JOHN McNAMARA: Killed in Mass Shooting at the Annapolis Capital Gazette Newspapers. July 30, 1961 ~ June 28, 2018

John at NCAA desk
JOHN McNAMARA, author of this blog
July 30, 1961 ~ June 28, 2018

By Doug Dull

Devotion.

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)

Published in The Washington Post on July 8, 2018

 

Gene Doan, a basketball architect

Gene_Doane

When Gene Doane was a young man, he thought he might become an architect or an engineer.

“I always had an interest in designing things,” he once said.

Ultimately, he was diverted from such pursuits. Basketball was in his blood, so instead he became a coach – a builder of successful high school basketball programs, an architect of winning teams.

Doane, who passed away last month at the age of 82, was one of the most successful coaches in Montgomery County – back when Montgomery County basketball was at its peak. From 1971-79, county schools won a dozen state titles. It took them another 30 years to win their next 12.

Doane compiled a 441-113 record and won with three programs – Sherwood in the 1960s, Blair in the 1970s and Seneca Valley during a half-dozen years there in the 1980s.

He won a pair of state championships at Blair, in 1975 and 1977. His success there is what he was most famous for locally. The ’75 team, which finished 23-2, probably set the standard for excellence among Montgomery County basketball teams.

“They were unreal,” marveled Mel Laughner, who coached at Sherwood at the time and led that school to a state title in 1979.

Doane probably could have stayed at Blair forever and won a few more titles – that was home to him, after all – his alma mater. But he grew restless if he stayed anyplace too long. He was constantly looking for another project to work on. To him, the real satisfaction in coaching was building something.

“I liked to get to a high school, put it on top and stay there for a couple of years and go on to another one,” he said. “It’s fun to do that. I never stayed at a school more than nine years.

“I liked challenges. I loved going to a school, building from scratch and making a winner.”

That’s what he did. He guided Sherwood to the state semifinals in 1965 – that school’s first-ever appearance in the state tournament. Then came the two Class AA state titles at Blair. At Seneca Valley, he took over the program at a football-crazy school in 1978. By 1981-82, he had the Screaming Eagles 23-1 and was named “Coach of the Year” in the metropolitan area by The Washington Post.

He did this by being fiery, meticulous and leaving nothing to chance. No matter where he coached, he went the extra mile. At every stop, he watched junior high games, met with kids and adults in the community, tried to place his team in a strong summer league and started basketball camps.

He was just as detail-oriented when it came to practices and games. He constantly drilled his players – he always thought other coaches did too much scrimmaging – breaking the game down into its component parts so that players could understand and execute what he wanted.

One day, when legendary North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith came by a Blair workout on a recruiting trip,he was heard to say as he was leaving the gym, “Now that’s how you run a practice.”

“He wasn’t a coach, he was a teacher,” said Cedric Boatman, one of the stars on that ’75 Blair team. “What made him so good was his preparation. The reason Coach Doane’s teams won so much was because we were so prepared in practice.”

Doane delighted in the intricacies of in-game strategy as well. Someone like Springbrook’s John Barrett would adjust to something Doane was doing, and Doane would have to counter it.

“I think the main joy he got out of coaching – aside from the relationships he had with us – was figuring out how to counteract things and figuring out how to make things work with the pieces he had,” said Brian Magid, the shooting star of the ’75 Blair team.

Doane found plenty of challenging opponents in the county coaching ranks back then. From 1977-79, for example, county teams won eight of the 12 state championships contested in four Maryland classes. At one point in the late 1970s, there were eight county coaches working the sidelines who had won at least one state championship.

There was Barrett at archrival Springbrook, Laughner at Sherwood, Jim Conner at Rockville, Dale Miller at B-CC and Wootton, Tom George at Woodward, Hank Galotta at Paint Branch and Les Lombardi at Churchill – all of whom won state titles for the county during the 1970s.

“The coaches they had then – they worked at the game,” Doane once said. “They knew the game, so you had to be good to beat them.”

His players and his colleagues could always appreciate the passion he brought to coaching. To the public at large, however, he could sometimes come off like a madman. No one was more animated on the sidelines and often the only thing louder than his sportcoat was his voice as he yelled at his players. Maryland’s Gary Williams wouldn’t be an inappropriate comparison in that respect.

But his players came to understand – although maybe not always in the moment – what Doane was trying to do.

“If I can say this in the most affectionate way, he was a taskmaster,” said Willis Wilson, who played on the ’77 Blair team and later became a college coach himself. “He was very driven and very detailed. He always used to say, ‘There’s a method to my madness.’ He was always going to keep the heat on his players and his teams to really reach down and find their best.”

Happy Birthday to “The Admiral”

Happy 50th birthday to the greatest professional basketball player ever to come out of Northern Virginia – Osbourne Park’s David Robinson.

David Robinson hook shot at the Naval Academy
David Robinson earned the nickname “The Admiral” at the Naval Academy

The number 50 looms large in Robinson’s career – he wore that number on his jersey at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, and during his Hall of Fame career with the San Antonio Spurs.

He also was voted one of the 50 best NBA players of all time – while still an active player. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a more unlikely journey to all-time greatness than that taken by “The Admiral.”

Continue reading Happy Birthday to “The Admiral”