University of South Florida

Lifelong Learning

Office of University Community Partnerships


bob delany stands and speaks to a group on stage

Undercover Agent-Turned NBA Referee Joins USF

Renowned speaker, author, and NBA referee Bob Delaney is joining USF’s Office of Corporate Training and Professional Education to lead seminars about operational stress. He recently shared his insights on the topics of the healthcare community, first responder trauma awareness, resilience, and self-care at Moffitt Cancer Center and the University of South Florida’s Sarasota-Manatee campus. 

As a result of those engagements, Delaney will now join USF’s Corporate Training and Professional Education team to lead educational seminars and workshops for organizations such as the Sarasota Police Department and New Jersey State Police, among others.

bob delany stands with members of the sarasota police department

Delaney gained prominence for his experiences as an undercover agent with the New Jersey State Police, where he infiltrated the Mafia. His journey through this intense undercover work led him to grapple with post-traumatic stress disorder, which he later addressed and managed.

After his law enforcement career, Delaney transitioned into a role as an NBA referee, serving from 1987 to 2011. During his time as a referee, he continued to work on stress management and mental health awareness, drawing from his own experiences and research.

Delaney has since become a sought-after speaker and consultant, sharing his expertise on stress management, resilience, leadership, and self-care with various organizations, including law enforcement agencies, corporations, and educational institutions. He has authored books and delivered presentations worldwide, aiming to raise awareness and provide practical strategies for dealing with stress and trauma.

“My goal is to provide post-traumatic stress understanding, speak about post-trauma growth, and underline that self-care does not mean selfish,” he said. 

His programs in collaboration with USF will provide a fresh avenue for individuals to improve their mental well-being, a vital component of maintaining a strong work-life balance. 

“Being part of USF Corporate Training and Professional Education will allow me to share the work I have been doing with a larger population,” Delaney said. “I believe operational stress takes place in every profession, and having an honest conversation about work and life stressors will provide a healthier workforce.” 

Early Career and Undercover Work

Delaney’s professional experience is as unique as it is inspiring. In the 1970s, he spent three years undercover, infiltrating the Mafia as part of the New Jersey State Police’s Project Alpha, which resulted in the apprehension of numerous people connected to organized crime. However, the toll of maintaining a false identity for such an extended period led to Delaney experiencing post-traumatic stress.

bob delany shakes hands while being sworn in to state police

After the undercover assignment ended, he served in the New Jersey State Police for another decade. During that time, he began refereeing middle and high school basketball games. Basketball, he recalls, became his therapy, offering a sense of peace and structure after the tumultuous years spent undercover. Delaney found solace in refereeing basketball games, a role that eventually led him to become an NBA referee in 1987.

Words Make an Impact

Delaney hopes to provide others with tools to process what he calls, “operational stress,” intentionally choosing this term over the more commonly known term of PTSD. 

He says that the term PTSD can create a feeling that something is “wrong with me” in people who experience this condition. “Operational stress” takes its place as a more approachable term that does not deter people from having a conversation about it. 

Over the past four decades, Delaney has shared his experience with operational stress to help others connect the dots in their own stories. From speaking with troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to Special Operations Forces, NATO Troops, and Wounded Warriors, he has reached a vast audience worldwide.

bob delany sits in helicopter with woman in fatigues.

“I point the finger at myself – tell my story and all the emotional violence I experienced,” Delaney said. “The more we flesh out what may take place due to the work people do, the better prepared they are to manage it.”

While he is not looking to end operational stress, he hopes to provide the education and awareness necessary to better navigate life post-trauma. His collaboration with USF will provide new opportunities to provide trainings related to operational stress, leadership, and other topics.  While he will largely offer trainings to first responders, corporate sessions or other special training programs can be designed in partnership with USF.  For more information, contact Jay Riley at or 941-809-6158. 

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About Corporate Training and Professional Education

USF Corporate Training and Professional Education empowers people to craft their future without limits through engaging professional growth learning and certification programs. Its programs focus on an array of topics – human resources, project management, paralegal, process improvement, leadership skills, technology, and much more.