John McNamara’s special talent for sports journalism was his ability to expose the dedication, hard work, heartbreak, sacrifices, faults, delights, personalities, strategies, tactics, and intricacies in each player, contest and season. He performed the homework needed to provide historical context for these stories. He wrote without pretension or condescension, telling stories that were accessible and informative to new and established fans and readers alike.
To continue John’s devotion to Sports Journalism, to allow others to learn from John and his work, to develop and reward writers who demonstrate potential for producing accessible and informative sports journalism, to provide opportunity for talented students who may carry on John’s legacy, and to show our devotion to John, we have created the John McNamara ’83 Endowed Sports Journalism Scholarship at the University of Maryland.
John McNamara was devoted to his family, his friends, his alma maters – Maryland and St. John’s College High School – his craft of journalism, his Maryland Terrapins and the sports he loved to chronicle, watch and play.
His passing is heart-wrenching. His life was devoted to making all of us better – more informed, happier, enthusiastic and loved.
John grew up in Bethesda in a family full of the quintessential Irish Catholic diversity: avid readers, writers, artists, bookworms, musicians, singers, tellers of tales, church volunteers, and booklovers. He loved softball on the grassy knoll in front of his house, and basketball wherever he found it. He joined his adopted family of area journalists and sports writers at his high school paper, then as a Washington Post intern, and at the University of Maryland Diamondback. On graduation from the University of MD, he worked with fellow Terrapins and colleagues in his first full-time job as a sports writer at the Hagerstown Herald-Mail in the early 1980s. Herald colleague and fellow sports fan Doug Dull’s first notice of his hiring was a phone call during which he suggested to Dull that they become roommates. That would require Dull to purchase a television, move out of his parents’ house and find an apartment. There was to be no discussion.
That first year, when the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament arrived, their shared refrigerator bore witness to the event. There were no less than three brackets to be completed and monitored. One filled in before the tournament as in a normal office pool, a second to be filled in each day reflecting the ebbs and flows of the previous games, and a third with some wild permutation of mathematics that they understood then, but is lost in some basketball algebraic equation somewhere. The configuration generously provided three ways for Dull to be soundly trounced by his roommate’s superior basketball knowledge.
McNamara was just warming up for his responsibility as a voter on the Associated Press national basketball poll – giving him the chance to watch more hoops and enhance their shared enjoyment of the sport based on his homework, analysis and experience.
McNamara would hate this metaphor – being a traditionalist – but he was Twitter before the Internet was even invented. “Mac” was the guy in the media room, the restaurant or on the phone who would dazzle with bursts of knowledge, of commentary or humor that were always thoughtful… most often needing 10 words or less of sheer lightning to make his point.
He was just a good guy – in the most affectionate and powerful sense of that term. We had a great role model in being a good guy in Darrell Kepler, the now departed sports editor at the Hagerstown Morning-Herald. Guys stuck together, weren’t pretentious, were observant, loved sports, beer and each other.
His friends have a picture in their collective mind’s eye of the Johnny Mac and Darrell Kepler playing pickup basketball on a raggedy court in Heaven – Darrell making a thick drive inside to the basket and John bombing 3-pointers from the outside with that sweet left-handed stroke.
Just guys… Good guys.
McNamara wrote two books about Maryland athletics – joining his fellow Diamondback alumnus David Elfin on “Cole Classics,” a memory of the best early times in Terrapin basketball;, and on the Maryland Football Vault, literally a vault combining his knack for story-telling and for research that was a history lesson on Terrapin football.
To be John’s friend was an honor that knew complete honesty and loyalty, through good times and bad. He was the person you’d call to share joyous moments – he reached out to Dull recently when the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup, ending the 44 years of struggle and he knew how much it meant to his friend.
And he was the person who received the call when a dear friend had a life-threatening medical situation a year ago. He and his wife Andrea were there in a flash, as the rock they were when times were difficult. Ever the basketball writer, though, his friend readily believes but doesn’t remember the one day when John came in and was animated when he told his groggy friend all from memory the highlights of the previous night’s games, despite his friend’s inability to speak or move while in intensive care.
The devotion he lived most was for his wife. His friends say they never thought, called or wanted to be with John. It was always, where and when can we be with John and Andrea.
The solo photos of John were always good. But the smile on his face, and in his eyes, got much brighter when they were at the beach, the theatre, on a trip… when he was next to Andrea. The love they had together spilled over and made those they brought close so much richer and warmer.
There is great solace in knowing that he worked well, played well and loved well. As we think of John in the coming days, months and years, may we all live like that: With love, loyalty, laughter, kindness and thoughtfulness.
And with devotion.
The Memorial Service is scheduled for July 10 at 10 am at the University of Maryland Memorial Chapel, 7600 Baltimore Ave, College Park, MD 20740.
