Former LSU Basketball player and athletic director Joe Dean, Sr., is in the news this weekend for one very simple reason that all of us who have anything to do with LSU basketball are very excited about.
The Sunday he will join a stellar group of former athletes, coaches and contributors in the 2012 Class of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. The ceremony will take place in Kansas City.
He becomes just the third LSU basketball player, joining Bob Pettit and Pete Maravich, in this particular Hall of Fame.
It may be hard for people of this generation to understand all that Joe Dean has meant to college basketball besides his three years as a player for the Tigers (1949-52). But his induction as a contributor to the game is for contributions that span a lifetime.
To quickly sum up Dean's career: Few men have influenced the game of basketball as diversely as Dean. The three-time All-SEC player at LSU was a promotions and marketing executive with the Converse Rubber Co. from 1959-1987, advocating not only the Converse products but promoting the game of basketball wherever he traveled. In addition, he was a basketball color analyst with several networks including ESPN, NBC and TVS, Jefferson Pilot and Turner Sports from 1969-1987 before returning to his alma mater in Baton Rouge as director of athletics for 14 years.
I think most of us today who enjoy college basketball grew up watching Joe Dean all over the Southeastern Conference telling the story of the league at a time when college basketball games were a rarity on television. He promoted the league, the players, told about breakfast with the school presidents and all the things that made SEC basketball and SEC schools great.
And then there was that phrase, "String Music" which became a part of SEC hoops. Great plays brought Joe's voice and tenor up and the feeling he showed carried back even in those days when games were broadcast with just two or three cameras.
"Our family is very pleased by the College Basketball Hall of Fame recognition for our Dad," said Joe Dean, Jr., who is the athletic director at Birmingham Southern and who continues the Dean excellence as analyst for the SEC Network. "We feel that this is the culmination of a career spent contributing in so many ways to the game of basketball.
"Most people remember his signature phrase, "string music" and his promoting SEC basketball for 18 years on the TVS and Jefferson Pilot networks. But I remember the hundreds of basketball clinics, high school banquets, and youth events that he spoke at all around the country promoting the game of basketball and its benefits to the lives of young people. His life has been shaped and defined by the game of basketball and the contributions he made throughout his life were countless."
I remember a night back in 1998 when Jefferson Pilot brought back Dean, Sr., and his longtime partner, the late John Ferguson, to open an LSU-Kentucky game here in Baton Rouge. It was like your mind went back to a simpler time when the game we loved was a little bit different.
So many accolades and so little space. A member of LSU's All-Century team. Started the Dixie Basketball Camp which continues today and is believed to be the longest running basketball camp in the United States. In the summer of 2007, Dean was named the 18th most influential person in the history of the SEC by the Birmingham News. He was also chosen as one of the top voices in the history of the conference, placing seventh.
Ron Higgins a year ago in his SEC Traditions column wrote: "Once upon a time ... there was Joe, extolling the virtues of Chuck Taylor Converse All-Stars. Not only did he persuade most college teams, especially in the South to wear Converse, but he also was instrumental in signing NBA legends Julius Erving, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson to Converse endorsements, as well as tennis greats Chris Evert and Jimmy Connors.
"When you combined his salesman skills and broadcast talent, Joe was the guy college basketball coaches and athletic directors called when both sides were looking for the same thing - to fill a coaching vacancy. Joe was a one-man search committee, a walking Rolodex."
So the player, the salesman, the broadcaster, the camp director, the athletic director and so much more is finally honored for all those talents - as a contributor. Welcome Joe Dean, Sr., to the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. What a well-deserved honor.
String Music, Joe!