In this episode, Brian Beckcom speaks with Joe ‘Big Money’ Wilbert III about his basketball career, raising competitive athletes, the time he knocked out a Texas Tech fan who was attacking his head coach, sports as a tool to bridge racial and cultural differences, and a whole lot more.
Joe Wilbert III is a Texas A&M Basketball legend. Joe is ranked second overall in Texas A&M University history for the number of points scored in a single season. Joe was good enough to play professional basketball after his college career.
Joe was also involved in a fight after the Texas Tech game in Lubbock, when the Texas Tech authorities failed to control and protect the Texas A&M players and coaches after the game, (a consistent pattern in Lubbock, which has a reputation of having idiot fans). The Texas Tech fans attacked the Texas A&M head coach, and Joe came to his defense, knocking out an attacker cold with one punch.
After playing basketball professionally in Europe, Joe came back to his hometown of Bryan, Texas, to work as a probation officer. He eventually supervised over 40 juvenile detention officers.
Later, Joe started his own business designing and building custom homes and has become a successful entrepreneur.
Joe continues to feed his passion for basketball as a dedicated NCAA basketball official.
Watch this episode on YouTube
Brian and Joe discuss:
- Balancing tough love and building character in a new generation of children
- The difference between coaching your kids and living vicariously through your child’s athletic career
- The never-before-told story of how Joe wound up playing basketball for Texas A&M University
- The importance of sticking it out for your team and the “athlete mentality” that’s lost on today’s youth
- Joe’s lights-out performance in A&M’s 1993 basketball game against Texas Tech (pun intended)
- How athletics and sports bring people of all kinds of races and cultures together
- His experience as an NCAA official and his advice to would-be referees
- And other topics
Joe ‘Big Money’ Wilbert III was born and raised in Bryan, Texas. Joe attended Tyler Junior College and graduated with his Associates of Arts in Health and Kinesiology. He then went on to sign a full basketball scholarship with Texas A&M University to finish his collegiate career, where he graduated with his Bachelors of Sociology. Joe played professional basketball in France and Luxembourg from 1995 - 97. Currently, Joe Wilbert is the Owner of Wilbert Custom Homes, LLC, and NCAA Division I basketball official. Before establishing Wilbert Custom Homes, LLC in 2004 and becoming a college basketball officials in 2001, Joe worked for the Brazos County Juvenile Service in his hometown, Bryan, TX. Joe Wilbert holds many awards and records from his collegiate and professional career as a stand out athlete; however his greatest awards/promotion is his love for God and to father three boys, Romello Wilbert, 21 years old, and two twin boys Jacob and Joseph Wilbert, 6 years old. To learn more about Joe Wilbert III, visit his LinkedIn page.
Read the transcript:
Brian Beckcom: Hey everybody. Brian Beckcom here. And I have got Joe Wilbert III. Joe, man, how the heck are you doing? It's great to see you.
Joe Wilbert III: I'm doing great. Doing great, Brian. First, I want to thank you for thinking enough of me to put me on your show today.
Brian Beckcom: Yeah, well, to say I think a lot of you would be an understatement. And I, you know, I tell you, Joe, I was thinking about this this morning. You and I are kind of the polar opposites of college basketball athletes. I played in eight games. I was a preferred walk on, scored two points. And you were good enough to play professional.
You know, one of the things that I've always thought is if you're, whatever it is you're doing, whether it's sports or anything else, if people are willing to pay you to do what you do, you are pretty damn good at what you do. I mean, people pay me a lot of money to be a lawyer. But they do not pay me – they never paid me any money to play basketball. But you got paid to play professional basketball.
Then, you've since gone into business. You were a supervisor for a juvenile detention group. You supervised 40 juvenile detention officers. You’re also an entrepreneur. You're a home builder. And, interestingly, you're an NCA basketball ref.
So, I want to talk about a lot of those things, Joe, but before we get into that, how's your – you got three boys, one who's I think, 18, 19 now. And then you got two six-year-olds.
Joe Wilbert III: No, he’s 21.
Brian Beckcom: 21. Okay. So, how's your family doing, man?
Joe Wilbert III: Doing great. Well, first off, to kind of rebuttal your statement about being a walk-on. Just know that you play the important role because you got guys like me ready for practice. Same [1:45] for our opponents. So, please don't take too much credit away from yourself also being an athlete. And second, people don't realize that a walk-on is an athlete because everyone cannot be a walk-on. So, come on, man. Don’t shoot yourself down too bad.
As for me, I'm blessed to have three boys. Romello, he's a junior at East Central Oklahoma. And then I have my two twin boys who’s six years old. So, that's where I’m at. I got three boys and I wish I had a little girl, but, hey. So, I already know when I turn 75, 80 years old, I'm going straight to the nursing home. If it was up to my boys, no one’s going to take care of me. So, that's the only bad thing about having three boys. I know I’m going straight to a nursing home. But other than that, it’s great to know that your name will carry on for at least a couple more years.
Brian Beckcom: For sure. Joe, I'm laughing really hard right now because my dad used to tell me the exact same thing. I've got a younger brother and adopted older brother and he goes, “Man, I know that when I get older, since I ain't got no daughters, I don't have anybody to take care of me.”
Joe Wilbert III: I'm going straight to the nursing home.
Brian Beckcom: I have two boys and then I have a 12-year-old daughter, and I got to tell you, growing up around all boys – my mother died when I was 10. So, it was all boys in the house. And so, I didn't really grow up around girls. But, man, having that little girl, I mean, I might not have to go to the nursing home as early as you will, man. Right?
Well, Joe, let me ask you –
Joe Wilbert III: You can come visit me.
The difference between coaching your kids and living vicariously through your child’s athletic career
Brian Beckcom: Yeah, yeah. Let me ask you this question, because I've asked quite a few people this question. Matter of fact, I asked Bucky Richardson this question. So, Bucky's got a son who is a senior in high school now who’s committed to Oklahoma State as a wide receiver, which is a big deal. You've got a son, I think, who is playing college basketball right now. Is that true? Romello?
Joe Wilbert III: Yes.
Brian Beckcom: So, tell us – and you were a high-level athlete. You were probably around a bunch of parents that, in youth sports, it could get a little crazy, and then you’re probably around parents that never show up. And so, as a high-level athlete, Joe, what did you do in terms of encouraging – your son's name is Romello, right?
Joe Wilbert III: Yeah. Romello.
Brian Beckcom: What did you do to encourage him to give him that spark? Like, how did you think of raising an aspiring athlete?
Joe Wilbert III: Well, I wouldn’t use the words encouragement for Romello. Also, former athletes like me, because, you know, every time you go somewhere, some kid, you know, people are always saying, “Oh, I'm going to show Farley, the way he play, he play the hand up and he was like this.” So, my big thing that I did for Romello, Brian, and I appreciate him from day one, was just be who you are. Just be you. You know?
It’s a lot of pressure. It's a lot of pressure on the kid that always hears that his father was a great basketball player or his mother was a great basketball player. So, what I did was I took that pressure off Romello, as best as I could. I’m like, “Romello, man, just be the best you can be.” So, I always encouraged him to, man, “Just be you, son.”