(Photo credit: Katherine Frye, The Washington Post)
Recent news about the Maryland basketball program hasn’t been too good.
Coach Mark Turgeon’s Terrapins endured a difficult, injury-plagued season that wound up with them missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in four years.
Once the season ended, three of the team’s top players – Bruno Fernando, Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson – declared themelves eligible for the June NBA Draft. Jackson plans to sign with an agent, and will not return. Fernando and Huerter could be back, depending on where they’re projected to be drafted.
On Friday night, though, Maryland recruit Andrew Wiggins, a 6-foot-6 swingman, offered offered some hope there may be better days ahead.
During the past week, one local basketball product will be staying put, another will be moving on and yet another made a bit of history.
At Notre Dame University, Mike Brey (Bethesda/DeMatha), the winningest coach the program’s history, has signed a contract extension through the 2024-25 season.
The new deal was in recognition of his body of work, even though injuries derailed what could have been a promising season in 2017-18. The Irish wound up in the NIT, rather than the NCAA Tournament, and finished 21-15. Brey, 59, has taken the Irish to 12 NCAA tournaments in 18 seasons.
“My goal has always been to be good enough to retire as the head coach at Notre Dame,” Brey said in a statement. “It sure looks like I might be able to pull that off with this extension. I am truly honored and humbled to be the head coach at the University of Notre Dame. …
“I’m proud of what our program has achieved in the past 18 years and I could not be more excited about what the future holds.”
Brey is 403-201 at Notre Dame, having surpassed Digger Phelps as the school’s all-time leader in victories earlier this season. Brey, who graduated from DeMatha in 1977, has an overall record of 502-252 in 23 seasons as a Division I head coach.
He also enjoyed a successful five-year stint at Delaware (99–51, two NCAA Tournament trips), which landed him the job at Notre Dame. Prior to that, he served as an assistant coach to two of the best in the business – Morgan Wootten at DeMatha and Mike Krzyzewski at Duke.
“Mike Brey has built one of the most consistently successful programs in the country,” Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said in a statement. “And the foundation of that success is a winning culture that develops the members of his teams as both basketball players and young men. He is a perfect fit for Notre Dame and we are excited to have him lead our program well into the future.”
HOYAS’ DERRICKSON MOVING ON: Georgetown forward Marcus Derrickson (Bowie/Paul VI) announced that he’ll enter the NBA draft and hire an agent after three seasons with the Hoyas.
“I will forego my senior year at Georgetown by entering the draft with plans of signing with an agent,” Derrickson wrote in an Instagram post.
Derrickson averaged 15.9 points and 8.1 rebounds as a junior for the Hoyas and hit 46.5 of his 101 3-point attempts. Derrickson, who averaged 17.2 points in Big Est play, was Georgetown’s second-leading scorer behind center Jessie Govan. Govan also announced he would enter the draft, but will not sign with an agent, leaving the door open to return to the Hoyas next season.
Derrickson’s announcement came as a surprise; several times during the season, the 6-foot-7 forward said he planned to remain in college for his senior season.
Before coming to Georgetown, Derrickson played for one year at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire after spending three years at Paul VI High School in Fairfax, Va. He helped lead Paul VI to two Washington Catholic Athletic Conference titles.
FULTZ SEEING DOUBLE: Philadelphia 76ers rookie guard Markelle Fultz (Upper Marlboro/DeMatha) finished the NBA regular season with a bang, becoming the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double.
Fultz had 13 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in 25 minutes after coming off the bench as the Sixers won their 16th straight game, beating Milwaukee in the regular-season finale.
At 19 years and 317 days, Fultz is the first teenager in NBA history to post a triple-double. He’s younger than Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball (20 years, 15 days), who earlier this season took over the claim as the youngest with a triple double. Before Ball, the distinction belonged to Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James (20 years, 20 days).
Fultz, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft, averaged 7.1 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists during the regular season. But a lingering shoulder injury kept him on the sidelines for 68 of the Sizers’ 82 regular season games.
In Fultz’ lone college season at the University of Washington, he averaged 23.2 points per game, the highest scoring average in the Pac-12 in 20 years. He also led the team in minutes played (35.7) and assists per game (5.7). He finished second on the team in rebounds per game (5.9).
It was a cold winter morning in December of 1969. Schools were on break, with teachers and coaches like DeMatha’s Morgan Wootten happy for a respite from their responsibilities.
This particular morning, Wootten heard a knock on the door of his Hyattsville home. He went to answer it and discovered ninth-grader Adrian Dantley standing on his doorstep. Dantley, then an up-and-coming star for the Stags, wanted to borrow the keys to the DeMatha gym, so he could squeeze in a workout.