After pioneering decades covering college hoops; Billy Packer is missed; a father of TV hoops; He’s missed

On Friday, I got this unsolicited note from a man who had quite an impact on TV play-by-play. It was sent by Mike Patrick who had great influence on the NFL, college football, college basketball, the College World Series and more. He did all those years of Sunday Night Football when the ESPN package was filled with yawners. Patrick will be remembered for all his years, commitment, thundering voice and a trained tongue for play-by-play.

mike patrick square profile
Mike Patrick

“David,” he wrote by email “I was heartbroken to learn of Bliiy’s death. I was privileged to do over 100 ACC games with him for Jefferson Pilot (regional network then). He said the most insightful thing during a game you could possibly imagine. He was the only analyst I ever heard who could follow the ball and still see the action off the ball. The rest of humanity could do one or the other. To me, his knowledge, humor and courage, made Billy the best analyst in any sport, ever. I lost a great friend and partner.”

Interesting, Packer told me that he graded every broadcast he did, appraising  his own prognosis. Was he right or was he wrong and so on? I can assure you that Billy got along with all his partner play-callers. He taught many of them more about the game. When Dick Enberg passed about five years ago, Billy was asked by Dick’s wife to speak at a commemoration of sorts in California.

Parker sat alongside some of the best play-by-players, from Enberg to Jim Nantz, Brent Musburger, Curt Gowdy, Tim Brando, Jim Simpson and Verne Lundquist. Lots of regional ACC play-by-players.

Growing up in New York, rarely did we see the two popular southern names that rhymed, Jim Thacker and Billy Packer. They were seen in NY only rarely during only the ACC Tournament. It was before ESPN. Amazing to consider that Packer never did a game for ESPN, not from my memory.

Enberg, Al McGuire and Billy made for arguably the best trio ever. Particularly, funny and knowledgeable on NBC. CBS wanted to go it own way.

Here’s a little bit on Billy, story-by-story. He left the mic in 2008, 15 years ago. His wife, Barbara Ann Sucansky lost last year, both I believe of Polish descent. Billy was raised in Upstate New York, his dad a longtime basketball coach. Billy helped many.

You’ll enjoy these articles below in collective form on Billy’s life, many written by me in 2018

After 34 Straight Final Fours, Billy Packer Hasn’t Attended A Basketball Game in 10 Years!


TV trio of Dick Enberg, Al McGuire and Billy Packer was the best ever; Otherwise, 3 voices are tricky


Billy Packer: Can’t Work Today Due to Political Correctness; Dean Smith Best Overall Coach


Headline: Q&A With Billy Packer


Billy Packer recalls NCAA title game, played 40 years ago tonight, hours after President Reagan was shot


Former CBS and Turner sports exec Kevin O’Malley talks about Billy Packer who passed this Thursday


David J. Halberstam

David is a 40-year + industry veteran who served as play-by-play announcer for St. John's University basketball in New York and as radio play-by-play voice of the Miami Heat in South Florida. He is the author of Sports on New York Radio: A Play-by-Play History and The Fundamentals of Sports Media and Sponsorship Sales: Developing New Accounts.

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