Brave and honest, Billy Packer was a college basketball giant


Seconds after the final bell sounds George Mason’s gorgeous 86-84 victory in extra time Over Connecticut within the 2006 Japanese Convention Remaining, Patriots head coach Jim Larrañaga dashed previous me on his approach to his crew’s post-game celebration.

For a second he exclaimed, “I can not wait to see Nantz and Packer in Indianapolis!”

He was speaking in regards to the CBS duo of legendary analyst Jim Nantz and Billy Packer who died Thursday at 82. Nantz and Packer Craig Littlepage criticizedthen-chairman of the NCAA Division I Basketball Committee, after the event draw for that yr was revealed, demanding to know why George Mason and different mid-caps have been included.

George Mason, in fact, defeated Michigan State, North Carolina, Wichita State, and top-ranked Connecticut State to succeed in the Remaining 4. Three nights after Mason lower the online in downtown Washington, I used to be having dinner with some buddies at St. Elmo’s, the well-known Indianapolis steakhouse. The supervisor acknowledged that the Patriots have been consuming in a non-public eating room within the basement. A couple of minutes later, Nantz and Packer arrived and stopped by our desk to say hey.

“, my gamers and coach George Mason are having dinner downstairs,” I mentioned. “I do know Jim Larrañaga would like to see you guys.”

Nantes understood instantly, and mentioned it was an apology lodge. When he left, Packer sat with us.

“Aren’t you going downstairs?” I requested.

“Why would I try this?” He mentioned.

he laughed. “I bought one thing unsuitable. Not the primary time, not the final time.”

Billy Packer, faculty basketball analyst who was a key participant in March Insanity, has died on the age of 82

In actual fact, the Packer wasn’t usually unsuitable, particularly when it got here to basketball. He was, within the opinion of many who observe the sport intently, the perfect faculty basketball analyst tv had ever seen. He had no trick and he did not pull punches. He had an virtually distinctive capacity to speak in regards to the sport, its coaches, and its gamers with out pandering.

Which is why he was usually unpopular with followers.

I referred to it as soon as All The ACC’s fan base—together with Wake Forest, his alma mater—was satisfied he was biased towards their crew.

He mentioned, “I do know.” “I feel I ought to do a superb job.”

When he went to work for NBC in 1974 after which CBS in 1981, followers throughout the nation usually accused him of getting an ACC bias—that means he was doing simply as nicely on community TV as he did on ACC telecasts.

Packer was the son of a school coach. His father, Tony Packer, was the coach at Lehigh for 16 seasons. Bailey was too good a participant to go to Lehigh and ended up at Wake Forest, which on the time was a nationwide energy underneath Horace “Bones” McKinney. The Demon Deacons gained ACC titles in 1961 and 1962 and went to the Remaining 4—for the primary and solely time—in 1962, Packer’s senior yr.

He coached briefly, was a stuntman after which discovered his area of interest when he was employed in 1972 by CD Chesley to be the ACC sport of the week shade commentator. He was paired with Jim Thacker and the “Thacker and Packer” crew grew to become an iconic amongst ACC followers. In 1974, NBC employed him to do the nationwide broadcasts (initially with Curt Gowdy) and he ended up broadcasting 34 consecutive Remaining Fours, most lately in 2008 for CBS.

“I feel he was the perfect on TV,” former Davidson and Maryland coach Lefty Dressel mentioned Saturday. “He was all the time one step forward of what was going to occur, even when some individuals did not like what he mentioned. He talked in regards to the match in entrance of him and instructed individuals what he thought.”

Packer truly performed in Driesell’s first faculty sport coached at Davidson, a surprising win over Wake Forest. “I all the time teased him about that sport,” mentioned Dressell. And he’d come again immediately and say, ‘Yeah, okay [all-American] Lane Chapel didn’t play in that match. This was Billy. He all the time had a comeback.”

Such was the genius in NBC’s Dick Enberg, Al McGuire and Packer trio – basketball’s first three-man sales space. When NBC employed McGuire after he retired from teaching in 1977, he watched the sport from an off-court location—typically a janitor’s locker—and would sometimes make feedback when there was a break in play.

In accordance with longtime NBC publicist Tom Merritt, it was Packer who mentioned throughout that first season that it was time to get McGuire out of the broom closet and put him on the desk with him and Enberg. The remainder is sports activities broadcasting historical past.

Don Ohlmeyer [then NBC’s executive sports producer] He will get the credit score for placing the three collectively, but it surely’s all Billy,” Merritt wrote in an e mail final week. “It was his thought and his insistence on doing it that made it occur.”

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McGuire and Packer continuously bickered on air however have been shut buddies. In actual fact, they usually shared resort rooms as a result of McGuire did not like being alone and most popular to sleep on the ground.

I used to be lucky sufficient to cowl faculty basketball throughout NBC’s glory days and infrequently had dinner with the trio dwell on Saturday nights earlier than Sunday video games. Packer and I often disagreed, particularly with reference to CBS’s affect on the league’s basketball committee alternatives. Once I began referring to CBS as “the official community of the Runnin’ Rebels” throughout UNLV’s 1990-1991 season, we had a really loud shouting match on a road nook in Indianapolis throughout the Remaining 4.

However I missed Billy on the telecast when he retired—sacked, I feel, as a result of he refused to suck sufficient for coaches and the NCAA—as a result of he usually instructed me issues I did not know or did not take into consideration.

I’d name him typically to speak and he was as cussed as ever. In 2016, he instructed me the one faculty basketball video games he was watching that season concerned LSU and freshman star Ben Simmons. “I do not actually like the sport anymore,” he mentioned. “However this child fascinates me. He is so gifted however I am unsure he’ll be the star within the NBA everybody thinks he’ll be.”

Speak about being a visionary.

It is good to see all of the tributes for Packer pouring in now, however how is it attainable that he isn’t within the Naismith Memorial Basketball Corridor of Fame as a contributor? He ought to have been recruited years in the past. I requested him about it a number of years in the past.

He mentioned, “John, when you’re , I will say so.” “I truthfully do not care. I loved doing what I did all these years in the past and I feel I used to be good at it. That is sufficient for me.”

I believed him. That does not make it proper. Billy Packer has been a longtime Corridor of Famer. Simply ask all these followers whose groups he was prejudiced towards.

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