Thursday, May 14, 2009

Packer deserves credit


Billy Packer, the semi-retired college basketball analyst, has encountered floods of critics in his long career. A goodly number of them are Kansas-oriented. But local folks shouldn’t be quite so harsh with the former Wake Forest guard since he was a key man in bringing Larry Brown here to inaugurate an unparalleled run of Jayhawk success.

Athletic director Monte Johnson had turned coach Ted Owens loose in 1983 and was covering a lot of territory to find a successor. He got back from a headhunting trip and had a call from Spider Reed, a noted wood sculptor and the son of the late Betty and Clyde Reed of Parsons. Reed told Monte he thought Larry Brown, then coaching the New Jersey Nets, just might be receptive to some kind of offer. Ridiculous? Not to Johnson.

Monte then heard from Billy Packer that Larry might be willing to move back to a college atmosphere. Once the aggressive, inventive Monte got the scent, things fell into place.

Johnson set up a secret meeting with Larry, and they came up with a blockbuster alliance that few of us could believe. Since Larry played ball under Dean Smith at North Carolina, there’s a fallacy that Dean helped guide Brown this way. Not! This was strictly a Reed-Packer-Johnson-Brown operation. Dean factored heavily in sending Roy Williams to Kansas; not Larry Brown. That was vintage Monte Johnson.

In his five seasons here, Brown guided the Jayhawks to a 135-44 record that included a 1988 NCAA title and a tremendous buildup of excitement that KU followers have perpetuated. Williams’ 15-year mark of 418-101 kept the fever high and growing, then in six years Bill Self has won more than eight out of every 10 games and a 2008 NCAA title. Is a second one in the works for 2009-10?

But when anti-Packer folks gather to howl at the moon and deprecate his career and image, the Kansas contingent might lighten up a bit considering Billy’s role in helping spark the most productive 25-year run in Jayhawk history.

The college-to-pro and pro-to-college coaching picture is intriguing. Vagabond shoes and all, Brown is the only coach ever to win a college and NBA title (Detroit in 2004). I doubt anyone will do that again.

There has been recent talk that Louisville’s Rick Pitino might heed an offer from Sacramento of the NBA. After winning the NCAA at Kentucky and building up Louisville as he has, why would he even consider another pro floppola like his ones with New York and Boston? John Calipari failed with New Jersey, got Memphis rolling and now has a dream job at Kentucky. But then, Brown has swung both ways with success.

A revealing list of college coaches who didn’t succeed in the NBA includes Pitino, Calipari, Lon Kruger, Clair Bee, Jeff Bzdelik, Jerry Tarkanian, Dick Vitale, Bill Blair, Lou Carnesecca, P.J. Carlesimo, Mike Montgomery and Tim Floyd.

Some modern-day coaches have gone from college to pro and done fairly well, among them Gregg Popovich, Bill Fitch, Dick Motta, Chuck Daly, Cotton Fitzsimmons, John MacLeod and Jack Ramsay.

Yet nobody’s been a switch-hitter like Brown. And Packer for all his faults figured in bringing Larry to trigger a KU renaissance.


RockChalkJayBlog 11 years, 3 months ago

Someone on here is going to say something about Bill Mayer on here.

So before they post, I'm going to politely tell you to "shut up."

RockChalkJayBlog 11 years, 3 months ago

And by say something, I mean something mean or derogatory about Mayer.

Eurekahwk 11 years, 3 months ago

To be fair to college coaches trying the NBA ranks, Dick Vitale didn't succeed in college either. He was just a bad coach,period.

Mike Blur 11 years, 3 months ago

So Eurekahack, Vitale's 78-30 (.722) record in college is "unsuccessful." Detroit University's 21 game winning streak with Vitale at the helm was "unsuccessful."

Don't blame me; you're the one who brought him up.

Sam Burns 11 years, 3 months ago

Silly Pecker is by far the worst sports analyst on TV.It doesn't take long for me to hit the mute button when we have the misfortune of having him work a KU game. The man is outright anti-KU. OH, did I spell his name wrong?.........Oh well, close enoguh.

