Former CBS and Turner sports exec Kevin O’Malley talks about Billy Packer who passed this Thursday
Kevin O’Malley always wore a big and friendly simile. He was welcoming and inviting.
These were the early 1980s, and college basketball was exploding, Magic and Brid had just galvanized America. The Game was fueled by one new big vendor, ESPN. Kevin’s words were always well selected. He represented himself and CBS with rich esteem. From 1982 until today, college basketball has been the Tiffany’s baby.
NBC’s rights ended in 1981 and CBS outbid and outsmarted the incumbent. O’Malley played a critical part of steering CBS to pinning down the rights. Billy Packer was part of the NBC team with Al McGuire and Dick Enberg. The college basketball world changed forever. Packer and O’Malley built the future, synergistically.
Kevin draws colorful pictures of his ex cohort, Billy Packer…..David J. Halberstam, Sports Broadcast Journal
by Kevin O’Malley
As Executive Producer at CBS, I hired Billy in 1981 after his successful years with NBC, and I can attest to both his attributes as an excellent broadcaster and production team member and as an amusing and eccentric fellow.
Billy had a great sense of humor, if a slightly sardonic one. He knew the game – cold. He had a touch of the contrarian about him, and didn’t always tell people what they wanted to hear. He elicited the respect of the coaching fraternity, even from those who thought his analysis was a bit tough. Some analysts gained fame by blowing smoke about every coach and player they encountered, but Billy refused to do that.
I used to opine that Billy was the best basketball analyst at doing one very important thing in a fast-paced game – “See it and Say it”. He wasted no words and reacted to what he saw on the floor instantaneously – a really invaluable trait for the broadcast (watch the analysts you see this weekend and you won’t see too many who can do it even part of the time).
Billy Packer was also something almost no one knows about him – he’s a patron of the arts. He built a personal fortune, trading fine art, and ran a real estate development firm that specialized in renovating classic old movie theaters into updated restaurant and entertainment centers throughout North Carolina. These were things that appealed to Billy personally, and he made them a big part of his business life.
Billy was the son of a renowned hoops coach in Pennsylvania, and many thought he would have been a great coach himself. He certainly knew the game far better than most, and he really liked being around young people. But those who remember the disciplined point guard at Wake Forest. the aggressive young assistant coach, the fine broadcaster and the great businessman, well might tell you that his perfectionism might have gotten in the way of his success.
Anthony William Packer was quite a fellow – I wish more people could have gotten to know him.