Sometimes, I think that played against him because, you know, people used to see him and be like, “Well, you gonna have the same dog mentality that your father had,” but that's a whole different generation, too, you know? But I tell him all the time, Brian, “I'm proud of you.” I tell him all the time. I say, “Son, you don't have to score one bucket. You don't have to play one minute of college basketball. But you will be a very respectable young man.”
Brian Beckcom: That is awesome. You know, Bucky said the same thing. Bucky said, you know, “When my son comes home, I'm just his dad. I'm just telling him I’m proud of him.”
Joe Wilbert III: “I'm gonna raise you the same way my father raised me. At the end of the day, I don't care if you work at McDonald's.” You know what I'm saying? I mean, nothing against anybody working at McDonald's or Walmart or Exxon or Shell. “But you will be a respectable young man. You would carry yourself in a great way. And you will not embarrass my last name. So, other than that, hey, your basketball career don't mean anything to me.” Like I tell my son every day, “You don't have to score not one bucket. To me, I'm gonna love you regardless.”
Brian Beckcom: Nice. Nice. Well, you know, you said something earlier there, Joe, in that comment that I, you know, I’ve searched for a little bit and talked to some of my friends about it and that is, you know, you did have a hard nose mentality and, you know what, so did I. As a matter of fact, I got in a fight with Tony Barone, Jr. as a walk on during practice. Cause I, you know, and Tony is a friend of mine. Tony Jr. is a friend of mine.
But I had that attitude and I think it came from the way I was raised by a single father. So, I had this kind of killer mentality. I mean, when I stepped on the court, man, I was coming to get you. And so, I worry, you know, sometimes a little bit, I don't know if worry is the right word, but I think about, like, you know, Romello and my kids, I got two boys and a girl. You know, they've grown up with some privilege. With more privilege maybe than I had growing up, and maybe same with you.
For me, and maybe for you, and you tell me if I'm thinking about this, right, you kind of had this fire in your belly, this kind of intensity. And so, sometimes I wonder where kids that grow up in a privileged environment get that intensity. You know, my dad used to say, “The people I respect the most are people that come from nothing and make something of themselves, and then people that are given a lot and take advantage of the opportunities they're given.” Cause, you know, if you're given a lot, sometimes it’s easy not to take advantage of those opportunities. So, have you ever thought about, like, where it was that Joe Wilbert mentality came – where did that intensity come from?
Joe Wilbert III: It came from my brother, Milton. My older brother, Milton. My brother Milton did not let me back down from anyone in our neighborhood. He never accepted me coming in second place. He just never accepted me just losing. So, my brother Milton, my older brother, he played an important role in that he made the guy that I am today at being tough. Being gritty. And my brother was the smallest guy on the block, but he was the toughest one. Nobody did mess with me.
Brian Beckcom: How could he be the smallest guy on the block? You're 6”6’, aren't you?
Joe Wilbert III: Yeah, I know, but he's real skinny. He got a small frame on him, but nobody did mess with him. So, my brother, Milton, was my, you know, he was my hero. He was my Superman. He was my role model. He was all of that. Until I got older in life as, from a standpoint of being a coach. Coach Bear Davis took over as being my, let’s say my fiscal role model at the time.
And then, Brian, I had both of my parents. I had my mother and father. But, you know, as a kid, you think your parents and mothers is always on you. So, with that being said, my brother, Milton, he raised me. And plus, I can't eat pork [9:34] my neighborhood. Well, back then, Brian, we played – well, you know this. So, when you lost, I mean, you might as well go home because you're not coming back up until two or three more games. It might be 30 or 45 minutes.
Brian Beckcom: Yeah, for sure. I hated that, man. I did not like losing those pick-up games.
Joe Wilbert III: So, but Brian, so, the best advice I can give you about your kids, and probably Bucky told you the same thing, is just leave that alone. They are not going to have my mentality. So, you might as well just enjoy how they are. Let them get it for themselves, because trust me, that was one of my mistakes that I made with Romello starting out. Where it's like, “Romello, you need to do this. Don't let him score again.” Then it was more like, “Joe, that's not his mentality.” So, you know, that's your mentality.
So, that’s the reason why I stopped training Romello. I stopped training him. Because I wanted to be his father, not his trainer.
Brian Beckcom: Yeah. And there's a difference, too, between the two. There's a big difference between the two, right?
Joe Wilbert III: Yeah. Because, you know, I get in the car, like, we come from training and we in the car talking, then I might get on him about something in training. So, we in the car, we quite. We ain't talking. He ain't talking to me, I'm not talking to him, I'm mad at him. You know what I'm say? And vice versa. He mad at me. And I was like, you know what? I wanna enjoy my son, free of basketball.
So, after his freshman year, I left him alone. So, I sat back and I stayed a father. And it was the best decision I made. Not saying that I couldn’t do both for him. But I just know how I am, and then I knew it would just play the issue because his mom used to always be like, “Well, ease up off of him now.” I think it's best for us, I would say, for me to be a father and just watch him play. And I enjoy every moment of it.
Brian Beckcom: I had some times with my oldest son who was a very, very good basketball player when he was in middle school. He just found out he made the varsity basketball team at Memorial, which is a pretty big deal cause they got 2000 plus students, only five juniors made it. But the head coach at Memorial used to say, “Listen, parents, just be their parents when they get home. Because they're getting an earful from me every day in practice. They don't want to come home and get an earful from their dad.”
And so, it took me a little while to realize that, cause I kind of did the same thing you did, Joe. I mean, there was some times in middle school where I thought my son was playing like a wimp and I’d get on him. And I'd say, “Man, you gotta get tough.”
I remember I took him to an AAU trial one time that I don't think he was prepared for. He was the only white kid in the gym. He had never been a part of this program. These kids are out there. They're really good basketball players. They're super intense. And he wimped out and he literally walked out of the gym. I had to go get him in the parking lot. He's like, “Dad, I don't want to do this.” I said, “No, you're getting back in there. You're going to finish this. You don't have to come back, but you're going to finish this practice.” And you know what? You went in there and he kicked ass. He did really good.
Nowadays, you know, it's to the point now where I'll bet, like, Romello and I – my oldest son, his name is Augustus. We call him Gus. He's gotten to the point now where his motivation comes from inside. It's not coming from his coaches or his parents. It's coming from him. Which I think is the best kind of motivation, right? If you're telling your son, you know, “Do this, do that, do this, do that,” you know, they're naturally, especially if it's your dad, they're going to push back a little bit, right?
Joe Wilbert III: Yeah, he did. And plus, like I told his ma, I'm going to stop pushing him because it might be something that Romello don't want, but I went for him. So, I wanted to make sure. So, I stopped. Like, Muslim, be your problems. [13:20] His mother is always, “Joe. Why you haven’t shot with Romello in the last two weeks?” “Because you have not called me and asked me to shoot with you.”
Brian Beckcom: Yeah, exactly.
Joe Wilbert III: Because now if I call and say “Romello, let’s go shoot.” Guess what? Now he probably wants somewhere where he don’t want to be at the moment. So, that's the things that I did with him was I said, you know what, until he called me, we're not going to go shoot. Because, Brian, sometimes as parents we've pushed stuff on our kids that they don't want.
