College basketball announcer turns 82 years old – The Hollywood Reporter

Billy Packer, whose style and insight as college basketball’s top television analyst generated praise as well as criticism for more than three decades, has passed away. . He was 82 years old.

Packer died of kidney failure after being hospitalized for the past three weeks in Charlotte, North Carolina, his son Mark told the Associated Press.

From 1975-2008, Packer was a fixture on the NCAA Tournament television stations for NBC and later CBS. He also covered Atlantic Coast Conference games for Raycom Sports and received a Sports Emmy Award in 1993.

Packer’s basketball acumen was developed at Wake Forest University, where he led the Demon Deacons to the 1962 Finals as a 5-foot-9 high-score guard who had an average average 14 points. He was an assistant coach at the school for 5 years before starting his career as a broadcaster in 1972 in Raleigh, North Carolina.

At NBC, Packer collaborated with game-by-game announcers Curt Gowdy and Dick Enberg on college broadcasts, often working with fellow analyst Al McGuire. When he moved to CBS in 1981, his television partners included Brent Musburger, Jim Nantz, Verne Lundquist, and Enberg.

At times, Packer finds himself on the defensive because of his outspoken approach online. He may also take a unique stance away from his broadcasts, after hiring a psychic to find the weapon used in the OJ Simpson murder case.

Packer also helped put together a legal defense fund for accused 1996 Olympic bomber Richard Jewell. A few months later, federal authorities cleared all charges against the Atlanta security guard.

During a 1996 match between Villanova University and Georgetown University, Packer called Hoya’s brilliant defender, Allen Iverson, a “tough monkey”. He apologized, though Iverson and Georgetown coach John Thompson, both African-American, said they weren’t upset by the on-air comment.

In 2000, upon entering Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium, Packer was asked by several schoolgirls to show his press pass. His alleged response: “Since when do we let women control who enters a men’s basketball game? Why don’t you find a game for women to get everyone involved?

Again, Packer said he was sorry.

Undeterred, Packer continued to report with a provocative stance. In 2005, he attributed the side lighting at Allen Fieldhouse to the success of the University of Kansas on its home turf. A year later, he rips off NCAA Tournament officials for including several middleweight teams at the expense of worthy schools from larger conventions.

In a semifinal at the 2008 Final Four, Kansas secured a 38-12 advantage over North Carolina, prompting Packer to declare, “This game is over.” The contest lasts only 13 minutes. Tar Heels picked up four points midway through the second half before the Jayhawks won 84-66.

While his early review may have caused some CBS viewers to switch channels, this time Packer wasn’t apologetic. “My job is to say what I see, without some sort of subconscious feeling about offending anyone,” he said.

More than three months later, CBS announced that Clark Kellogg would replace Packer, ending his 27-year run as the network’s top college basketball analyst. “The decision was made with CBS and me over a year ago,” Packer said. “The timing of the announcement is their business.”

Packer said he’s happy for Kellogg, a former Ohio State star who worked at CBS for 16 years. “I’ve had the chance to broadcast most of the good games since college basketball was on national television, and I’m not interested in broadcasting any more,” he said.

Packer left an indelible mark on the college rounds in his departure.

At the time, former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese said: “The only word to describe Billy is a giant. “I think his passion for the game and the way he presents it in the way he presents it is unmatched. This creates an incredible void.”

He was born Anthony William Paczkowski in Wellsville, New York, on February 25, 1940. His father, Tony, was the head coach of Lehigh University’s men’s basketball team from 1950-66. The family changed their Polish surname to Packer before Billy attended Liberty High School in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

He’d always wanted to play basketball at Duke, so his dad called the school to tell them his son was on his way.

“He picked up the phone and told me Duke was trying to decide between me and another guy; they’ll let me know in a few weeks,” Packer recalls. “I said to call them back and tell them I was going to Wake Forest and [going to] hit that kid. My mother said you didn’t know anything about Wake Forest. I said I know they play Duke, and that’s why I’ll [there].”

Packer joined NBC in 1975 to replace Tommy Hawkins as the college’s principal basketball analyst alongside Gowdy.

Alternate at NBC from 1977-81, the parallel Enberg-Packer-McGuire – they made the landmark 1979 title game between Magic Johnson’s Michigan State University and Larry Bird’s Indiana State University – was hailed as one of the best games ever.

“We really looked at basketball in different ways,” Packer said of former Marquette University coach McGuire in a 2017 interview. “People really thought we didn’t like each other. But they thought it would be nice to watch a game with us. Then people thought we had pre-arranged the debates. It is spontaneous.

Packer was also a prolific author, collaborating with Roland Lazenby in 1985 Hoops: Confessions of a College Basketball Analyst and in 1987 Fifty years of the last four.

In a 2018 interview with Sports Broadcasting MagazinePacker admitted that he hasn’t attended or watched a full basketball game in the decade since he and CBS split.

Packer prides himself on his disdain for social media. He says he doesn’t own a computer, Twitter account or email. His cell phone is only used for emergencies.

The first NCAA tournament Packer worked with as a television analyst ended with John Wooden’s final championship at UCLA in 1975. Like Wooden, Packer shared a love of principles. fundamentals of basketball, so he was disappointed to see so many talented freshmen move to the NBA instead of honing their skills at the college level.

“What people don’t understand is that the game has degraded a lot because there are no more excellent junior and senior players,” Packer said. “There’s no comparison between a freshman with potential and a guy playing in the system of a great coach.”

Packer and his late wife, Barbara, are longtime residents of North Carolina, and their two sons work in the media: Brandt Packer is a producer for Golf Channel and Mark is a host. program of the ACC Network.

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