Born in Havertown Pennsylvania, Tim Donaghy loved the game of basketball ever since he could remember. He received his love for the game from his father Gerry Donaghy, who had officiated at high school and collegiate level games for over thirty years. Since he lived so close to Philadelphia, he naturally became a 76ers fan. Some of his favorite players were Doug Collins and Mike Dunleavy. Donaghy graduated from Villanova University with a liberal arts degree in 1989.
Although Donaghy had a degree after his graduation, he became unsatisfied with the direction in which his career was headed. One night while sitting at the kitchen table with his parents, his mother suggested that he look into a career in the NBA. It was all the motivation that he needed, and began to pursue his new found dream job. Later as Tim Donaghy perfected his skills as a referee through training camps, he was noticed by the NBA supervisor of officials Darell Garretson. This eventually led to Tim Donaghy’s start in the CBA, the NBA’s official minor league. He officiated for three years in the CBA. Before his fourth year Donaghy was called to officiate in the NBA.
Tim Donaghy worked as an NBA referee for 13 seasons. During his career in the NBA, Donaghy officiated in 772 regular season games and 20 playoff games. Donaghy was also a participant in the NBA's Read to Achieve program, for which he participated in an event at the Universal Charter school during the 2002 NBA Finals.
Donaghy resigned from the league on July 9, 2007 before reports of an investigation by the FBI for allegations that he bet on games. On August 15, 2007, Donaghy plead guilty to two federal charges related to the investigation. Donaghy was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison on July 29, 2008. He was released on November 4, 2009 after serving out his sentence.