And I seen this coming up and then I noticed it just being a juvenile probation officer. If you push your kids to something they don't want to be, then what they'll do is they'll start doing drugs or something to get some negative attention to get out what they doing. So, by knowing that, so that's really why I stepped away when it came to me taking him to go shoot. I wait till he calls. Because I don't want no body who watches to say, “Well, why you give up on this child?” No, that wasn't the case. I just don't want to push him to do something that he don't want to do. Then I don't want him to the hate what he doing, then also hate me in the process of making him do that. So, what I did, I just stepped back.
So now, guess what, Brian? He started calling me, “Hey, Dad, let’s go shoot.” And I will love every moment of it. Because every time I took him, I know he didn't want to be shooting cause he wanted to go hang out with his friends or he wanted to play these video games they got now. So, as a parent, it’s a thin line of should I or should I not?
Everyone’s kids are different and then, Brian, all I do is give you advice and the people that listen to advice that, hey, just know your kid and just know they’re limits for when they come to push their limits. But you don't want to push them too hard. You push them too hard and they might do something that you don't want them to do, as do something stupid. Just to stop doing, like, “You know what? I'm gonna go steal something that they stole [15:26], because I know if I go steal something today, then I don’t have to play basketball because my parents are gonna kick me off the team,” or something. And you sure don’t want that.
Kids, man. It's a touchy situation because of the way times are. Back then, when we was coming up, Brian, our parents told us to go sit down, we sit down. Now, these kids now, “I ain't sitting down.” You know, these kids now, boy, “You whoop me, I'm gonna call CPS.” And, you know, there's so much crazy stuff going on in his world now, and so much bad influence.
I mean, Brian, I grew up in a neighborhood where if I went down the street and played with Vince and Dennell, D’s mom and Vince’s mom could whoop me. And then I went back home and I got another one for acting the fool at Vince and D’s house. My mom said, “No, you don't embarrass me like that at nobody else’s house.” Now, you do that now? Oh my God.
Brian Beckcom: That's right. That's right. Well, it used to be like where I grew up, you know, we wouldn't even lock our front doors. I lived kind of out in the country. But we all ran over to each other's house and we all jumped in each other's pools and it seemed like it was a little bit of a safer – everybody was looking out for each other. And, you know, the moms were all looking out for the kids. All the different kids, not just their own kids.
But I want to get back to something you said earlier in your comments about how – I think we all know that some parents, and we kind of know it when we see it. They live through their own kids' sports. Like, maybe they didn't have quite the sports they wanted and so now they're kind of living through their own sports. And, you know, one of the things that I think about, I wasn't nearly as good of a basketball player as you were, but I was first team, all district, made state finals, was on very good team, went to playoffs three years, and then got to play with you guys for a year at A&M.
One of the things that I've realized, and I had to be real careful is my sons – I've got two boys – my sons are not going to have the same path that I do. It's going to be a different path. They're not going to be doing what you and I were doing playing basketball seven days a week, going out and playing pickup four hours on Saturday, just like you said. You know, if you don't keep the court, you're gone for 45 minutes. They're just not – it's just different times and that's not what they're going to do.
And, you know, I caught myself three or four years ago, Joe, kind of imposing what I thought was the proper path for my son on him, rather than just letting him find his own path. So, what do you think about that, Joe?
Joe Wilbert III: I mean, that's the best decision I made. I talk about this all the time. Man, there’s so many fathers who live through their kids. And I see it all the time. And every kid who has that type of father, they’re never successful. I haven't seen one yet. Now, I haven't seen one yet because that father live through that son and he's pushing that kid too much.
And then, Brian, if you go back to look at it, most kids who are good, like, when they're young, by 16, or their junior year in high school, their senior, people get caught up with them. You know why? Cause they already done. They already meet their peak. Cause they started too early. That’s the reason why I advise people now, I be like, “Man, let your child enjoy basketball until they get, like, around seven or eight grade, then start training. But when they are 11 and 13, 14 years old, man, let them enjoy basketball. So, that's a touchy subject with me, because I see a lot of fathers that live through their kids and, man, those kids are very frustrated.
Brian Beckcom: Well, and you know, there's a – so, my favorite basketball player when I was younger was a guy named Rex Chapman who was a guy that played at Kentucky and, you know, Rex Chapman played in the NBA. He was a phenomenal basketball player. His dad was a basketball coach, and his dad, I've heard stories about. Rex would come home and he'd score 35 points, get 12 rebounds and six assists, and his dad would say, “Why did you turn the ball over twice?” That kind of stuff.
And Rex ended up, I don't know if you know this, but after he got out of basketball, he ended up with a very bad drug problem. He was addicted to pills. He got busted trying to steal computers out of an Apple store. He’s since redeemed himself.
Joe Wilbert III: Rex Chapman?
Brian Beckcom: Oh, yeah. Oh yeah. He's big on Twitter and he's talked about it.
Joe Wilbert III: Yeah, I know. I see him on Twitter. I follow him because he'd been putting a lot of stuff about people getting hearing for the first time. He’s put a lot of stuff on there that’s positive.
Brian Beckcom: He’s a great Twitter follower. But the point is, is once he was done with sports, maybe partly because of the way his dad was to him, he kind of didn't have anything left and he really struggled a lot.
Now he's kind of turned it back around and he's doing well, but the point, you know, one of the things that I think about a lot, Joe, is our kids are not going to be playing sports the rest of their life. At least not organized sports. I mean, we're not – what are we doing here? We're not teaching them to be athletes for the rest of their life. We're teaching them to be good people.
I really worry sometimes, I see some of the parents and there's only so much you can say to them, that are just so hard on their kids. You know, I just feel bad for the kids and I kind of look over to the dad and I'm just thinking to myself, “Do you know what you sound like, man? You know, what are you thinking over there, man? Maybe your son will be the starting shortstop for two years on the high school baseball team, but he's going to resent you for the rest of his life because of the way you're acting towards him,” right?
Joe Wilbert III: Yeah. So now you are – everything that you're saying, Brian, is what I was saying earlier about I took a step back for Romello, as from training him and stuff like that, because I never wanted my son to feel – and not saying this in a negative way, but my son to turn out to like Rex Chapman. “Man, my father did so much to me.” Because I know some guys that I grew up with, they turn out same thing like Rex did. One started doing drugs, one went to prison, one smoked drugs a lot because their father was too hard on them. He scored 20 points, his father would be like, “Well, you should have had 24. You should have had 26. And why you missed those free throws?” Come on.
So, you right, Brian. That's tough, man. And then I be at the gym and someone at the gym, I used to see that all the time. Like, man, this dude is living through his son so much. As soon as the game is over, he'll grab his son and just be, like, talking to him, and it's like, “Dude.” But, hey.
The never-before-told story of how Joe wound up playing basketball for Texas A&M University
Brian Beckcom: Well, Joe, you know, that also ties into a conversation I hope we can have here in a little bit, and that has to do with your career as an NCAA basketball official, and some of the way the fans act. But before we get into that, talk about your – so, you grew up in Bryan, Texas. Talk a little bit about how you ended up at Texas A&M on the basketball team.
Joe Wilbert III: Brian, now, you want the truth or you want the fairy tale story?
Brian Beckcom: I want the truth.
Joe Wilbert III: I'm going to tell you the truth.
Brian Beckcom: You can’t handle the truth! No, just kidding.