Seth Nesmith 11 years, 3 months ago

Monte heard from Billy that Larry MIGHT be interested. That is all the information there is and we should give him credit for bringing Larry Brown here? What a joke?! Billy Packer is the most annoying announcer unless you are from the ACC or Big East. That was a horrible story linking an anti-Big XII person to a KU national championship.

Robert Brock 11 years, 3 months ago

"Monte then heard from Billy Packer that Larry might be willing to move back to a college atmosphere." What did Packer do to earn any credit? He had a hunch? Had he spoken to Larry? Rumor on the street or in a bar that Packer over-heard? What is the Packer connection? Chit-chat, hunch, direct knowledge?

Cameron Schienebeck 11 years, 3 months ago

How sickening was it to listen to Packers love affair with Derrek Rose during the championship game. The guy sucked the whole first half and just like be does now in the NBA, hides or chokes at the end of the game. Yet he is still #1 in Billy's heart.

panalytic 11 years, 3 months ago

I was a student when Brown was hired and have only heard about how Dean Smith guided the decision making process to get Brown hired as our head coach. I have heard about the Dean Smith story, as some kind of super consultant to us, for a long time.

Mayer's story is a whole new angle after all this time. This was a really interesting story. Shakes up my old perspective of that transition period in KU basketball.

Eric Schneider 11 years, 3 months ago

I don't get the anti-KU idea. The only times I ever heard him be down on KU was when we deserved it (1991, 2003 championship games). Yes he has a slight bias towards the ACC, but I can understand his better than Duke Vitale, who is ten times more biased. At least Packer played and coached at Wake. I have watched every Final Four game starting with the 1982 championship game and have not seen this heavy bias everyone mentions. If you want to talk about bias let's be honest with ourselves and look at Doug Gottlieb. Now I love Doug. I think he's the best studio guy out there. But he has a heavy KU/Big XII bias.

I think they should have moved Jay Bilas to the number one analyst position, though, for the tournament. He is the best analyst since Al McGuire.

Steve Tramba 11 years, 3 months ago

Nice story, but it is the arrogance Packer carries that turns people off. DRose mentioned above, how about engaging Phil Martelli of St. Joe's a few years back... he had 2 legit NBA guards on that team and they squabbled over a #1 seed or not.

Also, the time comes for change - Packer tries to be so 100% factual (and maybe that's my perceived arrogance of him), that like any of us, he'll mess up. Listen to the end of the Memphis game when Memphis doesn't pickup the ball on a dead ball inbound situation... Packer starts to say they better pick it up or they'll risk a 5 second call... um, no. They were avoiding the clock starting Billy.

He's not perfect, I certainly am not, but it's time for new blood... hell, ESPN rolls out 55 new announcers for college football it seems every year, so there has to be "talent" available. :)


Chicago_JHawk 11 years, 3 months ago

Does seem like a bit of a stretch, giving Packer credit for getting Brown here by being one of at least two people to imply that Brown "might" be interested in a return to the college game.

Clarence Haynes 11 years, 3 months ago

I always enjoyed the back and forth between Al McGuire and Billy Packer. It was good theatre. They arrived at their conclusions in a totally different way, with McGuire on a Harley! Kudos to Packer if he assisted with bringing Brown to Lawrence!

Andy Hess 11 years, 3 months ago

Packer deserves nothing more than the boot in the a$$ that he got last year. nothing more.

MinnesotaJay 11 years, 3 months ago

Good, informative piece. Thanks, Bill Mayer.

By the way, even though there's a lot of negativism directed toward Packer, and Dukie V. for that matter, both have added a lot to college basketball over the years. Hats off to 'em.

kvskubball 11 years, 3 months ago


I agree. Bilas is the best current analyst, (Even though he is a Dukie) and should have been made the Final 4 analyst. Maybe the CBS bosses thought that Kellogg was a better entertainer, but IMO he isn't the better analyst, good but not the best.

ESPN Classic recently replayed the Arizona - KU game from November of the championship year. Bilas was the analyst for the game. He was a pretty tough critic of KU's offensive play in that game (And we deserved it, playing sloppily much of the game on offense), but he did also say that he thought that KU should be considered a Final Four contender along with UNC, Memphis, and UCLA (Once Rush returned to full health and when Collins, who was out with an injury, was healthy). He tapped the Final Four players in November...not that he was alone, those four teams really looked like they would seperate themselves from the pack and did.

