Vol. 56, No. 1 November 2018 .pdf version
David Teel: Seating is our greatest issue
Joe Mitch: Dunphy epitomizes Dean Smith ideals
USBWA mourns passing of O'Connell, Guback
King, Theisen win Guback scholarships
Quinn a big winner in writing contest
Kansas, Notre Dame are preseason favorites

USBWA mourns passing of O'Connell, Guback


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The USBWA lost two of the most influential and devoted leaders in its history with the passing of past presidents and Hall of Fame members Jim O'Connell and Steve Guback.

O'Connell, the longtime basketball writer for the Associated Press, died on July 2 at the age of 64. He joined the AP as a full-time staff member in 1978, served as its national basketball writer since 1987 and was USBWA president in 1997-98. He received the Curt Gowdy Print Media Award from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002 and was inducted into the USBWA Hall of Fame the same year.

"He was the source on college basketball," Terry Taylor, the AP sports editor from 1992 to 2013, said in the AP obituary. "He knew coaches, players, games, dates of games and final scores all manner of factoids off the top of his head. And when you looked it up, he was always right."

O'Connell "Oc" to generations of USBWA members and AP colleagues has been remembered as much for his storytelling and presence in press rooms as he was for his achievements. He was at the center of Final Four lunches and dinners at Steak 'n Shake restaurants from Michigan to Texas. His description of an armed robbery at a White Castle restaurant in Queens became a comedy routine that inspired annual requests.

He would volunteer advice he received as a student at St. John's University from his mentors, athletic director Jack Kaiser and basketball coach Lou Carnesecca. His open casket revealed that he was wearing a Final Four credential and holding a pen, with his tape recorder nearby.

He covered 39 consecutive Final Fours, from 1979 at Salt Lake City through 2017 at Glendale, Ariz. His last three Final Fours took place after a leg was amputated as a result of complications from diabetes.

For decades, O'Connell shaped the development of young reporters at AP bureaus around the world and college students at the annual "Full Court Press" seminar at the Final Four by emphasizing the importance of accuracy, fairness and the development of relationships.

He attended every Big East tournament from 1980, the league's first season, through 2017. The conference announced in October that the media area at future tournaments will be called the Jim O'Connell Media Center.

His Olympic coverage extended from 1984 in Los Angeles to 2004 in Athens, Greece. According to FIBA, O'Connell held the unofficial record for most Olympic basketball games covered by a journalist.

He is survived by his wife, Anne; sons James and Andrew; and sisters Winnie and Mary.

Guback, whose career in journalism included 20 years at the Washington Star, passed away Oct. 1 at the age of 91. He was USBWA president in 1976-77 and served as USBWA executive director from 1977- 83, guiding the organization through a period of controversy that could have threatened its existence.

He became an important advocate for greater access during a period of dramatic growth of the NCAA tournament. He played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Most Courageous Award. He is survived by his brother, Thomas Guback.

Guback also worked at the Richmond Times- Dispatch, Winston-Salem Journal and the Norwalk Hour. He was named the Virginia/DC Sportswriter of the Year three times and served as president of the Atlantic Coast Sportswriters Association.

Shortly before his passing, Guback's gift of $100,000 to the USBWA created the Steve Guback Scholarship program to provide financial assistance to the son or daughter of a USBWA member and the winner of the annual "Full Court Press" competition at the Final Four.

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