Bill Schonely Rumors
Jerome Kersey died Wednesday. He was 52. And when you’re hit with a bag of bricks like that you shake your head to keep the room from spinning, you say a prayer and you make the first telephone call. Bill Schonely picked up on the first ring. “I saw Jerome today,” Schonely said. “I see him every morning in the office. We said hello to each other. I gave him a hard time because he was supposed to be on crutches after a knee surgery he had (Monday). We parted ways. It was like any other day — until he was gone.”
Schonely said Kersey scheduled his minor knee surgery for the end of the NBA All-Star break because he didn’t want to miss any Blazers games this season. Kersey had a minor meniscus repair on his left knee and showed up to work on Wednesday without crutches because he felt so good.
The legendary voice of the Portland Trail Blazers has an airplane to catch, and a speech to write, and the Basketball Hall of Fame waits for no one, but before that, there’s more important business. “I’m getting a haircut right now,” he said on the other end of the telephone. Bill Schonely got that haircut on Tuesday. He packed his bags, and looked over an itinerary that will include a flight for him and his wife, Dottie, on Wednesday morning to Newark, N.J. then a limousine ride to Springfield, Mass., where he’ll be honored on Thursday with the Curt Gowdy Award for Broadcasting.
This is big stuff in Schonely’s life. As close as a Hall of Fame induction gets for a broadcaster. And so a professional life spent describing the actions of others culminates with Schonely left to speak about himself. And he began on Tuesday by telling me he’s glad he finally called his son, Steve, this year. Even as Schonely was in so many of your living rooms, being a regular part of so many families, speaking to so many of you over the years, he hadn’t spoken to his son in some time. “We weren’t on good terms. It was one of those things, ‘Who’s going to give first?'” Schonely said. “I found out that he was ill, and I decided I needed to call. I’m just happy that he left the world knowing that he and I were on good terms.” They talked recently and agreed it had been too long. And last week, Steve died after a battle with cancer. He was 61, went to high school in Seattle, and lived in Hawaii. Doctors had diagnosed him with terminal cancer, given him three to six months to live. Said his father: “He made a month.”
Schonely has “RIP CITY,” on his personalized DMV license plates. Maybe you’ve seen his familiar Cadillac driving on the freeway, or walked up on it in a parking lot and snapped a photograph beside those plates. I drove up upon Schonely and his wife cruising on I-205 once, pulled alongside, rolled down the window, and honked. Without hesitation, or taking his eyes off the road, Schonely instinctively honked back and waved. He never did look over. “People honk every so often when they see me,” he told me, days later. He likes that you remember him. And Schonely is delighted when people come up and talk about their favorite broadcasts or how they feel young again when they hear his voice. Legacy is big for a man who built the reputations of so many others. “It’s one of the biggest highlights for me. No. 1 is the championship in 1976-77. There was Clyde, and Maurice Lucas,” he said, “I guess I must have made my free throws.”