I also agree that Gottlieb is one of the biggest supporters and trumpeteers of the Big XII. I think it's a stretch to say that he has a KU bias. I think his positive KU comments reflect the respect pants-on-backwards has for fellow Okie-Stater Self and the fact that KU has really helped raise the Big XII's profile nationally. KU has been really really good over the past quarter century, and p-o-b, ugh I mean Gottlieb, provides a counter-point to the Coastal-biased talking heads. I think the Big XII is often under-rated by most analysts. I often feel like the Big XII is the Rodney Dangerfield of college bball - we get no respect. Come on Aretha Franklin, sing it...All I'm asking for is a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T!!!!

Redlandsjhawk 11 years, 3 months ago

Hey give Billy credit for telling it straight about Rose last year being too easy to guard in the first half. Sherron basicly owned him the entire game. If Sherron made the slightest move on him Rose would pick up his dribble. Also remember Packer lost his gig for telling it straight in the first half of the KU-UNC semi-final. I loved it! Maybe I wouldn't have been happy if I had spent a mill on advertising in the second half, but I loved the comment. Rock Chalk. I hope I get to hear Bobby Knight call a few more games next year. What a breath of fresh air he has been to listen to. BTW anybody know if it will be possible or affordable to get tickets to the KU-UCLA game next DEC?

jaybate 11 years, 3 months ago

} The fresh meat of Mayer's story is: Dean had nothing to do with hiring LB. References to Wiley and Packer seem contrived, or at least incidental. I realize the lord works, and inspiration comes, in mysterious ways, but Larry Brown was known to be a job jumper back in those days by anyone who read SI, or a fish wrap. Everyone knew he had been at UCLA and was on record as regretting having left UCLA and college ball. Everyone knew UCLA AD J.D. Morgan would sooner change UCLA's colors to USC maroon and gold, than rehire LB. Everyone knew LB was on thin ice in Jersey (as most pro coaches are) and would entertain the right college job offer. Monte Johnson did not need a nudge from anyone to inquire if Larry would consider coming to a major program job with the right talent and the right salary, or if he did need such a nudge, he should not have. Every sports broadcaster would have known Larry would entertain offers from major programs in college ball, whether or not he took them. Every AD at a major program would have known Larry would have at least taken a call on a job opening at a major program. Perhaps not every wood sculptor would have known to call Larry, but any wood sculptor who was a basketball fan would have. Frankly, my mom would have known Larry was a job jumper who would take such calls.

The surprise was not that LB would leave the nets for a college job. The surprise was that a New Yorker would leave Jersey, which was essentially across the river from home, for a major program that needed revitalizing that was located in a small midwestern town, like Lawrence.

Let us just give Monte Johnson the enormous credit he deserves and forget the forgettable Packer. Monte did call Larry. He did have the salesmanship and interpersonal saavy needed to find Larry's hot button (the tradition of Naismith and Allen mattered to him, as did Ted Owen's players) and green button (money, money, money) and then string a deal that brought LB to AFH. And then the dominos of fate began to fall. Larry did steal Danny out from under Dean and win a ring. LB did get restless for bigger bones in the pros and Dean did send us Roy with a promise not to recruit half the country to prevent Dean from getting Larried again in the future by the old home place. And then Dean did raid Roy in a Final Four run, thus miraculously setting the stage for Bill Self to come, win at Roy's rate, win a ring, later turn down T. Boone's bones, and build for a potentially miraculous season next year.

} I want to personally nominate RockChalkJayBlog for the George Bush/Karl Rove Pre-Emptive Censorship in Media Award. This award is given annually to the most wan attempt at stifling First Amendment rights. The award is called "The Turd Blossom." Alas, it carries no stipend.

kvskubball 11 years, 3 months ago

Hey everyone,

Since it is obvious that most of us can't get enough bball talk at this time of year, how about discussing who we think will be in the final four next year???

I know it's still a little early as Wall and Born Ready haven't signed yet, but most ducks are in a row now...

