Dec 13, 2010

Phil Jasner: Thank You

For those of you that know me you know that I am a basketball fan. Someone that follows the NBA more then is socially acceptable and one of the remaining Sixers fans still brave enough to admit it.

Today the Sixers lost one of their longest standing voices, Mr. Phil Jasner. I don't need to read across his accomplishments because if you know who he is then his years of service to the Philadelphia basketball community are already well known.

I met Phil once and I thought it was a good time to tell my story.

Coming out of college I began my career at the sports network, where I still work today. One of the perks of working at a wire service is the access to press credentials and in the dark days, "Eddie Jordan's tenure", I was able to attend many Sixers games. At one of those games I had the honor of meeting Mr. Jasner in person.

This particular game was special. It was Allen Iverson's second game back with the Sixers and it was against the Detroit Pistons, a team I have followed for years because of Coatesville's own Rip Hamilton. It was also my first game attending solo as a member of the media.

Anyway, I was walking through the press concourse and I got lost (for any of you who have been in the lower level back stage area you can understand). I ended up in a long corridor outside of the office of Mr. Harvey Pollack. Now I should have known where I was because I spent time as an intern for Harvey, but my nerves sent me into a confusion and I accidentally walked through a set of double doors and ended up in a stairwell.

Completely lost, I finally found myself in a long hallway around where the locker rooms were. Players were coming out so I was blocked off, it was about 50 minutes from tip off and I still couldn't find my way into the arena. I back tracked and ran into Mr. Jasner standing by the coat check.

I guess it was obvious that I was lost and just as if I was some long lost friend he asked me if I needed help finding my way. Knowing who he was I was shocked by his kindness. Mr. Jasner showed me where to put my coat and asked me who I was here representing. I told him (trying not to act like a nervous child) and he asked me how old I was. Being 22 at the time I told him and he laughed. He told me he had note pads older then me and said that he thought it was refreshing seeing "new blood" at the games.

What immediately shocked me about him was he genuine nature and the fact that he gave the time of day to a 22-year old kid that obviously didn't look like he belonged there. Mr. Jasner showed me around, to the press eating room, and also to where I would be sitting at that nights game.

I was four rows behind Mr Jasner but instead of paying attention to the game I kept finding myself watching this man that I have read for most of my life.

In between quarters he said hello to everyone and everyone said hello to him. It was like there was no division between the every fan and this man that accomplished more then I can ever hope to achieve.

At the end of the game I did my duty and went to the locker room for post game quotes. After I got what I needed I went into the back hallway between the locker rooms to call back into the sports network. As I finished up my call I remember seeing Mr. Jasner down the same hallway so I went up to say goodbye and thank you.

I was astonished when, as walking up to him, he immediately remembered my name and asked how my locker room session went, I told him and he asked to see my notes. (this was big for me), I was worried that he would laugh at my scribbles but he just smiled and said.. "you know I was like you back in the day."

He spent about 10 minutes giving me pointers about who was great for quotes, what type of questions led to the best answers and which players and coaches are easier to talk to them others. It as amazing that a man that has accomplished so much was so open to talking to a kid that was way below him professionally.

But, that was the type of man Phil Jasner was, he was a kind man first and a journalist second, but a damn fine journalist.

I went back three weeks later when the Sixers hosted the New York Knicks. This time I knew where to go and knew exactly where my seat was. As I walked into the arena and sat down Phil noticed me walking up, he leaned back from his chair and said "Did ya find it ok this time", I replied "sure did" Phil nodded and gave me a quick smile then he said "Your already a pro, keep it up kid".

That was the last time I saw Phil Jasner but with this solo experience his writing has taken on a whole new voice for me. Phil Jasner was a man among men and more then anything he was a fan. A fan of basketball, a fan of Philadelphia but more then anything a fan of people.... Mr. Jasner, I thank you for the years of service you gave you craft and the Philadelphia region, you will be missed.

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