By Caleb Lynn | @ CalebLynn1
Sports Capital Journalism Program
INDIANAPOLIS — Sean Gregory spoke on Tuesday afternoon about his relationship with Hall of Fame college basketball writer Jim O’Connell, a relationship that was much bigger than basketball.
Gregory was O’Connell’s nephew. When Gregory was 11 years old, he remembered, O’Connell would deliver media guides he collected through his responsibilities as a reporter for the Associated Press in the hope that Gregory would become involved in media.
His influence, Gregory said, helped him become a senior writer at Time Magazine, concentrating on sports-related issues and stories.
During the College Basketball Symposium at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, organized by the Sports Capital Journalism Program, Gregory described his perspective on what O’Connell would have loved, even if his uncle may not have wanted all the attention.
“He may have been embarrassed about all of the attention,” Gregory said, “however I think because of Malcolm Moran’s effort, he would have loved the honest talk about college basketball.”
Gregory said that the appearance of Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, hours before a high-profile opening game against the University of Kentucky, captured the close relationship the coach had with a reporter that covered all five of Duke’s national championships.
“Coach K took time out of his day to talk about Oc, and most coaches don’t want to be thinking big things because they want to think of the task in front of them,” Gregory said. “For him to address these issues in college basketball today says that a lot of people were fond of Oc.”
However, not every discussion Gregory had with O’Connell was about basketball. Most of the time the conversations would be more about each other and their families.
“Whenever I saw him at an event, it was mostly he and I talking about our kids,” Gregory said, “He just loved being a father and he loved his kids and my kids.”
Gregory’s observations also included his perspective as a former student-athlete, a member of the 1996 Princeton University basketball team that upset defending national champion UCLA in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
“To be a part of this discussion was an honor,” Gregory said. “It has been amazing to see so many people provide overwhelming support for Oc throughout the college basketball community which has made this a lot less difficult to swallow knowing how much he was appreciated.”