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SBD/September 19, 2011/People and Pop CulturePrint All
Big East Conference founder and Basketball HOFer DAVE GAVITT died late Friday at the age of 73 "after a long illness," according to Kevin McNamara of the PROVIDENCE JOURNAL. Gavitt was "the most influential sports figure in Rhode Island for the last half century." During his time as Providence College AD from '71-82, Gavitt "thought Providence and other Eastern basketball programs were getting hurt by the lack of a major athletic conference in the East." He "went about cobbling together the interests of seven original members of what became known as the Big East" in '79. Syracuse men's basketball coach JIM BOEHEIM said, "There wouldn't be any league without Dave. He's the only guy who could bring us together." Gavitt also served as a "trusted adviser to a legion of coaches, including stars like Georgetown's JOHN THOMPSON and Duke's MIKE KRZYZEWSKI." He was elected Chair of the NCAA Men's Basketball Committee "and led an expansion of the wildly-popular NCAA tournament to 64 teams." McNamara noted Gavitt eventually left college basketball to become a Celtics Senior Exec VP from '90-94 before serving as Chair for the Naismith Memorial Basketball HOF from '95-'03 (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 9/18). In N.Y., Sarah Maslin Nir noted Gavitt "harnessed the burgeoning power of televised sports coverage -- particularly with ESPN, newly created at the time -- to cover the Big East's postseason games, which he arranged to take place at Madison Square Garden." Former Big East Commissioner MIKE TRANGHESE: "Eastern basketball was nothing without him; it was just a bunch of individual schools trying to compete on a national level, and none of them were having any success." Gavitt also served as President of USA Basketball and is "credited with being an architect of the Dream Team at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics." Big Ten Commissioner JIM DELANY: "He's really one of the most significant people in college sports the last 30 or 40 years" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/18).
A GIANT AMONG MEN: In Boston, Bob Ryan wrote Gavitt was "perhaps the single most important non-playing figure in college basketball over a 20-year period." As the founder of the Big East, he "changed the entire landscape of Eastern college basketball." Ryan: "I can only imagine how much it hurt him to see his creation eventually hijacked by football, and what a sad turn of events to have Syracuse and Pitt applying for admission to the ACC on the very day he died. But were it not for Dave Gavitt, there would have been nothing to hijack." Meanwhile, Gavitt was "an American leader in the realm of international basketball," and it "eventually led to his becoming head of USA Basketball." Gavitt was scheduled to be the head coach of the '80 Moscow Olympic team, but the U.S. boycotted those Games (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/18). In Providence, Bill Reynolds writes under the header, "Gavitt Was A Game-Changer At Every Level" (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 9/19). The AP's Jim O'Connell wrote, "From a career as a successful coach to changing the face of college sports to introducing the Olympics to a Dream Team, Gavitt's touch was everywhere" (AP, 9/18). In N.Y., Richard Goldstein wrote Gavitt "envisioned a time when major basketball colleges in the East would draw on big-city television and marketing opportunities to create a high-profile league, bringing enhanced revenue and the recruitment of star high school players" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/18). In Boston, Gary Washburn wrote Gavitt's career "was full of landmark achievements," and PC "named its court at the Dunkin' Donuts Center after him as a tribute" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/18).
Nets Owner MIKHAIL PROKHOROV, who was “ousted as the leader” of a new Russian political party, “dismissed the notion that he was now fighting with the government of Prime Minister VLADIMIR V. PUTIN,” according to Andrew Kramer of the N.Y. TIMES. Prokhorov said that he “hoped for a meeting with either” Putin or President DMITRI MEDVEDEV “within 10 days, and would then decide whether to form a new political party to replace Right Cause.” As of Friday, neither Putin nor Medvedev “had agreed to a meeting.” Kramer wrote while “few here expect Mr. Prokhorov to suffer the same fate as MIKHAIL B. KHODORKOVSKY, who ended up in jail after challenging the Kremlin’s political control, his standing as a public figure has never seemed quite so wobbly” (N. Y. TIMES, 9/17).
The Pirates promoted KYLE STARK to Scouting Dir, GREG SMITH and TYRONE BROOKS to Assistant GMs, JOE DELLICARRI to Dir of Amateur Scouting, LARRY BROADWAY to Dir of Minor League Operations and KEVAN GRAVES to Dir of Baseball Operations. The club also retained Latin American Scouting Dir RENE GAYO and Special Assistant to the GM DOUG STRANGE (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 9/17)....In this week's SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, Terry Lefton reports Octagon Senior VP/Athlete Marketing TOM GEORGE is leaving after 23 years of combined service to join lottery specialist and Scientific Games subsidiary MDI Entertainment, as VP/Sports Marketing (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 9/19 issue)....Experiential marketing firm Marketing Werks promoted Exec VP/Client Services RICK MILLER to the newly created position of COO (Marketing Werks).
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In Miami, Judy Erwin noted Heat F LEBRON JAMES “made a surprise visit” to the Miami-Dade Kendall Boys & Girls Club on Saturday and “interacted with the kids.” A $15,000 check donated by the Sprite Spark Parks Project “allowed the park to revamp the outdoor basketball courts and receive a wall mural" painted by DAVID LE BATARD. James unveiled “the painting and the new play area” (MIAMI HERALD, 9/18)....Patriots DT VINCE WILFORK and his wife, BIANCA, are “teaming up with the Joslin Diabetes Center for a ‘Tackling Diabetes’ campaign.” Fans can “pledge $7.50 or $75 in honor of Wilfork’s jersey number (75), for each tackle Wilfork makes during the regular season,” and those who participate “have the opportunity to meet Vince at a VIP reception and win prizes throughout the season” (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/18).
BUCKING A TREND? In Louisville, Gregory Hall reports the “sharply higher prices” this year at the 13-day Keeneland September Yearling Sale “over even a successful year last year is creating a buzz that the thoroughbred breeding market may be turning upward after a three-year plunge.” The gross from the sale’s “first two catalog books was $145.2 million, 2.27 percent over last year despite a 20 percent drop in the number of horses sold” (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 9/19).
NAMES: Lakers F RON ARTEST's name change to METTA WORLD PEACE became official Friday. His publicist, COURTNEY BARNES, said that Artest’s Lakers jersey “will now say World Peace on the back,” but it is “not clear how ABC will deal with the quirky new moniker during his ‘Dancing With the Stars’ debut” tonight (LATIMES.com, 9/16). Coastal Carolina football coach DAVID BENNETT last week “was seen at his weekly news conference, telling a story about a neighbor’s cat that had stolen into Bennett’s house through a broken screen door,” and his comments “made him an instant Internet sensation and also was shown on ESPN.” By Friday afternoon the video “had more than 625,000 hits on YouTube” (N.Y. TIMES, 9/17)….Race Car Owner RICHARD CHILDRESS has been voted into the International Motorsports HOF and “will be inducted into the Talladega, Ala., Hall May 3 next year” (SPEEDTV.com, 9/18)….Heat F CHRIS BOSH will appear in an upcoming episode of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 9/18)….Musicians USHER and JUSTIN BIEBER attended the Eagles-Falcons game last night (AJC.com, 9/18).