Brave and honest, Billy Packer was a college basketball giant


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

For a second he exclaimed, “I am unable to wait to see Nantz and Packer in Indianapolis!”

He was speaking concerning 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 had been included.

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

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

Nantes understood instantly, and stated 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 stated.

he laughed. “I obtained one thing fallacious. 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 truth, the Packer wasn’t usually fallacious, particularly when it got here to basketball. He was, within the opinion of many who comply with the sport carefully, one of the best faculty basketball analyst tv had ever seen. He had no trick and he did not pull punches. He had an nearly distinctive potential to speak concerning the recreation, 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 workforce.

He stated, “I do know.” “I believe I ought to do an excellent 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—which means he was doing simply as properly on community TV as he did on ACC telecasts.

Packer was the son of a faculty 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 below Horace “Bones” McKinney. The Demon Deacons received 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 recreation of the week shade commentator. He was paired with Jim Thacker and the “Thacker and Packer” workforce 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 just lately in 2008 for CBS.

“I believe he was one of the best on TV,” former Davidson and Maryland coach Lefty Dressel stated Saturday. “He was at all times one step forward of what was going to occur, even when some folks did not like what he stated. He talked concerning the match in entrance of him and informed folks what he thought.”

Packer truly performed in Driesell’s first faculty recreation coached at Davidson, a surprising win over Wake Forest. “I at all times teased him about that recreation,” stated Dressell. And he’d come again instantly and say, ‘Yeah, okay [all-American] Lane Chapel didn’t play in that match. This was Billy. He at all times 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 often make feedback when there was a break in play.

In response to longtime NBC publicist Tom Merritt, it was Packer who stated 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 electronic mail final week. “It was his concept and his insistence on doing it that made it occur.”

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McGuire and Packer continually bickered on air however had been shut associates. In truth, they usually shared lodge rooms as a result of McGuire did not like being alone and most well-liked to sleep on the ground.

I used to be lucky sufficient to cowl faculty basketball throughout NBC’s glory days and sometimes had dinner with the trio stay on Saturday nights earlier than Sunday video games. Packer and I often disagreed, particularly with regards 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 avenue nook in Indianapolis in the course of the Remaining 4.

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

I might name him typically to speak and he was as cussed as ever. In 2016, he informed 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 stated. “However this child fascinates me. He is so gifted however I am undecided he’ll be the star within the NBA everybody thinks he’ll be.”

Discuss 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 stated, “John, for those who’re , I am going to say so.” “I truthfully do not care. I loved doing what I did all these years in the past and I believe 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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