My first set of Final-Fourers would of course include KU. I also think that Nova could make a return if Reynolds (A former OU recruit) is returning. Both KU and Nova have top 5 recruiting classes coming in, adding even more depth. The rest of the Big East is losing a lot of talent this year, as is UNC (Although UNC also has a top 5 recruiting class). I refuse to pick UK and paperclip to go to the Final Four, even though they will have top 4 talent, much of the talent will be freshman talent, and we had a first hand look from last year about how that is at best a Forrest Gump box of chocolates, even when they are really good, and there will still be only one basketball.

I'll also pick Purdue to make the Final Four. Painter does something that his mentor, Keady couldn't...Purdue's Achilles Heel is that they aren't all that athletic, or tremendously big in the paint. They are very talented but don't seem to move very well. Maybe that is just because I've seen them in Big Ten thug-ball games, maybe...The talent on this team is much better than Larry Bird's ISU team, though noone on this Purdue club is the Bird is the word either!

With my fourth pick I'll be a Big XII homer....I'll say that either Texas or A&M will join KU in the Final Four. Both have holes in their boats, but also solidly above average talent. Texas needs to find a PG who can run the show and make defenses play perimeter defense instead of collapsing on the bigs. Pittman will be a monster in the middle this year. I think James will return. Texas also has two top 10 recruits coming in, and they've had huge success under Barnes with top recruits, remember Aldridge, Durant, Augustin, TJ name a few.

Whereas A&M, if their three recruits that threw their names into the NBA draft return, (As Gary Parrish of CBS Sports says they should, and I believe they will, although I think they have more talent than Gary does. He says they've got no chance to get drafted and should return. This is a little of that coastal bias I was talking about in my earlier post) will have enough talent that Turgeon should at least think he has a chance! If they return those three, they'll have probably the 2nd most experienced and 3rd most talented team in the Big XII, behind the now massively experienced (LOL) KU team and behind KU and Texas in the talent department!

Other contenders... Duke if they land Wall... UK if they can learn to share that ONE ball... UCLA if last year's top freshman class sticks around and grows at ALL... Some other team if they play defense and their shots FALL... So, what do you think? That's my CALL...

kvskubball 11 years, 3 months ago

gotta love the 3000 character limit...


You can also determine who I think will be the three top teams in the Big XII next year. If not, go back and read it again!

As always, Rock the Chalk!

mjlindsm 11 years, 3 months ago

Packer should have been fired long before last year. All he did during the games was criticize everything the players, coaches, and officials did, and half the time he was wrong. He ruined every game he did the color for.

Can't we have Bill Raftery do the final four and championship games? He's funny, accurate, pleasant, and truly seems to be enjoying what he is doing. Nothing against Clark Kellogg, but Bill Raftery just doesn't get enough props so I figure this would be a good place to give him some.

Joel Hood 11 years, 2 months ago

I could never stand Billy PACCker. To me, his bias wasn’t overtly anti-KU or anti-Big12, but was overly bias for the ACC and to a lesser extent the Big East. KU would often just get caught in his lack-of-respect “Wake.” IMO, I believe Mayer is giving PACCker way too much credit for Monte’s LB coup in 1983.

Today, I enjoy and respect Jay Bilas as a studio analyst – he thoroughly and rationally examines each team and each match up that he comments on. He rarely goes with his emotions or gut feelings. But, he is the most boring color guy during games – he sounds very detached and robotic (my God, is Mr. Spock doing the color for this game?) Vitale is just the opposite. His studio analysis often has little depth and is full of emotion. But, I love his passion during games, in spite of how ridiculous he sounds at times. And that is fine with me. Basketball is about both – intellect and passion.

jaybate 11 years, 2 months ago

"I come to bury Packer, not to praise him. The evil that turds do lives after them; the good is oft reduced to fertilizer."--William Shakespearitual

Larry Smith 11 years, 2 months ago

Most people don't like Packer because he tells it like he sees it. And if that doesn't agree with what you think, then you say he stinks. Most of the people on here commenting always reference what he said during a KU game, and use that as a reason to dislike him. Have you watched him do other games? Aside from KU BBall, how much do you watch? Like him or not, he has done a lot to further the broadcast of college BBall games. Him and Vital both have been great ambassadors of the sport.

Gus Johnson anyone?

Rise and Fire!

