I have two wishes for the 2006-07 Notre Dame men's basketball season.The first is that the Irish can find enough defensive toughness and rebounding to secure 18-20 wins, make it to the NCAA Tournament, and keep Mike Brey from working the lobby at the annual Coaches Convention looking for a job. It would be nice to see him on the sidelines well after the Purcell Pavilion is dedicated.
The second is that long time radio voice Jack Lorri is properly acknowledged for his remarkable contributions to Notre Dame basketball.
Lorri had handled play-by-play duties on Irish broadcasts for 38 seasons, working games coached by John Dee, Diggers Phelps, John MacLeod and Mike Brey. He was at the microphone for the good (26-3 in 1973-74), the bad (9-18 in 1992-93) and the truly ugly (a 94-29 loss at Indiana in 1971). He called out virtually every basket swished by Austin Carr, Adrian Dantley and Chris Thomas, the three highest scorers in school history He was accurate, opinionated and exceptionally funny. Like Tony Roberts in the football booth, Lorri's voice made the spirit of Notre Dame very real to thousands and thousands of Subway Alumni who could never make it to campus to see a game live.
Last spring – not long after the Irish lost to Michigan in the National Invitation Tournament in what turned out to be his final broadcast – Lorri learned he would not be back for a 39th year. Notre Dame Sports Properties offered him a role doing some pre- and post-game interviews, but that would be like asking Vince Scully to serve as a warm-up act to Charlie Steiner. Hardly appropriate.
So Lorri retired, and never had a chance to say goodbye on the air. I think I speak for many out there – particularly the poster jack_lorri_is_god on ND Nation – when I say that Lorri should gratefully be provided the opportunity to broadcast one game in 2006-07 and sign off in his own medium, not in a press release.
Lorri is a truly remarkable guy. He began broadcasting SEC basketball games in the early 60's, in gyms that fit 2,500 and had dirt playing surfaces. He earned the respect of Adolph Rupp while doing Kentucky play-by-play for three seasons. When he moved back to the Midwest, he served for several years as the Sports Director of the Tribune Radio Network in Chicago. That necessitated nearly 250 miles of driving each day to and from his Elkhart home.
Lorri was always one of the healthiest people on the Notre Dame basketball charter flights. He took up weightlifting in his 50's and had an upper body like Ryan Humphrey. This was an occupational necessity since he would lug his radio control box everywhere in a suitcase. He'd move up and down 30 rows of arena stairs with this box at a road venue like the Verizon Center in D.C. and not break a sweat.
That physical prowess held him in good stead this spring and summer when he played golf three times a week with his pal Roger Valdiserri, the former Notre Dame sports information director and another legendary figure. Oh, the stories these two can tell from the Irish hardwood!
But Lorri was not just a nostalgic figure. He was still at his best in the final year. For example, it was about an hour before Notre Dame's tip-off versus Georgetown at the Big East Tournament last March and Lorri was grabbing a bite with South Bend Tribune beat writer Tom Noie and me in the media dining area at Madison Square Garden. He looked at us and said "Rob Kurz is going to hit three three-point shots today."
Kurz had hit seven treys total in 27 games to that point. But Lorri was exceptionally perceptive in his observations at Notre Dame practices and in his talks with Brey and knew that Kurz was going to be a focal point of the Irish's perimeter game that day. So he was the only person in the building not surprised when Kurz drained his third three against the Hoyas. His trademark laugh could be heard throughout press row as the ball came through the net.
We should all hear that laugh on-air at least one more time this season.
(IrishEyes Editor-in-Chief Alan Tieuli can be reached at Tieuli@aatandsonspr.com)
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