That may have been makeup all over David Stern’s face yesterday, but it sure looked like egg.


At his news conference in New York, the NBA commissioner admitted he was disgusted, distraught and devastated. He could also have said he was embarrassed.


This is what happens when a rogue referee confounds your hotshot security system and has spoiled your life’s work with a bizarre gambling scandal.


This is what happens when you lose your credibility.


It was smooth sailing for Stern until this. Under Stern, the NBA operated for decades with a relatively clean record. The NBA was the Mother Teresa of professional sports.

Gambling, especially, was a no-no in Stern’s strict regime. Toronto, for instance, was not even awarded an NBA franchise until the commish was guaranteed the Ontario government would not allow betting on any of his league’s games in any of its lotteries.

So imagine Stern’s embarrassment when the FBI came knocking on his door last month to inform him that, despite all his sophisticated safeguards and checks, it had evidence referee Tim

Donaghy has been betting on NBA games and affecting point spreads with his calls.

The NBA has paid Donaghy $260,000 US a season, but he apparently needed more. And how he thought he could get away with this — in this day and age of exposure and watch-dogging — is unfathomable. But he did until the FBI came along.

“This is the most serious situation and the worst situation I have ever experienced,” Stern told reporters yesterday. He then vowed to do whatever possible — regardless of cost — to ensure future NBA games “are decided on their own merits.”

That’s nice, but I still have a question: HOW THE HELL COULD THIS HAVE HAPPENED?

Stern said he thought Donaghy’s case was isolated. I’m finding this difficult to believe.

For me, Stern has lost all credibility. He had the audacity to stand there yesterday and tell reporters straight-faced that he knows of no other NBA employees who gamble. They are prohibited, he said, from gambling in casinos.

Well, this declaration made me realize just how out of touch Stern is. The man’s been wasting megabucks on a so-called security system.

See, I know for a fact that NBAers gamble in casinos. I’ve witnessed it first-hand. I’ve seen Michael Jordan gamble at a casino in the Bahamas. I’ve seen Patrick Ewing gamble at a casino in Atlantic City. I was sitting beside Larry Brown, for heaven sakes, at a blackjack table in Atlantic City when he was coaching in the NBA.

Once he wipes the egg of his face, David Stern should retire.