Joe Ross 11 years, 2 months ago

New information brought to us by Mayer! Interesting to say the very least.

The man is not only relevant, he's iconic. The LJW is lucky to have his perspective, and we as readers are much more knowledgable for having read his articles.

Once again, well done Bill!

mjlindsm 11 years, 2 months ago

I actually never thought Packer was anti-KU and I still can't stand him as a color commentator. I thought his comments about Christian Moody being the greatest walk-on in the history of college basketball were both pro-KU and moronic at the same time. He's awful in every game I've heard him.

He does call it as he sees it, which means criticizing every mistake of 18 year-olds, ripping into officials even though they made the right call, and questioning every move of every coach despite not knowing a tenth as much about the two teams on the court as that coach does.

David Black 11 years, 2 months ago

I still do not like Billy Packer. Never did, never will.

kvskubball 11 years, 2 months ago


Not a believer in A&M? Gillispie showed that A&M can be a contender and can attract top talent, he just didn't stay long enough to build on it. B.(i)G. mistake...Now Turg is building...

If Sloan, Davis, and Elonu all come back, A&M will be good. They would only lose Carter, but would replace him with 4 top 150 rated players, all with size, two of which are good shooting SG/SF's. Their biggest Q would be whether their soph. PG can lead them. Maybe Sloan will move back to PG.

"Mark" it down, Turg is recruiting well, he's a good coach, and he's going to win at A&M. A National Title? Well I think he can compete and that he's going to start by giving Texas a run for their money in the recruiting of the very top Texas highschool players.

Of course, unlike KU, Turg won't have killer talent (Even if the three early entry guys all come back), just very good talent, so his margin of error next year will be slim, but his team will be good enough that if they gel at the right time, they could easily role off four wins in the tourney, IMO. If all three don't come back, then he'll have to work to finish in the top 4 of the Big XII...

Kye Clark 11 years, 2 months ago

I've never been a Billy Packer fan, not because of any anti-KU/Big 12 bias, but just because he is dreadfully bad as a color commentator. He seems to be scolding both players and officials at their every mistake. Other announcers I hate listening to are: Len Elmore, John Madden (I know he's not college basketball - obviously - but someone brought him up earlier. And I'm a Raiders fan! But the guy is such a buffoon). Also, was not a fan of listening to Greg Gurley. Some of the announcers I like are Kevin Harlen, Gus Johnson, Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas, & Dickie V. Vitale isn't my favorite, but he is so enthusiastic, such a great ambassador for the game, has continued to raise money for the V foundation, and he gave Nick Collison a standing O when he fouled out after a remarkable 20-20 performance.

mjlindsm 11 years, 2 months ago

C'mon, does nobody have any love for Bill Raftery? He was the only one in the six-overtime UConn-Cuse game who seemed to be loving every minute of the overtime, despite it causing him (an admitted lover of recreational spirits) to miss bar close. He has great analysis with basketball knowledge, the entertaining flair of Vitale, and the humility of the anti-Billy-Packer.

Can you imagine how exciting the calls would have been if the '08 championship game was called by a team of Raftery and Gus Johnson?! It's a travesty that we didn't get to experience that.

Spencer Goff 11 years, 2 months ago

So you think we should excuse Packer for being a racist, sexist jackass for over thirty years of Final Four broadcasting because he had a minor hand in bringing Larry Brown to KU?

I'm just trying to get this straight Mayer. Did he take you out for coffee once or something?

I swear that guy kept his job with CBS only because he had photos of somebody, somewhere having sex with someone or someTHING that they shouldn't have.

Me personally, I don't think you can get a better basketball announcing combo then Harlan and Collins, and I don't care if Harlan is a KU alum, he is the man. The guy could make a PTA meeting seem exciting. Miller and Alberts are damn refreshing to hear as well.

Actually, for just basketball, TNT has the best. Harlan/Collins, Miller/Alberts, and the studio crew of Johnson/Smith/Barkley (and Webber or Magic sometimes).

TNT just straight kicks ass. I wish TNT would just lend CBS their crews for the Final Four.

P.S. Mayer, I wouldn't care if Packer brought Gandhi to KU, the guy is still a horse's ass.

