Vermont as states that follow Maine’s pattern of success.

“Those four,” he said, “come the closest to what we do here. They’re very similar.”

The well-run machine which is the annual product of Webb and others’ work runs smoothly each and every year.

Up next, the Maine Principals’ Association’s basketball extravaganza which is the high school invitational tournament.

“I can’t wait,” Webb says, and the effort and energy that his officials put into the events enhance all the other energies statewide that make the time worthwhile for all participants.

“This should be fun.”

30-Second Time Out

Today is a historic day in the United States of America.

With the swearing in of Barack Obama, our first black president, hordes of barriers fall to the wayside, and in this country, thoughts turn today to other barriers that still need work and need to be broken.

From this corner, for our Maine sports region, here’s one I’d like to see improved: In high school girls basketball varsity positions, I’d like to see more women hired for the top jobs. Granted, there are a few women holding these important positions. But educators statewide need to be more aggressive in their recruiting of women for these coaching spots.

The Margie Deabays and Deidra Davises of the world — the fine Hermon and Bucksport High School hoop coaches, respectively — are few and far between.