Rick Bozich, Hall of Famer

The guy in the office next to mine is now a Hall of Famer. And a character in the Gil Thorp comic strip. About all that’s left for Rick Bozich, who has been elected to the U.S. Basketball Writers Hall of Fame, is to become general manager of the Chicago White Sox.

For the sake of all of us who read his work, I hope that offer is a long time coming.

I’ve been reading Rick for better 25 than years — long enough to make both of us feel old. I’ve always appreciated his column. But in working at the C-J with him for the past nine years, I’ve come to appreciate him as a person even more.

It wasn’t until I moved next door to Rick’s office, though, and started writing a column myself, that I really appreciated a rare gift that he brings to the task. Rick says exactly the right thing, from exactly the right angle, in exactly the right way, more than anyone I know in this profession.

Let me give you an example. A couple of years back, Tubby Smith was floundering at Kentucky. I had written a couple of columns kind of poking at the periphery of the issue. I was still trying to wrap my approach around this coming mess of an issue when Rick wrote a column one morning that stood, I think, as the definitive statement on the entire matter.

His opening sentence: This is the happiest way this story can end: Tubby Smith concedes the best thing for his happiness is to leave the University of Kentucky for a coaching position at another campus or in the pros.

He made the point that a change was necessary, for various reasons, while still respecting the accomplishments and person of Smith.

In other words, he said the right thing, at the right time, in the right way. I could list examples that go back for years. He’s not a slash-and-burn pundit. He’s critical, but fair. And his passion for college basketball is a match for our March-mad city and state.

When I first came to work at The Courier-Journal in 1992, I was amazed that Bozich could get a call-back from about any college basketball coach in the country, except Bob Knight. Years ago, I interviewed NBA superscout Marty Blake once and he told me, “Yeah, I get your paper every day in the mail. You guys have college basketball all summer, and you’ve got Rick Bozich.”

We’ve been fortunate in Louisville to read four Hall of Famers — Dave Kindred, Dick Fenlon, Billy Reed, Larry Boeck. I’ve never doubted that Bozich was in that class. (Pat Forde, longtime C-J writer now at ESPN.com, surely will be the next, one of these days, and Jerry Tipton at the Lexington Herald-Leader was enshrined several years ago).

I’ve known since I took this job that I was working next door to a Hall of Famer. But I wanted to take the time to congratulate him on it becoming official. It is well deserved.


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