Defending Billy Packer
The article on Billy Packer accomplished something I have been trying to achieve since ramfanatic.com was founded. It generated a thoughtful response that adds considerably to the original article. Dan Durham, a Tar Heel fan I have been corresponding with for some time, has presented a formidable defense for Billy Packer and I want to share it with you.
Read with interest your latest offering at ramfanatic.com on Billy
It's always great fun for me to listen to UNC fans criticize Billy and claim how he's always hated the Heels. I guess they've conveniently forgotten how complimentary he was of Dean Smith and his teams over the years. And, moreover, they've forgotten about how he took on Hank Nichols, NCAA Supervisor of Officials, on-air at the 1991 Final Four in Indianapolis over referee Pete Pavia's late-game ejection of Dean against Kansas. Billy called Pavia's quick trigger "ridiculous".
Despite his few senior moments and his constant butchering of the English language using "laxadaisical" instead of lackadaisical and "periphial" instead of peripheral), Billy Packer is quite simply the best college basketball analyst in the business, and he has been for over 30 years. He's not afraid to express his opinion and criticize players, coaches or officials when it's warranted. When's the last time you heard Dick Vitale be critical of a coach's strategy??? The next time that Dookie V criticizes a coach will be the first time. Packer's forgotten more about the game of basketball and its history than Vitale and most other analysts will ever know. Many Carolina fans were positively apoplectic two seasons ago when Billy ripped Rashad McCants for his disinterested play against Kentucky in Lexington. Well, Rashad was playing as if he was disinterested in the game and that point was proven when Roy Williams yanked him out of the game and sat him down for a long spell. I saw that same disinterested and "lackadaisical" attitude from Rashad first-hand later in the year in Charlottesville in a game against UVA (the Heels lost a game they had no business losing). Billy's not a cheerleader and I don't expect him to be.
In the tradition of the late, great Howard Cosell, he merely "tells it like it is". And, unlike Cosell and many other announcers in their later years, Billy hasn't become a caricature of himself. On the contrary, I believe that he's improved with age. He still brings a fresh, objective and analytical view to every game that he covers.
I've had the good fortune to live roughly half of my life outside of North Carolina and ACC country (mostly in the Pac-10 region). And, I've also attended college basketball games all over the country in my business travels. Folks outside of the ACC think that Billy is so pro-ACC that it's sickening and all of the ACC fans (including the Wake Forest contingent) feel that he personally has it in for their school and basketball team.
That tells me he must be doing a pretty good job of remaining objective in his analysis.
Yes, Billy can be arrogant, condescending and egotistical, especially off-camera. But, name someone who's been uber-successful in their field of endeavor that can't be??? Billy once famously blew me off in the lobby of the Westin Hotel in Seattle at the 1989 Final Four when I tried to get him to sign a copy of his book, "Hoops: Confessions of a College Basketball Analyst". He told me me to give it to the concierge and he'd take care of it (which I did). I never saw the book again.
What I enjoy most about Billy's work is that he has a great knowledge of the game (his dad was head coach at Lehigh) and, more importantly, he has a tremendous love and passion for the game and for it being played the 'right way'. His voice takes me to a familiar place and I'll miss him when he's gone.
And, just as a point of fact, Billy was at Wake Forest for 4 years (1958-1962), playing varsity basketball for three seasons (freshmen were ineligible for varsity play in those years)...............
An interesting sidenote to that 1962 NCAA consolation game between Wake Forest and UCLA...........Former Wake coach "Bones" McKinney used to tell the story of how he planned on sitting back and relaxing during that game since it didn't mean anything. During pre-game warmups, however, N.C. State coach Everett Case came up to "Bones" and told him that Wake needed to win the game to give the ACC a bye in the first round of subsequent NCAA tournaments (based on the conference's overall tournament performance). "Bones" had to coach that game with the whole weight of the conference on his shoulders and for anyone who ever saw his antics on the sidelines, they know what kind of stress and strain that put on him. Fortunately, the Deacons won, 82-80, sending John Wooden home from his first Final Four with two losses. As a result, the ACC tournament champion enjoyed a first round bye in subsequent years until the tournament field was expanded in 1975.