Joe Wilbert III: I never, ever in my life dreamed I would be going to Texas A&M. I always envisioned myself going to Prairie View because my sister Linda went to Prairie View and all my cousins went to Prairie View, from Bryan. So, I thought I'd go to Prairie View. Gonna get a degree and turn out to be a great guy.
So, started playing basketball at the Boys and Girls Club. Well, at the time, the Boys Club in Bryan. So, I started playing basketball. I was pretty good. No big deal. Then I got in high school, my sophomore year at Bry High. I started off on JV. Then I got moved up to varsity doing the Christmas Tournament. You know in high school, Brian, somebody always gonna get moved up before Christmas for the Christmas Tournament. So, I was at one guy, so I was happy. I got the varsity shoes. I got the varsity shoes. You know, I got the varsity traveling warmups. So, I was, like, I was just happy. I didn't care if I played one minute or one second.
Brian Beckcom: It felt like you were in the NBA probably, right?
Joe Wilbert III: Yeah. So, our first game we had, we were playing in Waco. We were playing against Dallas Campbell. We getting beat by 30-some points.
Brian Beckcom: I played Campbell in high school, too, when the Sasser brothers were playing for Campbell.
Joe Wilbert III: So, Coach Davis said, “Man, just go in the game.” He said, “We loosing so bad.” I went, I scored, like, 20 points. And then just took off from there. And so, I say all this to say it took off from there. I'd be the first one to me. And I tell people this all the time. If I play against a hundred people, Brian, 99 people are better than me. But they wouldn't have a bigger heart than me and I was not going to let them beat me. That was the only difference between me. They was not going to beat me. And I just had to get good. I mean, it's no hidden formula. It’s nothing that I did drill-wise. It wasn't nothing. It was just my upbringing and just my motivation I had inside myself was I was not going to lose to the guy in front of me.
So, in the process of having that mentality, I got good. I mean, so I went from Bryan High to Tyler Junior College. We're the first team ever in JUCO history to go to Hutchinson, Kansas. It’s like the farm to fork [25:30] for JUCO. Under 500. We was, like, 16 and 15. So, we won our tournament.
Brian Beckcom: Yeah, you won your tournament. You must have won your tournament, right?
Joe Wilbert III: Yeah, we won our tournament. So, we won our tournament. At the AC, we were tied with three teams for AC. And I'll read where we got in could [25:53] we beat St. Jack. So, they brought the tie breaker and we played St. Jack in the first round. So, we beat them. So, then we beat Alvin in the second round. Then in the championship game, so we as Lena to go to Hutchinson, Kansas.
So, I get to Hutchinson, Kansas and I get there. Mississippi State, Texas A&M, and UTSA was my final three. I get to Hutchinson, Kansas. Clemson come knocking on my door. Kansas State come knocking on my door. I had all types come knocking on my door because, you know, in Hutchinson, that's a nationwide, so all coaches come there. But I had my three places that I was going, because I've been through this recruiting process before and I ain't going to go through all them five visits and all that. Telling me what I want to hear at the time. So, Mississippi State, A&M, and UTSA.
I hate to say this arrogantly, but I was going to Mississippi State. I was signed and sealed and ready to go. That’s where I was going. I was going to Mississippi State. My mom called the coach. Coach Williams, Richard Williams at the time. Because she wanted to talk to him. So, when mom called him, she said, “Hey, I just want to visit with you about the school.” At the time, Coach Williams was mowing his grass. And so, when he answered the phone, he said, “You bothering me. I'm mowing my grass at the time.” You can't tell a Black mom that, that she bothering you about her own child. So, my mom was like, “No way. You are not going to Mississippi State.
To make a long story short, it's the best thing I've ever done, Brian, because coming to Bryan, there’s probably people like Daryl Mason, other kids who's in the area, that if a kid from East Park, from the same streets that you traveled down every day, down Martin Luther King, went to Carver-Kemp, went to Bry Hi, went to Anderson Jones, can walk them same hallways and make it to Texas A&M, you can do the same, too.
After that was all said and done, I'm glad that God make that situation happen, and said for me to go to A&M. Because I never dream of going to A&M. And a subject that I don’t know that you're going to touch, but it’s a subject that I, you know, the instant I got into it, I loved it.
Brian Beckcom: Yeah, no, I want to – let’s hold off on that for one second cause I definitely want to talk about that. I had that on my list of things to talk about. But you know, Joe, what's interesting to me, when I'm – there's two things that kind of stand out to me about what you're saying right now, one of which is people in the stands watching Texas A&M play basketball seeing a guy like Joe Wilbert would have never thought that Joe Wilbert had any lack of confidence or any belief that he wouldn't be good enough to play at A&M. We just assume a guy like you, you know, a big, strong guy who's a talented athlete would think, “Man, I can do anything.” But, but just like everybody else, you had your doubts and your questions, too.
And then the other thing that sticks out to me a lot, Joe, is, you know, when I look back on my life, there were a couple of things that happened that at the time I thought were bad, and it turned out they were some of the best things that ever happened to me. For instance, I was applying for a job at a law firm that I didn't get, and I was so upset about it. I could not believe it. I thought, you know, I knew the head person and thought I was a shoe-in. And if I would have gotten that job, I wouldn't have met my current law partner who I've been partners with for 16 years.
So, you know, it's interesting that Mississippi State story, because essentially you were probably like, “What the heck, man? I thought I was committed. I was ready to go play for the Bulldogs. And now all of a sudden the coach acts like this to my mom. And, you know, now I got to make a different decision.” But it sounds like it ended up turning out, you know, a lot better for you anyway, right?
Joe Wilbert III: And Brian, you know the funny thing is? Nobody didn't know that story until today.
Brian Beckcom: Really? Nice. I love that.
Joe Wilbert III: Yeah. I never told nobody. Nobody, never. So, somebody might see this story and be like, “Well, he really not a true Aggie.”
Brian Beckcom: Now, come on.
Joe Wilbert III: Brian, trust me. I’m a true Aggie.
Brian Beckcom: Yeah, yeah, no, no, I have no question in my mind about that.
Joe Wilbert III: But, you know, and then the funny thing about Mississippi State, they went to the final four that year with Erick Dampier.
Brian Beckcom: Did they really? Wow. Nice.
Joe Wilbert III: And then the guy who had my spot, he was a walk-on.
Brian Beckcom: Really?
Joe Wilbert III: Yes.
Brian Beckcom: Wow. Gosh, small world, man. Unbelievable.
Joe Wilbert III: The only negative thing about me playing A&M, there was only one negative thing, Brian, about me playing at A&M was I played out of position. And it affected me at the next level.
Brian Beckcom: Talk about that a little bit more. What do you mean?
Joe Wilbert III: A testament to Coach Barone. After my junior year, we talked about it. So, he moved me to the three spot. Castle was the guard. Tony McGinnis was the two. I was at three. John Stevens was the four and Damon Johnson was the five. And Coach Barone was not happy with them, Johnson and Stevens, at the moment. I don’t think it was – I think it was more Stevens that he wasn't happy with. So, he was like, “Wilbert, I need to move you back to the four,” because that's one thing I talked to him about was, “Hey, Coach Barone, man, hey, look, I’m tired of playing at this level.” And all the scouts telling me that, I mean, they didn't see me shoot.
