The script came out of Hollywood–or heaven. Final seconds of a relatively meaningless game for Boston College in terms of stature, but filled with emotion because of the guy sitting at the end of press row as he has done for so many games for the past 22 years.
BC beat Virginia on Sunday afternoon, 53-52, on a Joe Rahon’s 3 point shot with 8 seconds left. The outcome was not really decided until the final buzzer sounded a tick before Virginia’s Akil Mitchell’s half court shot swished through the nets, which would have been the ultimate downer for the Eagles in a season which has been filled with them.
But for the majority of the 5,062 fans who came to Conte Forum on Sunday afternoon, the ultimate story line should have been that it was a win for Dick Kelley.
You won’t find Kelley’s name in any BC boxscore. You won’t find his name in many stories. That wasn’t his job when he was a student at BC and it wasn’t his job when he came to work for BC in 1991 and worked his way up the food chain to an Assistant-Athletic Director–Media relations, with men’s basketball being Kelley’s prime responsibility.
Kelley was and is a BC guy in the truest sense of the word. As BC coach Steve Donahue said on Sunday, as he talked about Kelley, who is fighting the toughest battle of all–dealing with the devastating affects of ALS-Lou Gehrig’s Disease, “It’s hard not to get emotional.”
Donahue has been at BC for slightly less than three years. Kelley has been with him in person and in spirit all the way.
“When I first got here, he was in my office all the time,” said Donahue after the game, again fighting back the tears. ”His encouragement to me about what I’m doing, how I’m doing it was constant. And just spreading throughout our team and his love of BC and the love of our program. When you are new and meet someone who loves the place that much and wants to help you, and there is no ulterior motive. Wins and loses, they don’t matter. He’s just a very unique guy and what he has gone through has been tough for all of his to watch. It’s just amazing how he is handling it. It’s very inspirational.”
Dick Kelley, who now sits at the end of press row in a wheel chair, watching games in the muted world that ALS creates for its victims, is what BC athletics and what BC is and should be about.
During the good times and the bad times, which have both swept through the BC men’s basketball program, Dick Kelley maintained his poise and his dignity and dealt with the issues that were the headline news of the day in the BC basketball offices.
Kelley guided the media, providing information and access. As Donahue said, he served as a cheerleader and, if need be to a series of BC basketball coaches, ranging from Jim O’Brien, to Al Skinner to Donahue.
Kelley was part of the celebration party in New York City when in 1997 a Jim O’Brien team swept past Pittsburgh, Georgetown and Villanova to win the Big East tournament. He was there 4 years later when an Al Skinner coached team did the same thing by beating Villanova, Seton Hall and Pittsburgh on successive days.
Call up Kelley and ask for a bit of information, whether it be practice times, access to a player or coach or when the team bus was leaving for the arena and the answer would come back quickly and efficiently.
This has hardly been a fun year for BC Athletics. Anything but. Losing records in football and men’s and women’s basketball. The firing of FB coach Frank Spaziani. The devastating and gut wrenching death of football director of operation Barry Gallup’s daughter.
Former BC baseball captain Pete Frates is also dealing with the affects of ALS.
BC may play big time football and basketball, but the atmosphere on campus is more familial than corporate. Athletes go to class, they eat with other students. They are part of the fabric of a campus where education still is the most important commodity being offered.
This is not to say those traits doesn’t exist elsewhere, but at BC it is more small town than small time. Good things happening are celebrated, when bad things happen, the pain is shared and felt.
There weren’t many dry eyes at Conte Forum on Sunday when Kelley was presented with the United States Basketball Writers Most Courageous Award and the crowd stood and applauded.
“I am overwhelmed and very grateful for this amazing honor,” Kelley wrote to the USBWA. “I have never sought recognition but rather did what I did because I loved my job and everyone I had the privilege of working with.”
After Rahon’s game-winning shot sealed this win for the Eagles, the players came over to where Kelley sat at the end of press row. They patted his head, gave him signs of encouragment and told him how much they loved him.
In what has been often been a very bad and sad year at BC, it was, for the moment at least, a very a good day for a very good guy.© Copyright 2013 Mark, All rights Reserved. Written For: A Jersey Guy