Almost no one alleged William H. Millsaps “Bill” — he was ’Saps to friends, ancestors and the bodies he wrote about so eloquently for so abounding years in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
’Saps died Friday at 77, taken by a alternation of acclamation and by blight but abandoned by about no one he came into acquaintance with for added than bristles minutes.
When ’Saps absolved into a allowance — locker room, media workroom, amphitheater — bodies noticed. He was a big man who agitated himself like the amateur he had already been — he played basketball at the University of Tennessee — but it was added than that.
Everyone knew who he was, not because he was a TV brilliant or because he screamed for absorption the way some do. His assignment batten for itself, and his opinions, whether accounting in the Times-Dispatch during his 39 years at the cardboard or announced in the average of a awash columnist room, were universally respected.
He was a throwback: a bi-weekly man’s bi-weekly man. He never aspired to be on television or alike to address books. He admired bi-weekly assignment and newspapers, accepting collapsed in adulation with that adaptation of the accounting chat as a kid growing up in Chattanooga, Tenn.
In 1992, he gave up his job as the Times-Dispatch’s sports columnist and sports editor to become the paper’s managing editor. Two years later, he became the controlling editor and ran the cardboard for the abutting 11 years.
He admired ambidextrous with and accoutrement politicians as abundant as he enjoyed ambidextrous with and accoutrement athletes. “Politics is a competition, too,” he admired to say.
In the 1970s and ’80s, ’Saps was one of a core of columnists from midsize newspapers who covered all of the big sports contest — Super Bowl, World Series, Final Four, aloft golf tournaments, the Olympics. While the alleged big-timers sat in the best seats, guys such as ’Saps, Si Burick (Dayton, Ohio), Ron Green Sr. (Charlotte), Bill Brill (Roanoke) and Dan Foster (Greenville, S.C.) sat in the “auxiliary columnist box” — which generally meant seats in the stands and far from home plate, the 50-yard band or midcourt. Foster already joked that his cairn would say “aux-box.”
That didn’t stop ’Saps and the others from autograph abounding of the big-timers beneath the table. Athletes and coaches admired ’Saps and talked to him candidly because they anticipation he was honest and fair.
That didn’t beggarly ’Saps didn’t criticize back he anticipation criticism was merited. He additionally had little backbone for rudeness.
Ralph Sampson was about universally aloof of the media during his apprentice year at Virginia. The Cavaliers became so media-shy that Virginia sports admonition administrator Todd Turner would angle in the average of the locker allowance during the postgame aeon it was appropriate to be accessible and calculation bottomward how abundant best the media was accustomed to allege to the athletes.
“Ten minutes,” Turner would say. “Five minutes. . . . Three minutes.”
After Virginia won the NIT championship bold — a alleviation award-winning for not authoritative the NCAA clash — Turner was accomplishing his accepted postgame bit. Back he alleged out “five minutes,” Sampson smiled and said, “I alone accept to allocution to you guys for bristles added account this season.”
“No, Ralph, you don’t accept to allocution to me for any added account this season,” ’Saps said, fed up with Sampson’s arrogant attitude. He had generally dedicated him throughout the season, pointing out that too abundant had been accepted of a 19-year-old freshman, but abundant was enough.
With that, he angry and absolved out of the locker room. Then he wrote a cavalcade on how superb Sampson had been that night, outplaying Minnesota’s Kevin McHale, and that conceivably the NIT was a augury of what was to appear the afterward division for Sampson and the Cavaliers.
A year later, Virginia accomplished the Final Four and Sampson was the civic amateur of the year.
I aboriginal met ’Saps back I was in college. He had a cable to all of the ACC’s apprentice newspapers because he believed he could acquisition nuggets in them. My green year, I wrote a diffuse allotment on ACC officiating — commendation all seven ACC coaches on what ability be done to advance it.
Soon after, ’Saps absolved up to me at a Duke-Virginia bold and alien himself. “I apprehend your officiating piece,” he said. “You did a actual acceptable advertisement job. Do you apperception if I accord you a baby allotment of advice?”
I was abashed and flattered that he alike batten to me. I knew who the important ACC columnists were, and he was one of them.
“When you’ve got the facts, the way you did, you don’t accept to shout,” he said. “Let the facts allege for themselves.” He acicular out a brace of places area I’d taken shots at the officials, conceivably with a bit of aphotic dejected bias.
“Bias in a cavalcade is fine,” he said. “But save it for back you’re autograph one.”
That was the alpha of a accord and mentorship that went on continued afterwards ’Saps chock-full autograph about sports. I’ve had abounding mentors, but none added important than ’Saps. Alike afterwards he became editor of the Times-Dispatch, I alleged generally to ask him what he anticipation about book ideas, disputes with editors (a common topic) and people. His instincts for bodies were about never wrong.
Soon afterwards Dick Tarrant became the basketball drillmaster at Richmond in 1981, I saw ’Saps at a Virginia-Virginia Tech bold at Richmond Coliseum. “Got a guy you charge to know,” he said that night. Then he started cogent me about Tarrant, who had aloof become the Spiders’ coach.
’Saps was accompany with best of the big names in sportswriting, from Shirley Povich and Jim Murray to Dave Kindred and Dave Anderson. He played golf with all of them and was beheld by them as a peer, allotment of their group.
But he was additionally abutting to abounding in the business who weren’t acclaimed and reveled in backward nights in media accommodation apartment swapping stories. He was admired by coaches in Virginia such as Tarrant, Virginia basketball drillmaster Terry Holland, Virginia Tech football drillmaster Frank Beamer and William & Mary football drillmaster Jimmye Laycock.
But he additionally had admission to Dean Smith, Bob Knight, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. All for the aforementioned two reasons: They admired him, and they admired him.
In 2011, ’Saps won the Red Smith Award, which is claimed best years by writers and editors from aloft newspapers. ’Saps was one of a scattering of exceptions to that rule. His acknowledgment to acceptable the accolade was to say, “Now back they address my announcement in the Times-Dispatch, they’ll accept article to advance with.”
For once, ’Saps got it wrong. There was so abundant added to him than any award. He was a abundant columnist, a abundant bi-weekly man and — aloft all — the guy we all aspired to be back we grew up.
For added by John Feinstein, appointment washingtonpost.com/feinstein.
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