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Pitt’s Jeff Capel Remembers Billy Packer: ‘He was the Voice of College Basketball’

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Last Thursday, one of college basketball’s most legendary voices, Billy Packer, passed away at the age of 82.

The longtime voice of the NCAA Final Four, Packer had ACC roots, starring as a player at Wake Forest and leading the Demon Deacons to two ACC titles and a Final Four in his playing career. He then went on to serve as an assistant coach at Wake Forest before joining NBC and working there for 34 years as an analyst, calling high-profile games just the way that he saw them.

“For me, growing up, he was like the voice of college basketball,” Pitt head coach Jeff Capel said on Monday. “Growing up right there in North Carolina, watching those games when I was little, I lived and breathed ACC basketball when I was growing up. When I got to sixth grade, my dad became an assistant coach at Wake Forest and I got to learn more about Billy then because he played at Wake. Got to meet him.”

Packer then moved over to CBS in 1981, calling countless games alongside Brent Musberger, Jim Nantz, and others. From 1975 to 2008, Packer called every men’s Final Four game, cementing himself as a legend of the sport of college hoops.

“Just hearing his voice, and what he meant to college basketball in general, but especially right there on Tobacco Road,” Capel continued about Packer. “Big time loss for the college basketball community. You know, he was the voice of the NCAA Tournament when I was growing up. He was the guy. You watch it, you get to the Final Four, and just see him. I remember hearing the call when Lorenzo Charles dunked in the air-ball, and just hearing, ‘They won it! They won it! They’re going to Albuquerque!’ when State won in the Final Four. So I was really sad to hear about his passing.”

Capel references one of Packer’s most iconic calls, in which he shouted, “They won it! On the dunk!” after Lorenzo Charles won Jim Valvano’s NC State squad the 1983 national title on a buzzer-beating slam.

Capel and the Panthers will travel down to ACC country to continue their season with another conference matchup against North Carolina at the Dean Dome. That game will tip off at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 1.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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