I shot in the high school. I shot it at Tyler Junior college. So, I’m going to shoot at A&M. For the whole summer, I worked on my three-point shot. My wrist. And so that's one of the things that I kind of, you know, I don't use the word hate because the Bible said don't use that word, but I've disliked that I played in the wrong position. But, you know, hey, I do what I need to do for my team. And so, at the next level, it hurt me. But, hey, you know.
Brian Beckcom: You made a sacrifice for the team that you knew at the time and, like you said, you even talked to Coach Barone about it and you knew it was going to affect your ability to play professional basketball, at least initially, but you did it anyway.
You know, that's a great point, Joe, because –
Joe Wilbert III: Yeah. So, not cutting you off, not cutting you off. Brian, and I said his name before, I said my career would have been like PJ Tucker. I was a PJ Tucker player. I was a Bulldog. And I won’t say it. So, I was trying to be like a PJ Tucker player at the time that I would be working on my jump shot. But I was – cause you think about it, when PJ was at A&M – I mean at Texas, he played the four, I think.
Brian Beckcom: Yeah. He sure did. Sure did.
Joe Wilbert III: So, like, PJ Tucker is the guy I look at now and be like, “Man, that's what my career would have been like in the league if Barone would’ve played me at the three spot.
Servant-Based Leadership and Old-School Values
Brian Beckcom: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Well, and you know, what I was going to say is it’s, you know, I think this is my 30th show now. I’ve interviewed some phenomenal people. And there's patterns. You start seeing patterns amongst different leaders. And one of that is this idea of a servant-based leader. And I think this is an important point nowadays, because nowadays, I mean, and I've seen this, Joe, in my neighborhood.
If a kid is like, say, on a high school basketball team and he doesn't get what he wants, nowadays, you know what the parents do? They move him to a different school. Or they take them to a private school and they bump around four or five different private schools. Which I guess sometimes is probably maybe okay, but man, it gets out of hand. It's like their kids are mercenaries almost, you know? They're, like, shopping them around rather than sticking it out and fighting for your team, which is what you did. And you had to make a sacrifice to do it. They just quit and they go somewhere else.
So, that's kind of one of those old-school values that I think nowadays we've maybe lost a little bit. What do you think about that?
Joe Wilbert III: Absolutely. I mean, one thing that, you know, so if you call my son right now, he'll tell you one of my favorite lines is, “Son, if you start something, you gonna finish it.”
Brian Beckcom: Love it. Love it.
Joe Wilbert III: So, that's the same thing that you did with your son about that practice. “Now, son, now, you might not come back tomorrow, but you gonna finish this practice today.”
Brian Beckcom: Yeah, you are.
Joe Wilbert III: “You gonna finish this practice today. Now you might go out there and get pushed down four or five times and lose, but that's okay. But you gonna finish this practice.”
Brian Beckcom: You gonna finish this.
Joe Wilbert III: So, that’s the thing. So, you said that, I was kind of smiling with this side like, “Yeah, Brian from the old-school like me, man.” You know, you start something, you finish it.
Brian Beckcom: Yeah, that’s right.
Joe Wilbert III: So, yeah. You might, you know, I said, like, we play, Brian, look at, if you're going to the gym, I might lose nine games in a row, but you don’t beat me number 10, too.
Brian Beckcom: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Joe Wilbert III: You don’t beat me at game number 10, too, yeah. So, but Brian, these kids don't have that mentality these days. So, I'm going to tell you as a parent, you leave it alone. If you don't want them to start drinking or start doing drugs, leave it alone. I promise you. Cause they are not going to have our mentality. It's not going to happen. Like me, you can go play basketball right now. You gonna try to knock my head off?
Brian Beckcom: For sure, I am. Yeah. I’m gonna try to get you with an elbow right in the head when I'm going up, and you're going to knock me down. I'm gonna get back up and do it again.
Joe Wilbert III: Exactly. But, as soon as we get off that 94 by 50, man, we're the best of friends again. We can have a beer. We can talk about our kids. But we step onto that 94 by 50, I'm sorry, Brian. I'm trying to beat you.
Brian Beckcom: That’s what I told people, man. I like to think I'm pretty nice guy. It’s the same way as a lawyer. When I step into the courtroom, I'm not here to be your friend. I'm there to kick your ass. Sorry.
Joe Wilbert III: Exactly. But that's the athlete thing, and that's that mentality that we have as athletes that people don't understand. Like, “Joe, man, you a nice guy, but man, we playing dominoes, you was just,” “I'm sorry, man. I'm not losing to you. Soon as we get through playing dominoes, you want to sit out here and smoke a cigar and talk about our kids and talk about our wives and all that, it's good. But for right now? I’m trying to win.”
Brian Beckcom: We did the same thing in golf every week. It's like, I'm getting – we have all these betting games. And when I'm out there, I'm trying to kick all these guys' butts, but when we're done, we go and have a drink and shoot the bull and have a good time. But when I'm playing golf, man, I'm trying to beat you. I don't want you to, even if it's over $5, you know, I want to win that thing.
Joe’s lights-out performance in A&M’s 1993 basketball game against Texas Tech (pun intended)
Brian Beckcom: Well, that's a perfect transition, Joe, into one of the more famous stories in A&M basketball history, which happened in, I think, 1994 in Lubbock.
Joe Wilbert III: No, ’93.
Brian Beckcom: ’93. A&M's playing Texas Tech and we win a one point real close game. And this is from my perspective. I want to hear it from your perspective, too, but as the players are leaving the stands, some of the Texas Tech fans start yelling obscenities at Coach Barone. They start yelling obscenities at his son. And then one of them tries to assault Coach Barone. And that person learned a lesson very quickly cause I think the fan that went after Barone ended up getting knocked out cold by a guy named Joe Wilbert III. So, tell us about, from your perspective, what that was like.
Joe Wilbert III: You know, people have asked me about this story many times, and I tell them the same thing. It was like, I just see, you know, Brian, I grew up in the era that if I go somewhere with you, and you get into a fight, I'm going to fight. So, I grew up in an era that, hey, if I go somewhere with you and we go eat and I got $5 in my pocket and you got $2 in your pocket, we put our money together and we eat.
So, that's the way I felt about my basketball family. And I seen Coach Barone having a little trouble, so I went over there and I just did what I needed to do. And it's so funny, I tell people all the time, I said, “That was the first time I ever went to jail.”
Brian Beckcom: What?
Joe Wilbert III: People don't know, yeah, people don't know – yeah, exactly. People don’t know I went to jail.
Brian Beckcom: Are you kidding me? No way.
Joe Wilbert III: Yes. People don't know this. I went to jail. What happened was, I’m going to tell the story. So, the police came into the locker room with the guy. He said, “That's the one that hit me.” So, they were trying to make a decision on taking me to jail at the moment or whatever. So, we stayed in the locker room for, like, about an hour after the game. Hour and a half. So, we sitting down and so they trying to debate if I’m going to jail or not.
So anyways, so we leave and people sitting outside throwing stuff at the bus. Also going to our charter flight that we had. People throwing stuff at the bus and everything. And so, make a long story short, the grand jury looked at it and they said assault and bodily injury. So, I turned myself in. It was after the basketball season.
