Heckling fans. Screaming coaches. Unruly players.
Welcome to the world of Vasili Mallios, BSBA ’11, a Division I men’s basketball official who is never happier than when he’s standing on a crowded basketball court dressed in his striped jersey with a whistle around his neck.
“I love what I do,” he says, “and I have the best seat in the house.”
Basketball runs deep in Mallios’ family: His brother, Dino, led the nation in assists while playing for St. Anselm’s College and his sister, Katerina, played hoops at Babson College. In addition, his uncles Nick Tsiotos, BS ’77, and Max Tsiotos, BSBA ’87, played basketball for the Suffolk Rams; uncle Chris Tsiotos, BS ’77, JD ’83, a star center for the men’s basketball team, is even a member of Suffolk Athletics Hall of Fame.
As for Mallios, he played basketball all the way through Winthrop High School, but gave it up when he got to Suffolk. He rediscovered his passion for the sport halfway around the world, when he joined a club team while studying abroad during his sophomore year in his family’s native country of Greece.
Back in the game“I missed the game and wanted to get back into it somehow,” says Mallios. “I knew I didn’t want to coach. That’s when I decided to try and become a referee.”
After passing the necessary certification tests, Mallios began officiating elementary school games and eventually worked his way up to the high school level. He then made the jump to the college ranks, refereeing Division III and DII games for about five years, before becoming a DI official four years ago. Between November and March, Mallios officiates games in the evenings and on weekends.
“You have to stay composed, know the rules, and be approachable,” says Mallios, who has officiated in the America East, Metro Atlantic Athletic, and Colonial League conferences, among others. “It’s not easy because we are counted on to make so many split-second decisions in the course of a game.
“No referee is perfect; we all mistakes. When a call you make is challenged, the important thing is to listen, have confidence in the decision you make, and move on. I have fun with it and smile.”
By day, Mallios is a sixth-grade math teacher at the James Otis Elementary School in East Boston. His Suffolk education—with its emphasis on communication skills, working in groups, multitasking, and time management—has, he says, benefited him both on the court and in the classroom.
“No referee is perfect; we all mistakes,” Mallios says. “When a call you make is challenged, the important thing is to listen, have confidence in the decision you make, and move on. I have fun with it and smile.”
Jim Nelson, Suffolk’s emeritus director of athletics, remembers how impressed he was watching Mallios referee for the first time.
“Vasili had this presence on the court that made you respect his feel for the game,” says Nelson, who, in addition to his three-plus decades as AD also spent 20 years as men’s head basketball coach. “From a coaching standpoint, he was unbiased at all times and in complete control of his emotions.
“I knew then that he was going to make a difference in the game and go places in the officiating world.”
“The goal is to get to the top of DI,” says Mallios, mentioning conferences such as the Big East and ACC. “I just want to keep learning and working hard. What I have learned is that you need to be focused and level-headed 100% of the time to be successful in this business.”
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