Vol. 54, No. 2 January 2017 .pdf version
Ed Graney: Keeping reporters safe to and from arenas
Joe Mitch: USBWA, NCAA continue strong relationship
Hall of Fame welcomes 'Final Four for ages'
Once again, there's no shortage of courage
Elderkin, Rowe to share Pat Summitt Award

Hall of Fame welcomes 'Final Four for ages'

By VAHÉ GREGORIAN / The Kansas City Star
Second Vice President

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Steve Carp's path to the USBWA Hall of Fame started on subway rides from Brooklyn with his grandfather to see basketball at Madison Square Garden in the 1960s.

"The atmosphere just stuck with me for my entire life," he said.

David Teel's way to the Hall of Fame was kindled by his father, Bill, tucking local sports sections under his pillow every morning when he left for work.

It caught fire with the spectacle of Lefty Driesell flashing his patented "V" for victory as he took the court at Cole Field House.

"How can you not be enthralled by that?" said Teel, who 48 years later still has "in all their tortured cursive glory" some stories his dad encouraged him to write about games.

Tom Archdeacon's course from Ottoville, Ohio, to the Hall of Fame wasn't as linear, considering he became a sportswriter by happenstance.

But the seeds were planted when he was just a few years old and a regular at the basketball games of his grandfather, L.W. Heckman, an accomplished coach. It was a family affair, in fact: Archdeacon's dad was an assistant coach who went on to referee for 37 years, and his mother was the scorekeeper.

"Basketball has been my friend since I was a tiny little boy," he said.

Then there is Frank Deford, whose trail began with some fortune.

The game was an afterthought nationally when he was hired in 1962 by Sports Illustrated, which he recalled had featured college basketball on its cover three or four times in its first eight years.

Because no one else was interested, the Princeton graduate became the basketball fact checker.

Still, when he pitched a story on the bright future of a fellow named Bill Bradley as he was about to join the varsity at Princeton, many laughed.

But it became one of Deford's first major stories and led to simultaneously covering college basketball and the NBA for several years and influential writing that inspired many to enter the business.

Add it all up, and it's what you might call a Final Four for the ages.

"Holy Smokes, that's a heck of a group," said Carp, who has covered 16 Final Fours and been with the Las Vegas Review-Journal the last 17 years. "It's very humbling."

Archdeacon was thrilled to know the "tall cotton" he is in. "I can't say just how it warms my heart," said Archdeacon, who has been with the Dayton Daily News since 1989.

Teel, who joined the Newport News Daily Press in 1984 and has covered 25 Final Fours, called it "an indescribable honor."

Especially to be recognized at the same time as Archdeacon and Carp and, as Teel put it, "I can't even bring myself to call him Frank: It's Mr. Deford."

As arguably the most-decorated American sportswriter, it might seem this would be just another honor for Deford. But Deford held forth for 40 minutes on the telephone as he described the "pleasant surprise" that took him back to his "golden youth."

Among them, the group has chronicled much of the explosion of the game's popularity.

If theirs were the first drafts of history, they've collectively documented these momentous times with grace and vision that will stand as the record for generations to come.

"We've helped it grow, I think," said Carp, under whose presidency in 2009-2010 the USBWA saw what was then its biggest membership jump.

For Carp, the timing is perfect as he transitions to covering the NHL expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights, who begin play next season.

As he reflected on covering basketball, Carp thought back to going to the Garden with his grandfather, Charles Birnbaum, and of making enemies covering his high school team.

He thought of his start covering the college game in 1975 with the Manhattan College student paper, of his adventures covering UNLV at its peak of glamour and chaos and the scene around USA Basketball camps in Las Vegas.

"I had a seat," he said, "that very few people had a chance to sit in."

Teel, who won back-to-back free-throw shooting championships at Driesell's camps, is a 1981 graduate of James Madison.

He was already hooked on the game and becoming a sportswriter, but it was ramped up after the Dukes that spring qualified for their first NCAA Tournament and toppled Georgetown.

Two years later, he was working in Fayetteville, N.C., and covering N.C. State in the tournament on its way to what became the epic 54-52 title-game victory over Houston.

At 23, he thought, "How much better can it get?"

Answer: better and better, partly because of the fulfillment in the work itself and partly because of his friendships in the business.

After Archdeacon finished school at Dayton, he wasn't sure what to do with his life. He dabbled in journalism in college but not in sports.

He found himself in Florida, living with the family of a girlfriend who had broken up with him when her mother tried to nudge him along by pointing out a want ad for a sportswriter in South Dade County.

He got the job and took to it only to get fired a year later when his response to an edict to stop covering African-Americans athletes was to ramp it up.

After a year or so of freelancing, he was hired by the Miami News and emerged as an elegant, empathetic writer who has won numerous USBWA writing awards.

"His huge heart allows him to see people where others only see games or topics," said close friend Todd Jones of the Columbus Dispatch. "His stories are about life, and so those stories will live forever."

If Deford's inclusion is overdue, that's because until 2003 the USBWA didn't induct non-members.

As one who was on the forefront of coverage of the game, he now stands as testimony to why that was a worthy change. From the first of UCLA's titles under John Wooden to the Texas Western-Kentucky title game, he was there often wearing eyeglasses he didn't need to make himself look older and wiser. He would write what is widely considered the definitive story of Bobby Knight (The Rabbit Hunter), and as he reflects now he thinks of important pieces he did on the 1957 North Carolina title team and Al McGuire and Dean Smith.

He thinks, too, about how the game took him to places like Pocatello and El Paso that he'd never gone otherwise.

Just like the rest of the group, he knows basketball was the foundation of all else to come in an illustrious career.

"It was a wonderful, wonderful time," he said. "I look back on it very fondly."

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