So, captain of police called me and said, “Hey, Joe, you got a warrant for your arrest so meet us at the capitol police office at 2:00.” So, me, the police officers from A&M, the captains, of course Barone and I went and I turn myself in. Judge Langley. I think that was – Judge Langley, she was the judge.
Brian, I stayed in jail for 27 minutes. So, I got booked and did the fingerprints and the whole sha-bam. So, I never get – I went up the elevator and then the Texas A&M, they said, “You tell the judge, ‘Yes, your honor.’” So, I went up there. I said, “Yes, your honor.” She said, “Mr. Wilbert, you've been the talk of my courtroom all day.” I said, “Yes, ma'am.” I say, “Yes, your honor.” She said, “Well, you got assault and bodily injury in Lubbock, Texas.” She said, “By law, I’m supposed to send you back to Lubbock. But I don't think you gonna go any worse. I'm gonna let you out on a PR bond.” And to this day, Brian, I still don't know what happened to my case.
Brian Beckcom: Well, I can tell you as a lawyer, and I'm gonna use a technical legal term for everybody to describe this, okay? What the Lubbock police did to you was complete and total bullshit. Okay? This is a hometown. This is a ridiculous, ridiculous arrest. I mean, literally, the Texas Tech fans should have all been arrested and taken to jail. They were throwing things and they were assaulting the players.
And you know what? I have a lot of friends from Texas Tech, but Texas Tech has a reputation. Same thing when they drug the goalposts down and literally threw the goalpost at some of our fans in the stadium.
This is the Lubbock Police Department’s responsibility and any police officer who is listening to this that was involved with anything involving Joe, you ought to be ashamed of yourself. I'm serious, man. This pisses me off. I didn't know that happened. I'm glad it worked out the way it did, but this was you – this was truly self-defense and defense of the team. And of course, you know, when you're in a small town like Lubbock, sometimes the hometown cooking happens in a way that it shouldn't.
Racial Unrest, Police Brutality & Racism in America Today
Brian Beckcom: And that's a perfect transition, Joe, to one question I wanted to talk to you about, which is a more serious conversation, and that is, you know, we're going through a lot of racial unrest, stuff with police brutality right now. And, you know, I've talked to some – and I tell people, Joe, I grew up playing basketball, which means I grew up around big Black guys. A lot of them. And I didn't, even my experience, and I count many Black guys, big dudes, 6’5” and taller, as very good friends of mine. And even though I have very good friends like that, I did not appreciate sometimes the fact that when you're that big and intimidating-looking, you gotta behave a little bit differently.
Like, I have a friend who said, “You know, if I go out running at Memorial Park in Houston at night, I gotta be really careful about, you know, what I'm doing because people are intimidated by me.” So, I really, you know, I really wanted to ask you this question, Joe, because you're a big, strong, intimidating guy. I mean, you smile all the time, which is good. But tell us from your perspective, kind of over the past three or four months, like, how your viewing and some of this stuff. Like, the George Floyd situation, the Breonna Taylor situation, and some of these other situations.
Joe Wilbert III: Well, I've be more concentrated on my son when it come to this. And I teach him the same thing that my parents taught me, and I'm so glad that my parents taught me this. Everyone is not racist. And I'm so glad that my parents taught me that. But also, they taught me more this than anything: Love everybody. To me, it don’t matter what color you are. That doesn't matter.
So, what I'm doing now, I'm dropping that to my son. I say, “Son, if this person is racist, it don’t mean that this person is racist.” But it is kind of uncomfortable. Not only do I got to talk to my son about not having unprotected sex or having sex, but I got to talk to him about if he get pulled over. That shouldn't be a conversation I should have with my son.
Brian Beckcom: You know how many conversations, Joe, my son is 17, just turned 17 last week. We live in a very nice neighborhood in Houston. You know how many conversations I've had with him about what he's supposed to do when he gets pulled over by the cops? Zero. Because I don't have to do that.
Joe Wilbert III: And I tell my son – this is my son. I told my son, “The police tell you to get out, son, and do 20 pushups, get out and do 20 pushups. Do them all. Get back in the car. Then call me and let me know what happened.” I say, “Son.” Now, this is exactly what I told him, so I go on record. I told him, I said, “The police pull you over, let down your driver window and your passenger window. Turn your interior light on, put your hands on your steering wheel, and wait till he come and give you command to move from there. If he asked you to get your license, ask him, say, ‘Sir, can I reach for my license and get it?’” That’s how you communicate with them. With the police officers.
That's a conversation that I shouldn't have to have with my son. But the time’s bringing it on that that's what I have to do. That's the way time's are. So, I tell him, I say, “Son, listen to the police officer. Whatever he asks you to do, do it. If he wants to search your car, let him search your car. Just do it. Cause son, I want you to get home.”
Now, if we had all the other illegal stuff and the inappropriate behavior that he had laid on. But at the end of the day, don't try to be a tough guy. So, I have, me, I've had this conversation several times, and actually, I’m going to call him today and I'm going to ask to have this conversation again, because it's something that's very important. But at the end of the day, Brian, it doesn't – I'm glad that it doesn't change my mentality when it comes to my relationship with you. Tony Barone. Jimmy Smith. Guys, I mean, Caucasian friends that I have that I know that they don’t have that mentality.
It’s like everything else, man. It’s just life. It doesn't affect me because that same person, I'm going to smile with them. I’m going to shoot the breeze with them. Cause I tell people all the time: I'm 47 years old. And I never, ever in my life met a stranger. Never. I wake up everyday, say, “I'm gonna find a stranger,” and I can't find one. So, it doesn't matter how people – they can have a Trump and Pence flag on their car. Or they have a Bidon and Harris flag. I'm gonna treat them still the same. It doesn't matter to me. Because at the end of the day, when I face God, God is not going to criticize me or punish me for the way they treated me. He going to punish me the way I treated them. So, that's the mentality that I have about everything about the day.
So, Brian, it's not like I don't want to go on record and say, “This cop was wrong in Minnesota,” or, “This cop was wrong in Louisville, Kentucky.” That's, at the end of the day, both families suffered. Brionna Taylor’s family suffered as much of the cops’ families suffered. So, it's a bad situation. So, both sides of the situation is bad.
I just hope and pray that we can just get back as a country. That we can just be just like it doesn't matter what color you are. We all Americans. Because, man, that's one thing about us, man. We have been a strong country. We went through 9/11, to all types of stuff. So, I know we can do it. And I'm not sitting on here saying it's Trump's fault. I'm not saying it’s Obama’s fault. I'm not saying it with George Bush’s fault. At the end of the day, it's about us as people got to get it right. Because we are the United States of America. Because, Brian, I can't influence you to be a certain way. So, I can't blame my mentality on Obama, or I can’t blame my mentality on Trump.
I gotta be me. Because that was K D [49:03] “You know what? I'm not taking Brian’s interview today cause he's Caucasian.” That'd be stupid. That'd be stupid of me. You know why? Because that's not my mentality. So, your mentalities tell the truth about you. You know, people say, “Well,” I had people all the time. “Well, now I know how my friends feel now because, you know, Facebook.” People put a lot of negative stuff on Facebook. Some people say, “Well, now I know how my friends feel.”
I tell people all the time, to a certain extent, we all are racist, to a certain extent. We all are racist. Like, I might feel like, “Well, Brian is more privileged than me.” And Brian might say, “Hey, you know what? He's a better athlete because he was Black.” You know, so, to a certain extent. But, I'm not 1racist to the point that I just hate a certain color.
