The Atlantic Coast Conference, back before it became a world-renown mega-brand spanning from Boston to Miami, really used to be a family.
And it was a close family at that.
What made it so was not so much the players and coaches, who would come and go, but all those friendly faces you’d see at games year after year. It was the conference officials like Skeeter Francis and Brian Morrison, the sportswriters, the sportscasters, the stat crews, the sports information directors and their support staff and, yes, even the referees that you looked forward to passing time with once you arrrived at the arena.
Shared experiences pull people together and together we shared so many times good and bad.
Two members of that family I’ve been most proud to know are the Durhams, father Woody and son Wes. I even had the great pleasure of meeting Wes’ son, Will, at a Wake game last season.
I told Will what a legend his grandfather was, but, of course, he already knew.
Woody was starting out that legendary run as the Voice of the Tar Heels right when I came on the scene, in the early 1970s. We were on opposite sides of the great cultural divide of the times, but Woody could not have been nicer to this bearded and befuddled, long-haired Chapel Hill hippie.
We never vacationed together, or anything like that, but we did keep up. Woody was a sunny person, always fun to be around.
And we all saw Wes come along, launching a broadcasting career first in radio and eventually moving to television. We could see he had the same qualities as his father, in that he always gave a whit and he always had a clue. Wes, like his father, is good at what he does because it means so much to him to be good.
He never knew any other way.
And he was ever bit the decent, sunny person as his father.
The ACC family, what there is left of it, is in mourning this week. As you’ve surely heard by now, Woody Durham passed away Tuesday night at age 76, after a three-year battle with a rare brain disorder called primary progressive aphasia.
And you’ve probably also heard that Wes made the call to stay at the ACC Tournament and call last night’s games between Notre Dame and Virginia Tech followed by North Carolina and Syracuse. You might have even seen the hug Coach Roy Williams of the Tar Heels gave him at courtside before tipoff of the nightcap.
Wes didn’t make the call to stay in Brooklyn without consultation. His mother, Jean, told her son that was where he belonged.
And a Mom always knows best.
I’m glad Wes is in Brooklyn calling the ACC Tournament. If Woody still had a say, I’m convinced he would be glad as well. If nothing else, he needed to be there to accept the ACC’s Bob Bradley Spirit and Courage Award on behalf of his father.
Wes said he only wanted to make his father proud.
On that point, I don’t believe he ever had to worry.
Even sitting 550 miles south in Winston-Salem, a part of my heart is with Wes Durham in Brooklyn. And by saying that, I know I’m speaking for so many members of the ACC family that used to be.