FairgroveJayhawk 11 years, 2 months ago

When I lived in Lawrence and KC I didn't bother to listen commentators from television, I would tune in the radio and catch Max Falkenstien and Bob Davis calling the game.

OH memories.

Joel Hood 11 years, 2 months ago

Mjlindsm – Ok, I like Bill Raftery for the same reasons I like Vitale, he has great enthusiasm and is mostly positive about both teams on the floor. His little sayings (…with a KISS off the glass…) are also fun.

FairgroveJayhawk – I live in Lawrence and our digital cable signal is a good 5 seconds behind the radio signal. I’d love to watch the game and listen to Bob & Pipe, but it isn’t very palatable to have the audio and video that far out of sync.

11 years, 2 months ago

jayhawkerjoel ~

They actually have radio delay devices now to rectify the issue you have raised. This one is kind of pricey, but it might be worth checking out. They claim you can dial it in to match nearly perfectly (0-16 seconds depending on the delay time).

Joel Hood 11 years, 2 months ago

txrockchalk - thanks for the link & info. Hummmm - $200. I could get likely get four tickets to some games at AFH for that. Perhaps like most technology the price will eventually go down. Oh well, Dave Armstrong does many of the Jayhawk TV games for KU - I expect an unusually high number of WOWs next year!

11 years, 2 months ago

I bet you're right on all counts, jayhawkerjoel. Isn't it funny how Dave Armstrong recently brought the "WOW!" back out from what seemed like at least 10 years of hibernation? I think people used to give him a hard time about it. It's definitely his trademark though.

Joel Hood 11 years, 2 months ago

10 years is about right. Whatever incarnation of what is now ESPN+ (Raycom, Big 12 Network, etc.) did give him a talking to. I remember when he used to run wild with the WOW and all of sudden he stopped. Then during a game, after a spectacular play, he said something like, " matter how much trouble I get into, that deserves a WOW!" But, he does a great job on WHB 810 out of KC. He is very knowledgable and not so hyper.

UncleMiltyN 11 years, 2 months ago

Krohnutz, I have to agree with you. TNT is, by far, the best network for basketball coverage. I just wished I liked the pro game a little more. Barkley cracks me up, Miller and Collins are superb, and Harlan is the man.

I'd also like to add that, as an Audio/Video guy with some broadcast experience..., TNT has spared no expense on their HD equipment for live broadcasts. If you have a good time there's a game on TNT, switch stations and compare it. You'll see the difference. Maybe ESPN or CBS will pony up the dollars and we can get more college games in that quality.

On the subject of Packer...he's better than Dickie V any day of the week. Don't forget that PbP/Color guys are like a couple...Madden was great with Pat Summerall and not as good without him. Nantz/Packer is a pretty good team imo and I never thought he was anti-ku. I'm pretty sure I heard every ku game he every did.

I still like the story about Packer hiring a psychic to find the knife in the O.J. case....

bigjay83 11 years, 2 months ago

Dave Armstrong stinks. "Long Arm of the Law?" Sweet Jesus. And that was the best nickname he's come up with in ten years.


Completely agree with the TNT HD quality. Very superb. ESPN still broadcasts in 720 for x-mas sake! TNT seems to really be pushing hard on adding more sports viewers to their line up (which, last time I checked, included 23 hours of Law & Order and an episode of The Closer). Hopefully they can add some pressure to the ESPN monopoly and get them to upgrade.

As to Packer, don't hate him because of any anti-KU stand. I hate him because he stinks. He lives in 1951 and discusses the game of basketball like it's being played in that time.

Well that, and he's a complete jacka**

Tim Bingaman 11 years, 2 months ago

Packer is great!!! Miss you Billy! Thanks for getting us the '88 Championship!

BCRavenJHawkfan 11 years, 2 months ago

Let's be clear on this. ANY participation, involvement, or influence Billy fudgePacker may have had in Larry Brown landing in Kansas is coincidental.

And it needs to be stressed that he has had little respect for the Big XII or BIG 8, let alone Kansas, all while professing worship to Danny Manning.

As far as his proclomation during the UNC/KU semi final game, I truly think he called the game over before half not because of any respect to Kansas, but because he was so truly disappointed in the performance of the ACC pride and joy.

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