Now, I might have racist thoughts about, “Well, Brian got the job over me because he's White.” I don't know if that can be racist or not, or if it's just a mentality that we have. Or I might say, “Hey,” – but, vice versa. I mean, you might say something about me that people might not think is racist.
I thought I'd never say this, but The University of Texas coach put it the best by the statement he made about that on Saturday, you know what I'm saying? He said “I will cheer for the Black athletes, but also, let's have that same respect for them off the court, out of the field, as well.”
Brian Beckcom: That's something that's bothered me for a while is we look up to these athletes, many of whom are Black. And they're heroes on Friday night or Saturday or Sunday. But afterwards it's like, well, now we forget about them. You know, in some ways it's what we do with some of the military veterans. When they're over there in combat, they're heroes, and then they come back and they have problems and they need help and we forget about them.
To me, Joe, and I don't know what you think about this, but the way I think about race now is as follows: I'm looking at you on video right now. Okay? I can tell you're Black. I can tell your skin's darker than mine. You can tell I have blond hair. I just don't think it means anything as far as whether you're a good or a bad person. Right? And I know plenty of Black guys that are great, great, great guys. Great guys. But not all of them are great guys. And just like you know plenty of White dudes that are probably great guys, but some of them aren’t great guys.
So, the point is, you know, my view is that the pigment of your skin shouldn't have anything to do with the content of your character, whether you're good or bad person. And so, I try to tell people that I, you know, I base my decisions on whether I like somebody or not on whether they're a good person or not, and that's it. Right?
Joe Wilbert III: And Brian, you know the funny thing about me and you? We in the same boat. We have it the toughest because, for example – let me just give you an example. Say I’m out with some of my Black buddies. Say we had a bombshell. And I see you. “Hey, Brian, what's going on, Brian? Hey, how you doing? Alright.” And they'd be like, “Why are you talking to the White guy?” And vice versa with you. Because, you know why? Because we are so versatile that we been so used to dealing with both cultures, to us, it's like, I don't look at you as being a White guy.
Brian Beckcom: It ain't no big deal. It’s just my buddy over there, man. What’s going on? That's my man. That's my guy.
Joe Wilbert III: So, me and you catch more of a public heat than anybody else, because some people – like, some of my guys I grew up with have never, ever dealt with a Caucasian person ever in their life. Now, I'm talking about the only way they dealt with them is probably through a job interview and that’s it. But as dealing with them, as going out to eat with them. Like, in our case, man, we sweated together and fought together and, like, they are not used to that. So, they looking at me like. I said, “No, he's a good dude, man. He's a down to Earth person.” But, so, I mean, you catch it more probably tougher than our friends to us because –
Brian Beckcom: I'll give you a great example of this, Joe. And I've told this story before. When I joined the Corps of Cadets after I stopped playing basketball, I had some friends that grew up in small towns that had never been around a single Black person their entire life. And they were dropping N-bombs left and right. Using the N word. And I said, I turned to them and I said, “Stop saying that shit around me. You want to say that when I'm not around, you can say that when I'm not around, but that's not the way I grew up. I don't like hearing that.” And they looked at me like I was crazy. There's nobody had ever said that to them before. And it's not that they were bad people. It's not that I was any better than anybody else. It's just that we had had different life experiences. So, when they were growing up, they just didn't know any better, you know?
And it's the same thing like me, I think people don't realize that there's Black folks that have never been around White folks, either, you know? And so, I've always felt, Joe, you know, to be totally honest with you, I've always felt kind of lucky about my experience because it didn't, I, you know, I could have grown up in a different way. And, you know, I think part of it was the fact that my father was a college athlete. He played football at A&M for two years. And he was in the military, which is a very neutral organization when it comes to race and things like that. And so, I had – I just feel kind of lucky about the way I was raised.
Joe Wilbert III: Yeah, me, too, man, cause I don't like racist people. I don't like them cause it don't stand for nothing. Being racist don't make you a tough individual.
Brian Beckcom: To me, it just make you ignorant.
Joe Wilbert III: Yeah. Just like, man. Wow. You dislike me because I'm Black, or I dislike you because you’re White? I don't see any logic in that. But anyway, leading to a problem that’s something that you want to talk about as an officiant. Do you know the toughest game for me to referee is?
Brian Beckcom: What's that? Black team against the White team, right? Because the White fans think you’re rooting for the Black players, right?
Joe Wilbert III: And the Black people think you paid me before the game.
Being an NCAA Basketball Official
Brian Beckcom: So, that's a perfect transition because, Joe, I want to talk about – we've gone a little bit over our time. You got a few more minutes?
Joe Wilbert III: Yeah, no, man. Hey, I ain't got nothing to do.
Brian Beckcom: Okay, man. Okay. I got it – cause this is something I really wanted to bring up with you because I think this is something that is important that we think about as a country. So, I listen to this – so, I've been coaching youth basketball for 12 years, 13 years, something like that, going to all these games. And I see a lot of fans just act like complete, insane, crazy people towards the refs.
So anyway. Did I lose you? There you are. Anyway, I listened to this podcast about a year ago about NBA officials and essentially, the podcast talked about all the training and all the reviews they do. And about how, you know, 30 years ago, something like half the NBA officials were from one small town in, you know, New York or something like that.
But the point of the deal was the training, the professionalism, the grading, all the work that the fans don't see. It totally changed my mind about how I deal with the refs. Now, after every single game, I've got a new habit for two or three years. After every single game. I don't care whether we won or lost, I walk over to the refs and I say, “Hey, good job, guys. Good job, girls.” Or whoever it was that was refing the team.
So, tell us – I really want to hear about your perspective, cause you're now a college official. I assume you've coached lower levels, too. So, what's it like being a basketball official nowadays?
Joe Wilbert III: You have to have tough skin. You have to have tough skin. But also, you have to also be – to be a college basketball official, or any type of official, you have to also know how to evaluate yourself as saying, “Is I'm good or am I bad?” And now, do we miss calls as officials? Yes, we do. But we can't miss two and three calls in one game. That's not good. So, but, being honest with you, I tell you how I got started. You remember Jimmy Gilbert and Lynn Sue [57:50]?
Brian Beckcom: Yeah, sure.
Joe Wilbert III: Well, they wanted me to start officiating probably three or four years before I started. So, they used to tell me, “Joe, man, come referee.” I was like, “Man, I'm not refereeing, man. Referees are guys who couldn't play basketball. That's all who referees are. They just guys who could not play and just wanted just to take advantage of a guy like me and foul me out.
So, then it was like every year, the asked me. I was like, Nah, I ain't coming out.” Then one year, I came out. The first game I ever refereed ever in my life was Temple Junior College and San J. First game I ever refereed ever in my life. Brian, I put a whistle in my mouth and I never took it out. Never took the whistle out of my mouth. So, I've been refereeing since 2000.
Brian Beckcom: What is it that you like about refereeing?
Joe Wilbert III: Just the fact of the excitement of the game. Then there's the fact that I feel like I bring something to the game that no other official bring. And that's a former guy. You know. And I'm not saying officials do this, but I know for a fact that when I go into a game, I'm going to give both teams a chance, an opportunity. I don’t care if they’re home or visitors. So, that's what I feel like I bring to the game. Now, all my other officials bring the same exact thing. I just think I bring it a little bit better, because I think I’m a better official than any official out there.
