In college basketball, players come and go with a four-year maximum on their life span. Coaches hang around longer, but time caught up with Bobby Knight and Dean Smith and it's only a matter of time before a NCAA Tournament kicks off without Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Calhoun patrolling the sidelines. The only constant, until this year anyway, was Billy Packer.
The NCAA Tournament became THE NCAA TOURNAMENT with Packer at the microphone and his voice can be heard over many of the greatest highlights of the last 30+ years. Love him or hate him, it will be strange when the Final Four tips off without Packer's voice as a backdrop. But it will only be strange for a moment or two, before you realize the game is being played exactly as it was when Packer was pontificating.
Over at The Dagger, MJD writes that he'll miss the way Packer "told you why things were happening in ways that maybe weren't blindly obvious to everyone watching." He did do that, but he had to do it in a way that showed off that he knew it all along. That may have educated some viewers, but it talked down to the other viewers who realized that Packer didn't start mentioning the fact that the 2-3 zone was giving the shooters too much room until after someone knocked down a pair of threes.
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The biggest problem with Packer, though, was something that he wore as a badge of honor. He bragged that he was "often wrong, but never in doubt" as if those two things in concert represented a sound way to approach decision-making. It got to the point that you felt Packer relished playing the role of villain, saying ridiculous things about mid-majors for example, but watching basketball is supposed to be fun, not something that resembles a lecture from a pompous professor trying to get you to believe things that just aren't true.
The greatest irony of the whole Packer saga is that his last memorable moment, screaming that the Kansas-North Carolina semifinal last season was over just before the Heels trimmed a big Kansas lead to four points, was one of his best. It was unguarded, in the moment and totally emotionally attached to the game he was calling. And, for whatever reason, he got more crap for that than any of the other things he'd done.
Clark Kellogg, who replaced Packer this season, is a measured, sane and, ultimately, boring voice. That's okay for a year or two, because it will allow the focus to get back to the court and off the guy calling the game.