Brenda Pantoja during a WNBA game, she also has officiated in the D-League. - Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE
This past off season Lauren Holtkamp and Brenda Pantoja were considered "top candidates" to be newly appointed NBA referees in the 2012-2013 season. As of Sunday night both women have successfully officiated in the NBA after using their D-League officiating experience to help land them their respective gigs.
Back in 1997, the NBA set a precedent in terms of hiring women to be apart of the league's officiating crew. Violet Palmer and Dee Kanter were the first female NBA officials who started officiating games that year, and helped blaze the trail for women like Lauren Holtkamp and Brenda Pantoja. Holtkamp and Pantoja are temporary assignments and not apart of the full-time NBA referee staff, but even as a temporary gig, we can chalk it up as another successful D-League contribution to the NBA.
Both Holtkamp and Pantoja worked last year's D-League playoffs, and Holtkamp was an official in both Game 1 and Game 2 of the D-League finals between Austin and Los Angeles. Both women have also worked as referees for the WNBA on their way to this past weekend's historical assignments. Holtkamp made her debut as apart of the crew who was assigned to the Bulls-Cavaliers game Friday, while Pantoja, who is also a former Arizona point guard who holds the school's career record for assists, was a member of the officiating crew who covered the Atlanta Hawks win over Oklahoma City on Sunday.
The two women are apart of six non-staff officials to work games over the season. As David Stern has already announced his retirement date, it should be noted that the commissioner helped initiate this kind of diversity within the league's officials to allow opportunities like Holtkamp and Pantoja's. The NBA is really at the forefront in terms of implementing women into the officiating part of the game, and the trend will likely continue even when Stern steps down.
The D-League has been a source for the NBA to develop officials for their league, and when an NBA referee decides to opt for retirement, or is dismissed for poor performance (which rarely occurs) the D-League can be tapped for referees to help fill the void. In Holtkamp and Pantoja's case, the two women will likely gain further experience through similar assignments in which they participated in over the weekend, while also enhancing their officiating craft in the D-League this season. Soon the two ladies will become fixtures on the sidelines in the NBA.