Gena Restiano could dribble, shoot, dish, and score with the best of them in Revere High School girls basketball history.
Now the RHS and Suffolk alumna has her sights on another aspect of the game: officiating.
Restiano, 27, made a huge career decision this week, opting to leave the high school coaching ranks in favor of continuing a path toward becoming a college basketball referee – with the WNBA and NBA also in her future, long-range goals.
Restiano has officially stepped down from her girls basketball and softball head coaching positions at Chelsea High School. She will be continuing as a physical education teacher at the CHS and receiving her Master’s in Education with a concentration in Physical Education from Salem State University.
“I’m stepping down from both coaching positions and moving toward my career in refereeing,” said Restiano. “I just got certified a couple of weeks ago to referee NCAA basketball on the women’s side.”
Emerging From a Refereeing Tryout
Restiano participated in a referees’ tryout sessions with 65 candidates at the M-Plex, an athletic facility in Mansfield. Of the refereeing candidates, there were only 12 women present.
“I was there from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and refereed four games,” said Restiano. “I was evaluated by Division 1, 2, and 3, officials that have been refereeing for several years. One of the more notable evaluators was Mike Quigley of Quincy, who has been refereeing Division 3 women’s basketball for the last 20 years. He just officiated the NCAA Women’s Final Four this past year. He was awesome. He told me I have a very big career ahead of me in refereeing.”
Restiano said there is not a lot of women currently pursuing jobs as college basketball referees. “And they’re really seeking younger female officials to move quickly up the ranks,” she said.
A Basketball Official Since 2018
Gena, daughter of Larry and Debra Restiano, scored 1,000 points during her career at Revere High, returning from a knee injury in her junior year to accomplish the feat in the final game of her career in the MIAA Tournament.
She played college basketball at Babson and Suffolk, reuniting with her Revere High teammate Caitlyn Caramello in the Suffolk program.
She passed the IAABO test in 2018 and began refereeing high school and AAU games.
“I took a break from refereeing during the basketball season when I was coaching [at Chelsea High],” said Restiano. “I refereed throughout the summer and in the off-season, but during basketball season, I was totally focused on just coaching.”
With her vast playing experience and superior knowledge of the rules, Restiano was well qualified to make the transition to full-time officiating.
“I have the talent for it, I have the knack for it,” she said with the confidence that made her a 20-point scorer in high school. “I enjoy refereeing. I like the logistics of it. After playing the game for so long, you know what to look for and what the call’s going to be. I like that aspect of it a lot more than the coaching aspect, especially in today’s day and age. Coaching now, as compared to coaching when I played, is a completely different ballgame.”
She will begin refereeing NCAA women’s college basketball at the beginning of the 2022-23 season.
“I feel like the sky’s really the limit for me and I’m definitely up for the challenge,” said Restiano. “I’m hoping that maybe within the next 5-7 years, I’m refereeing some high-end Division 1 basketball and taking a shot at the WNBA and the NBA.”
Men’s college basketball referee Paul Halloran of Lynn said he’s not surprised that Restiano’s skills have caught the attention of the refereeing world and feels she’s destined for advancement.
“We recognized Gena as someone having great potential to be a successful basketball official,” said Halloran. “It will be great to have her back on the court wearing stripes, and the combination of age and ability makes her a candidate to advance quickly. We look forward to seeing that.”
A Big Thank You to Athletic Director Amanda Alpert
Gena Restiano had high praise for Chelsea High School Athletic Director Amanda Alpert, who hired Gena to be the head coach of the softball and girls basketball programs.
“Amanda Alpert has been the absolute best athletic director that I’ve ever had, and the best woman that I’ve ever gotten the chance to work for,” said Restiano. “I have nothing but love and respect for Amanda. She will still be my overseer in the physical education department. She’s taken such great care of me. Chelsea Public Schools is so lucky to have Amanda – she is just awesome.”