Brownstown resident Jim Joseph has known his whole life about the Catholic High School League in the Archdiocese of Detroit. As the son of the late Catholic League Prep Bowl co-founder Julian Joseph and the brother of women’s officiating pioneer Gloria Joseph — and as an athlete himself at Cabrini High School in Allen Park, Joseph has been entrenched in the traditions of the league.
When he started officiating basketball games in 1990, Joseph’s primary assignments came from the Catholic League and Catholic Youth Organization. Now, nearly three decades later, Joseph has been inducted into the Catholic League Hall of Fame. The ceremony took place June 13 at the Fernhill Golf and Country Club in Clinton Township.
“Even though it’s a tremendous honor for me, it’s something I never expected,” Joseph said. “I am very humbled, but also very honored and proud of this. It’s something I will always cherish.”
At age 54, Joseph now officiates boys and girls high school games in the Catholic League, the Downriver League, the Huron League, the Western Wayne Athletic Conference and the Southeastern Conference in the Monroe area — three to five nights a week, 50 to 55 games a season — plus some CYO games on the weekends.
Joseph was inspired to go into refereeing because of his love for the game and, especially, after watching his sister, who has been officiating basketball and softball for more than 40 years. In fact, Gloria – one of seven Joseph siblings – worked alongside her little brother in his first game in the CYO.
Since then, he has officiated eight Catholic League basketball finals, six state tournament quarterfinals, two semifinals and one state championship game.
Joseph said he enjoys refereeing as much now as when he started, despite the occasional heckling officials get from boisterous fans.
“I’ve always enjoyed it because of my love of the game,” he said. “I love being part of the game. The longer I do it, the more the coaches get to know me and the more tolerant I become with fans.”
While Joseph cares deeply about the game, he is unbiased when officiating. “I don’t get emotional out there,” he said. “I don’t care who wins. No official should. I’m mainly concerned about keeping the players safe and calling a fair game. If that transpires to being a good official, so be it.”
As a district sales representative in his 25th year with Dart Container (formerly Sweetheart Cup Co. and Solo Cup Co.), Joseph said he works out of his home office in Brownstown.
“I’m fortunate that I can pretty much make my own schedule,” he said. “Varsity games start at 7 o’clock at night, so they’re easy to get to. If there’s a game at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s or Warren DeLaSalle, I’m able to arrange my schedule to allow me to get there on time.”
Joseph occasionally gets assigned to officiate games with less-experienced referees to help tutor them. And he has worked several basketball camps as a clinician. He observes and critiques younger officials who referee games between the campers.
“I want to be fair,” he said. “I want the kids to learn while I’m out there. I’ve yet to call a perfect game. You’re going to make mistakes. If I can get through a game with everybody exhibiting good sportsmanship, that’s the key. If we can walk off the court without anyone knowing we were there, that’s a great game.”
Joseph played basketball and baseball from the fourth grade on at Cabrini and intramural basketball at Henry Ford Community College. He was a member of the Cabrini team that won the 1979 state baseball championship in Class C. He played softball for more than 30 years and still plays in occasional pickup hoops games.
His children followed him into the Catholic League. Son Nick and daughter Rachael attended Cabrini in elementary school and then Divine Child High School in Dearborn. Nick played prep baseball and hockey. In his junior season, the Falcons’ baseball team won the state championship — just like his father’s team. Rachael was a member of the school’s state runner-up competitive cheer teams.
Joseph coached Nick in baseball, hockey and CYO. He coached Rachael for three years of CYO basketball and one year of softball. Nick graduated from Michigan State University, married wife Bridget and is in medical device sales. Rachael is studying elementary education at MSU.
A Hall of Fame inductee herself in 1989, sister Gloria nominated Jim for the honor. He was selected by the Hall of Fame committee, including Regina’s legendary Coach Diane Laffey, who introduced him at the event.
In his speech, Joseph expressed gratitude to his family, starting with his father, who was very active in the Knights of Columbus, rising to state deputy from 1976 to 1978, and helped found the Catholic League Prep Bowl day of championship football games and educational and athletic honors.
“I always knew the Knights of Columbus were very important to him; I just didn’t realize how much,” Joseph said. “He started the Tootsie Roll Drive, the Take 5 program and the Prep Bowl. I learned he helped so many people, it blew me away.”
Joseph and wife Laurie were high school sweethearts and have been married for 32 years. Joseph also thanked his late mother Wanda, “because she always supported us and encouraged us to participate in Catholic League athletics,” his sister, the selection committee, Catholic League officials and other referees.
“I’ve learned something from every single person I’ve worked with,” he said. “I appreciate the camaraderie we have as officials. I very much like that aspect of it.”
Joseph said he has no plans to stop officiating any time soon. “It’s been a wonderful career, if you will, thus far,” he said. “I plan on continuing as long as I can.”