by ALEX FAIRCHILD
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Boston College defeated Virginia for an inspirational man on Sunday evening.
The team won the game with Dick Kelley, who was honored with the United States Basketball Writers Association’s Most Courageous Award, in mind.
Kelley, who graduated from Boston College in 1987, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 2011.
Since, the Boston College and media communities have rallied around him, attempting to give back to him everything he has given to us.
His media team, the players, friends, the coaching staff, and the night’s officiating crew gathered on center court tonight as Kelley was given the award.
After the final buzzer sounded, the entire team rushed over to Kelley, patting him on the back, and showing him how much he means to them.
Without Dick, the team’s Media Relations Director and sports information director (SID), I would not be writing this story, nor would I be where I am today as a writer or as a person.
Four years ago, on a rainy Wednesday night, Mr. Kelley called me, after I tried to reach him for two weeks via e-mail and phone.
We spoke for two hours.
Dick is known for being meticulous, and I found that out quickly, as he wanted to make sure I was not, “running him for free tickets.”
I’ll never forget that night, nor will I forget meeting him face-to-face the following Sunday, when BC played URI.
Dick showed me around the bottom floor of Conte Forum, taking me around the media suite and escorting me to my seat in the middle of media row.
He treated me like a real member of the media from ESPN or the Globe, even though I was just a freshman writing for my high school newspaper.
Before every game, Dick would come over to chat. I eventually graduated from the handshake to the coveted DK fist-bump.
“If you need anything, let me know,” were Dick’s words each time I saw him and it must be said that I’ve never met someone so adamant about helping others.
While I cannot speak for Dick, I can only say that being at BC everyday is not a job, but a lifestyle.
In a matter of months, I would ask Joe Trapani a question at a press conference, getting a smile of approval from Dick as I walked out that night, while he followed Al Skinner out of the room.
In Steve Donahue’s first year, Dick immediately introduced me to the school’s new coach. In addition, he would bring BC High graduates to me and make me comfortable with everyone he knew, because to him, those who sit at the media table are part of a tight-knit society that comes together more or less than 18 times per year.
“This game is for Dick Kelley and the stuff he’s done. I think all these guys are close to Dick and if we’re gonna go down, we’re gonna go down fighting in his honor, for sure,” said Donahue after the team’s win.
Donahue could not help but tear up, as he talked about a man who has meant so much to him in his short time at BC.
“It’s hard not to get emotional about him,” said Donahue, who then paused to collect himself, “When I first got here, he was in my office all the time. As we went forward, meeting our guys, and his encouragement to me about what I’m doing, how I’m doing it, and how great it is and just spreading that throughout our team – his love of BC, and love of our program.
“When you come new and have someone that loves that place that much and wants to help you and there’s no ulterior motive. Wins and losses, they don’t matter, just a very unique guy and what he’s going through is for all of us, he’s.. it’s an incredible, tough thing to watch, but it’s also amazing how he’s handled it – very inspirational.”
There is no doubt that he had a similar effect on the players. Joe Rahon and Olivier Hanlan see Dick as somebody to look up to.
“It meant everything,” said Rahon about being with Dick on the floor today, “He loves us. He loves us more than anyone here. We didn’t have to go out there and win it for him, but we were gonna come out and play as hard as we possibly could for him today. Being able to be with him and when he got his award at the beginning of the game meant the world to us.”
The freshman guard referenced meetings he and the team had with Dick over the summer: “When I got on campus here, and I know O too, he had us to his house within the first week of being there. He got us dinner and he just wanted to get to know us a little bit and introduce us to the BC family. He’s a great role model and he’s been a great mentor for us.”
Hanlan followed up saying, “He’s been there from the start. He was at every workout, practice, just sitting there in his chair and watching us and talking to us after. We just loved it and everybody loves him on the team and everybody appreciates him.”
I’ve been told that Dick’s goal this season was to attend every home game. He missed the opener against FIU, but has been at every home game since.
He has handled this situation with so much grace and, of course, courage.
There is no way myself or anyone could repay Dick for all he has given us.
Besides giving myself and Boston Sports U18 a media credential he has done more than I could ask for behind the scenes.
After all, perhaps an arm and a leg is all I can give to someone who has given me a possible career in a field I love and am passionate about, but even to me, I owe him far more than that.
While it’s not much, there is only one thing I and BSU18 can do for Dick – and that is to say, ‘Thank you, DK.’