But you know what? So, next official says that he's better than me, too, but they just all about the competitors. But, the funny thing about all that, boy, when we all out there together, we all work together. But as official, man, I mean, I love it. I love dealing with cultures. I love dealing with players. I love dealing with fans. But you have to have remedies [59:46] when you're a basketball official. You cannot listen to the fans.
Brian Beckcom: Yeah. Some of the things that are said to referees are so bad that I just, I kind of slap myself on the head and go, “Man, I can't believe people are so rude and cruel.” And you know, the other thing is –
Joe Wilbert III: You know, Brian, I’m gonna stop you –
Brian Beckcom: The players, the NBA players, complain far too much, too, in my opinion. I mean they complain so dang much. I mean, play the game and quit looking at the referees all the time, guys.
Joe Wilbert III: Yeah. You know, it's so funny. I'm gonna say a racist joke.
So, I was refereeing a game one time and it was during a timeout. So, it was a White couple standing on the sidelines. You know, the sideline people sit around the court, right? So, I'm sitting there with the ball. He’s like, so, you know, the guy was being nice. He was like, “Hey, where are you from?” I say, “I live in Houston.” So, he said, “Hey, man. Hey. Hey man, how you do with all this yelling and cussing from us?” I looked at him. And this dude turns as red as you can think when I said, “Look here, man. I've been married to a Black woman all my life. Man, I'm used to all the yelling and cussing, man. This ain’t nothing. I feel like I’m at home.”
And this guy, Brian, turned as red as you can turn. And his wife turns to him and says, “See what you get for asking questions?” So, I say that to say, man. Hey, yelling and fussing at me, look, I might as well feel like I'm at home, man.
Brian Beckcom: That reminds me of the joke. You ever heard the joke about the old guy and his wife were driving down the road and they get pulled over by the cops and the cop’s kind of looking in the window and he goes, points to the wife and says, “Does your husband always drive this bad?” And she goes, “Only when he's drunk.”
Well, Joe, let me ask you this question real quick. Cause there may be some young people – there probably are some young people that are listening to the show right now that have an interest in being either a basketball referee or an umpire or an NFL referee or stuff like that. So, what advice would you have for people that want to get into that kind of work? What's the best way to get into that kind of work?
Joe Wilbert III: Oh, well, the best way to get in, you know, you got to start it in high school. So, find your local high school chapter. So, like, in here in Houston, Houston have one, then also Fort Bend have a chapter, as well. And also the Bay Area, I think, you know, Baytown and all them, they have a chapter. So, them the three chapters.
So, find what area that you live in then try to get in touch with the sign up secretary or somebody of the area so you can sign up so you start taking classes and start doing the training as refereeing games. And I start off the same way. Problem is some people start off just doing little jihad games [1:02:45]. So, not making, I mean, some people do this for a living.
But you have to start in high school because, I mean, I was just fortunate enough to start off, I mean, my first game was a college game. But trust me. I mean, the game was over my head. I was not good enough to do the game. I just happened to be out there.
Brian Beckcom: Yeah. Do you have any desire to maybe officiate at a higher level?
Joe Wilbert III: No. I got invited to the NBA program back in 2003. I got no desire to do NBA. I want to do college basketball because of the passion and the love for the game. I honestly believe that if I was an NBA official, I'm just more babysitting LeBron James and James Harden. But I keep them guys in the games. You know, because you think about it, at their level, Brian, if I foul them guys out too many times, I ain't gonna last too long.
Brian Beckcom: That’s for sure. No doubt about that. That is a totally different level. I hadn't thought about it that way, but you're right. That's totally different.
Joe Wilbert III: Yeah. That's a whole different animal and that's an animal that I don't want to bother with every night. I mean, hey, I mean, I got that rough really NBA [1:03:58]. Nothing gets to them. But I love college basketball. So, they came to me today and say, “Hey, Joe, this is your last year of refereeing,” or, “You know what, Joe, it’s your last game you’re ever refereeing in your life. What game do you want to do?” And I say, “Hey, man, give me game seven.” Nah. If they said, “Well, Joe, take game seven of the NBA finals or take the NCA championship game,” I take the NCA championship game, 10 out of 10 times.
Brian Beckcom: Nice. Nice. Well, Joe Wilbert III. Man. It's so nice to see you. It's been a while since we've seen each other in person.
Joe Wilbert III: Yeah, I know it has. Hey, that's a good thing, man. It mean I ain't in no trouble, man.
Brian Beckcom: I tell people, I'm like – they're like, “Yeah, I'm a lawyer, but I'm not the lawyer you really want to call.” Right? Like, something's bad if you’re calling me. But, man, seriously, Joe, it's great to see you. And, you know, one of the main reasons I wanted to have you on the podcast is because you're just, like you said earlier, you've never met a stranger. You're just a really fine person. You've got a great family. You have a great reputation with just about everybody I know, probably other than that Texas Tech fan you knocked out cold. But you know what? He deserved it.
So, Joe, it's been a real pleasure. I'm glad we finally got a chance to do this, and I hope next time we're in College Station, we can get together and play dominoes.
Joe Wilbert III: Man, it’s funny, you talked about the guy. I've been looking for that guy. His name is Scott Patterson. I wish I could meet him and just have a conversation with him to say, “Hey, man, it wasn’t no ill will at the time. It was just, I was a young man. And I just feel that there’s a need that, hey, man, that was something I needed to do at the time.” Man, but I would just love to meet him. I would love to meet him. So, that could be on your show in the future.
Brian Beckcom: I’m gonna make it happen. I’m gonna make it happen.
Joe Wilbert III: I think his name is Scott Patterson. I really think that's his name.
Brian Beckcom: Probably a super nice guy now, right?
Joe Wilbert III: Yeah. I mean, I’d just be glad to meet him. You know, It’d just be awesome to meet him. Or, not meet him. I mean, my fists have met him. I didn’t get to meet him, though.
Brian Beckcom: Joe, man, it's awesome to see you, as always.
Joe Wilbert III: Yeah, good to see you, man. I appreciate you, Brian, having me on your show, man. The same words that you said to me, I pick the same thing about you, man. You know, you always been a guy that never looked at us as being, you know, Black or whatever. You just always been one of them guys that’s just a great guy, man, you know?
You hate to have to say things like that today, but you have to let people know that, man, it’s important to have people like you in my life to just know that, hey, you know, if I got any issue, not legal issues but issues, I can call Brian and not worry about him judging me. Cause he know, I mean, some things that I face. And I can't say that about everybody.
Brian Beckcom: I really – that means more to me, Joe, than I can tell you. That really does. And I hope – I sincerely hope you know that anything you ever need, you can call me. And frankly, I know that I can call you, too. You’re a great guy.
Joe Wilbert III: Well, just call me when you were to build the 8,000-square foot house. Your last 8,000-square feet house.
Brian Beckcom: You got it, man. I'm calling you up.
Joe Wilbert III: All right, man.
Brian Beckcom: All right, brother.
Joe Wilbert III: Appreciate you, man. Love you.
Brian Beckcom: You got it. You, too, man.