Tuesday, December 19, 2006, Altoona Mirror
Statistician’s work leads to Heat championship ring

By John Hartsock, jhartsock@altoonamirror.com

Courtesy photo

Pete Roscia, now working for the Miami Heat, is a 1967 graduate of Bishop Guilfoyle High School.

Shaquille O’Neal and Dwyane Wade are household names among National Basketball Association fans.

Their profiles grew even bigger last June, when they led the Miami Heat to the 2005-06 NBA championship.

Altoona native Pete Roscia, who serves as one of the Heat’s official statisticians, said the organization regards everybody in its fold as part of one big, close and happy family.

That was borne out before the Heat’s Nov. 17 game with the New York Knicks at Miami’s American Airlines Arena, when Roscia joined NBA legends O’Neal and Wade in receiving World Championship rings.

The ring Roscia received was the real deal — a splendid gold-and-red gem just like the Heat players got, with Roscia’s named engraved on the side of it, along with the “15 Strong” slogan that Heat coach Pat Riley espoused to his players all during last season’s championship run. The slogan alluded to the 15 players on Miami’s roster working together to win the title.

Also on the ring was an insignia of the NBA championship O’Brien Trophy in gold mounted on black onyx surrounded by diamonds.

“I’ve received many compliments about (the ring),’’ said Roscia, 57, a 1967 graduate of Bishop Guilfoyle High School who was a member of the Marauders’ Pennsylvania Catholic Interscholastic Athletic Association boys’ basketball state championship team. “Receiving the championship ring from the Heat and working for the team has been a very exciting, gratifying experience. The Miami Heat is a very special basketball team, and a very special organization. They treat everybody associated with them like family.’’

Roscia has been affiliated with the Heat as a statistician for three seasons, working most of the team’s 40 home games as part of a crew that moves play-by-play game statistics on to members of the working media covering that night’s event, and, later, to the NBA front office and to outlets on the Internet.

Roscia is also employed by the Heat as a “runner,” a person who runs post-game quotes from players and coaches to media members.

Jim Cox, the athletic director at Miami Dade Community College, is in charge of the entire statistics crew at the Heat’s home games.

Cox appreciates Roscia’s cooperative attitude.

“We ask all the people on the statistics crew to be very versatile, because everybody is doing everything they can to make the game go smoothly, and he seems to really enjoy what he’s doing, and doesn’t mind getting involved,’’ Cox said of Roscia. “He’ll do anything you ask of him.’’

In last spring’s NBA playoffs, Roscia’s gig with the Heat was an especially exciting and hectic job.

“Watching the games can be very exciting, especially in the playoffs,’’ Roscia said. “In the championship series, we were were passing out over 500 copies of media statistics packages per quarter. It was very exciting, but (the media frenzy surrounding the championship series) was like a zoo.’’

It wasn’t a problem for Roscia, though. All his life, he’s been used to hustling.

He spent 26 years as a referee presiding over various NCAA women’s basketball games and Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) games.

“The higher you get in officiating, the better the money gets, but a big reason I enjoyed officiating so much was because of the exercise I got doing it,’’ said Roscia, who was awarded several NCAA women’s national tournament games as a reward for his diligent officiating work. “I probably ran about 10 miles up and down the court officiating each game.

“Men’s basketball players are the greatest athletes in the world from the standpoint that they do everything — run, jump, shoot and throw, but the women’s game came a long, long way in the 26 years I was involved with it.’’

Roscia said he was a mere role player on BG’s 1967 PCIAA championship boys’ basketball team, which was led by shooting guards Billy Adams — a long-time BG assistant varsity girls’ basketball coach — and Pat Shute, who played collegiately at St. Francis.

Adams remembers Roscia as a “heck of an athlete on the football field, and a heck of a nice guy off the field.’’

Roscia described himself as “too aggressive for basketball,’’ but that aggressiveness suited him well in football, a sport in which he went on to earn an athletic scholarship to the University of Richmond in Virginia. During Roscia’s collegiate days, Richmond competed on the Division I-A level in football — the Spiders have since dropped to the I-AA level — and participated in two Tangerine Bowl games, in 1969 and 1972.

“During my sophomore year, we played Ohio University in the Tangerine Bowl, which later became the Citrus Bowl,’’ Roscia said. “Both schools were ranked in the top 20, and we beat Ohio University, 49-42 in a game that went wire-to-wire. In my senior year, we lost to Toledo, 27-3 in the Tangerine Bowl. We weren’t ranked that year, and they were ranked in the top 20.’’

But as big a thrill as playing major college football was for Roscia, receiving the Heat’s championship ring after also participating in last spring’s team championship parade down Miami’s Biscayne Boulevard was even more fulfilling.

And he looks forward to doing it again in the near future.

“I’m confident that the Heat will be back in the mix when the playoffs roll around in April and May,’’ Roscia said. “There are at least five teams in the Western Conference capable of winning the championship, but I think the Heat is the best team in the (Eastern Conference). They’re an older, experienced team, and they’ll be a scary team for anybody to play against.’’