Thursday, May 9, 2013

A Tribute To Two Of Our Brethren

Among the first things you'll notice about this latest addition to the site is that it lacks an accompanying picture, because, quite frankly, what I'm about to express does not need a visual aid to convey my point.

The month of May is usually a very slow one for us in the college basketball industry, with the culmination of the coaching carousel; and for those who pay more attention to recruiting than I admittedly do, the late signing period in which coaches bring aboard the final pieces of their next recruiting classes, usually occurring around the end of April.  That is the easiest explanation for the reduction of content in the offseason, simply because there is not really much to write about during this time.  Yet a respected local newspaper near this site's New York base made the shocking, albeit cruel and harsh, decision to give me a new piece of content when some of its most valuable and respected personnel were casualties of a layoff that those in the office feared, but their colleagues more or less never saw coming.

Among the cutbacks in staff at the New York Daily News include Tim Smith, an exceptional writer whose boxing coverage is as good as it gets around these parts.  Whenever a big fight approached, be it at Madison Square Garden, Las Vegas, or Los Angeles, you could be sure that Tim would have a comprehensive preview and recap of the action both in and out of the ring, from the weigh-in to the revealing of the judges' scorecards.  However, he is not alone, as two more longtime members of the Daily News sports department; whose contributions to the paper transcended college basketball, were also unceremoniously sacked.

Mention the name Sean Brennan to anyone who covers one of the many local programs in the area, and if they don't already know him personally, they've definitely heard of him.  For years, Sean has been synonymous with New York college basketball, first covering Manhattan and their initial run to glory under Fran Fraschilla when I was a young boy in the mid-1990s before branching out to some of the other regional giants, such as Iona, Seton Hall and Fordham.  On press row at Draddy Gym and the Hynes Center, where he and I worked frequently together, Sean was a consummate professional, always willing to share whatever information would help your game coverage, and always receptive to using something you wanted to pass along to him, as I almost always do for every writer on game nights.  It's the broadcaster in me, and old play-by-play habits never die, let alone die hard.

Sean Brennan is the kind of guy you would want to have a drink with after a game, something some of my colleagues have done in the past, and at one point this past season after covering four consecutive games together, he and I would jokingly expect to see one another in the same place for the next week after that.  In the offseason, he was always willing to lend himself to the Daily News' NFL coverage, eventually becoming known for his Monday wrapup columns that always featured some kind of quip about the Cincinnati Bengals and Detroit Lions, for reasons I never inquired about, but was always rather fascinated with.

And if you just so happened to run into the rare person in the college basketball world who did not know who Sean Brennan was, I guarantee you that he or she knew, or knew of, Dick Weiss.

It is almost impossible to be in this field without having some connection to the man whose lifetime of work and encyclopedic knowledge, despite the countless razzing he endures from fans, has made him a legend in three different basketball communities: New York, his native Philadelphia, and the nation at large; and has earned him the right to be known by one name.  "Hoops" is the Kevin Bacon of our business.  If you haven't worked with him directly, someone you do work with has.

Like Sean Brennan, I grew up reading Weiss' work, which at that time paid increased attention to Rick Pitino and Jim Calhoun among others, as their Kentucky and Connecticut teams had consistently placed among the national elite during my youth.  I had the honor of meeting Hoops in February of 2011 on my first major road trip in the business, when I shared press row with him at the Wells Fargo Center to watch St. John's take down Villanova on their magical run to the NCAA Tournament.

For younger media types like myself, who could pass for Hoops' grandson, to work alongside him is a validation.  His name carries with it a sense of establishment in the field, a sense that the game you're covering is a big one; because, let's face it: If Dick Weiss is there, it HAS to be important, right?

On top of that, he is one of the nicest guys you would ever want to know.  Search the mentions on his Twitter feed, and you will find overwhelming evidence to support that theory.  In the two-plus years that I have been fortunate enough to know Hoops, I have never encountered a time where he was not easily accessible or did not go out of his way to make me or anyone else feel like they belonged, that they were no different from him, even with the disparity in experience.

In addition to the hardwood, Hoops covered college football with the same passion.  And for all the flak that he has taken for breaking news much later than others, could it be that maybe he was just set in the old school way of being right rather than being first, a quality that far too many of us in the industry have seemed to neglect in recent times?

And now here they are, along with a dozen others at the Daily News, unfortunate victims of what the paper terms as a "restructuring," scaling back on its writers to place a greater emphasis on digital media.  I won't go into the fact that others whose track records and credibility pale in comparison to the men I mentioned here still have jobs, because that is petty and unprofessional, and is a blatant slap in the face of the tactful and classy manner in which Sean and Dick; and I'm sure Tim Smith as well, conducted themselves.

These men will almost certainly land somewhere else rather quickly, because they are simply way too talented not to.  Hopefully for the New York media, it will be close enough to where they will still be frequent visitors to a press row in the area.

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