2008-07-23 / Sports

Billy Packer gave his best

Kentucky basketball coach Billy Clyde Gillispie has worked without a signed contract since he was hired. Drew his pay check in accordance with the Mitch Barnhart Doctrine, specifically, "memorandum of understanding."

Has a Jeffersonian ring, doesn't it? Like the hand-shake on Kentucky's state flag. Sort of, My word is my bond, let the lawyers wait outside.

Dictates of MoU go something like this ...

Barnhart-to-Billy: Win games, always check compliance office first, win games; make public appearances, athletes will not miss class; careful who you criticize; don't sell comp tickets; win games, be politically correct with media; win games; don't drink in public and date out of town; visit kids in hospital; don't recruit outlaws. We will talk incentives when the lawyers are let in.

Supplementary: If you must recruit diaper dandies, do it quietly, without waterworks and be sure the kid knows your and our definition of word commitment.

Billy-to-Boss: Yes sir.

Barnhart's memorandum of understanding. I like it.

Alas, the lawyers have been let in. Gillispie will sign a formal contract maybe this week.

For times we live in, Barnhart's memorandum of understanding is the right stuff, an effective antidote for a coach struck by job-hop fever (wants more money, more love, more clout and no criticism).

Novel idea, "my word is my bond." Why, it could elevate coach credibility up a level from bottom feeders like mortgage lenders, stock market speculators and media.

CBS & Paczkowski

This week, observations about a newsmaker we know well, Anthony Paczkowski.

Spent the last 37 winters in our dens on weekends and won't be back.

Billy Packer was born Anthony Paczkowski in Wellsville, New York 68 years ago. His father changed the family's Polish name and added William.

Time flies.

CBS cut Packer loose last week. Various media outlets rolled out an array of descriptions - dumped, dismissed, heave-ho, fired and of course "... sent packing."

Not so, Packer said. He and CBS had a year-to-year agreement. A kind of memorandum of understanding. When the network no longer wanted him, fine.

Among those inclined to celebrate Packer's departure, count me out. He gave us his best for more than three decades. Billy knew basketball. He was a son of a coach, a college All-Conference player at Wake Forest, played in a Final Four. Coached too.

He offered good analysis through a briar patch of commercials and critics. When he blew one now and then fans loved it. But Packer never kow-towed to VIPs, nor kissed up to coaches, including king of kong Bob Knight. He was a fan's man.

Packer arrived for CBS assignments prepared, confident, straight-forward, curbed personal bias (we all have) and worked down the middle.

Critics? You and your brotherin law, uncles and the bowling team at the sports bar. More? NBA owners, players, college coaches at all levels, and fans who are undefeated coaching and officiating at same time from Archie Bunker's recliner.

Billy caught it from fans at Duke and North Carolina too.

But, yes, it was time for Packer to go. He has a date with Basketball's Hall of Fame.

CBS will elevate Clark Kellogg. Good choice, but there are questions.

1. Can he keep his schtick fresh? Leapability Kellogg leans hard at times on cute and clever.

2. Can good guy Kellogg handle hatefulness and criticism? A minute after his opinion hits air an e-mail will flash to CBS Sports, followed by a petition - "Yo! Your Ohio State guy, 'Big Ten' Kellogg, he's got to go!"

3. Can he remember, analyzing a ball game is way behind examining contents of a petri dish.

Networks don't like it, but shelf life for a sports commentator is five years tops. Then the schtick fades or, in Packer's case - being straight on right - gets old for guys in recliners.

Packer was excellent because he moved us to care, form opinions, question strategies, judge performance, and make block-charge calls perfectly, all from safety of our teevee room.

His like-ability? Better question: Did he tell the truth, challenge you to look past spin? You bet.

Was he ACC biased? No. A petition to CBS with more than 5,000 signatures wanting Pus ACC-ker fired, was mailed by a Wake Forest graduate.

Another reason Anthony Paczkowski was the best, comes via an excerpt from a Charlotte News&Observer piece by Roger Van Der Horst.

"As a basketball traditionalist, (Packer) takes pride in having been outspoken on the damage that the NBA and the lure of quick money have done to the American game, which he believes has been going downhill since 1992. Now, the natural maturation process has been stunted.

Packer: "Everybody talks about (how international teams) have caught up with us. No, they didn't catch up. We went backwards."

Thanks for good work, down the middle, Anthony Paczkowski.

We're going to miss him. Next!

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