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Billy Packer, Straight-Talking College Basketball Analyst, Dies at 82


In 2000, he snapped at two female students who were checking press passes at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium, saying, according to news reports, “Since when do we let women control who gets into a men’s basketball game?” He later apologized.

Anthony William Paczkowski was born on Feb. 25, 1940, in Wellsville, N.Y., near the Pennsylvania border, and moved to Bethlehem, Pa., where his father, also named Anthony, was hired to coach the Lehigh University men’s basketball team. The elder Mr. Packer changed the family name soon afterward. Billy’s mother, Lois (Cruikshank) Packer, was a homemaker.

Billy played guard at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., and led the team to two Atlantic Coast Conference titles and to the Final Four in 1962, which the Demon Deacons lost to Ohio State. He totaled 1,316 points in his career, finishing second in scoring in each of his three years.

He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1962 and returned to Wake Forest in 1966 as an assistant coach. He held that job until 1970 while also working in the furniture business. In the early 1970s, while Mr. Packer was sales manager for a radio station in Winston-Salem, a friend asked him to fill in for the announcer of an A.C.C. game being televised by a syndicator.

“I wasn’t nervous,” he told The Chapel Hill News in 1974. “I figured I’d just walk in and tell the people what I saw, and that’s it. And that’s been my approach throughout.”

He became a regular on syndicated broadcasts and was hired by NBC in 1974, putting him in place to be at the center of college basketball for the next 34 years. He was there for John Wooden’s last game as the U.C.L.A coach in 1975; the title-game victory of Magic Johnson’s Michigan State team over Larry Bird’s Indiana State team in 1979; North Carolina State’s last-second win over Houston to win the 1983 championship; and the successes of Duke, Indiana, Louisville, Kansas and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

“He knew the game — cold,” Kevin O’Malley, the former CBS Sports executive who hired Mr. Packer in 1981, wrote in an email. He added, “Billy was the best basketball analyst at doing one very important thing in a fast-paced game — ‘see it and say it.’ He wasted no words and reacted to what he saw on the floor instantaneously — a really invaluable trait for the broadcast.”



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