It was from his playing career that Ray Ulatowski came to form an opinion on what should be called by an official and what seemed to him unnecessary. That he went on to be honored, first as a member of the Connecticut Scholastic and Collegiate Softball Hall of Fame as an umpire and as an inductee into the Connecticut Women's Basketball Hall of Fame as a 20-year referee, is the ultimate testament to his fairness.
"Not 'who,' but 'what,'" said Ray, answering the question as to who had the greatest influence on his basketball career. "Bad officiating and lack of respect for the game always bothered me. I worked hard to become a good official with respect for the game. ... It's very serious to the people playing. They deserve the time put in by the officials. With me, everyone knew they were getting a fair game. There are going to be some mistakes, but keep them to a minimum and let the players decide the game. That was my reputation."
Ray is a 1961 graduate of Fairfield Prep, where he was known for his competitive spirit. He soon found that basketball was "a way of life" for him, as he competed in various men's leagues and began his career as a referee. Ray served with the Connecticut Board of Certified Basketball Officials, calling many high school games in Fairfield County, from 1964-84 and with the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women from 1973-84. He officiated several league and state championships at the high school level and lists an NCAA tournament women's game he called at the historic Palestra in Philadelphia as one of his career highlights.
Ray also served as the assigning commissioner for high school games in Fairfield County from 1974-82 and distinctly recalls his first day on the job - "25 games, varsity and JV and there was a snowstorm ... and no cell phones. People were calling my wife saying, 'This one canceled and that one canceled,'" he said. Ray credits wife Gail and daughter Michelle with their encouragement during his assigning days.
Now a resident of Stuart, Fla., Ray formerly ran a large computerized printing company in Bridgeport and Trumbull and later lived in Ocean City, Md., for 25 years. He was listed in the top 2 percent of realtors in the United States for ERA and Coldwell Banker from 2001-04. Ray is a grandfather and great-grandfather and enjoys fishing, boating and golf.
One thing about the game Ray would change if he had the chance is the three-second rule, believing teams work too hard to have the ball taken away on a "cheap three-second call." Asked his advice to prospective officials, he reiterates that the game should be up to the players to win or lose. "Call what there is. Don't go looking for calls," he said.
"I've been very fortunate," Ray said. "(Basketball) is something I started playing. The competition was always good. It ended up being a lot of fun. ... (Officiating) is not hard work when you enjoy it. If you talk to most officials, they would do it for free."