Alumnus Inducted into DePaul Hall of Fame After 48 Years as Official Timer
By Bob Sakamoto
Kevin McCann (EDU MA ’76), age 67, has been the official timer for DePaul men’s basketball for 48 years and counting. If you do the math, it means he has been on the job since he was 19 years old and a Blue Demon student manager.
Here’s another astounding fact. In those 48 years, you can count the number of games McCann has missed on one hand.
“Back in the 1990s, I had a pain in my stomach and my wife Carol, who’s a nurse, took me to the hospital,” McCann said. “I didn’t know my appendix was about to rupture, and I had a DePaul game that day.
“I asked the doctor if I could come back the next day for the surgery because I had a DePaul game to work. He gave me this incredulous look and said: ‘You’ve got to be kidding. Your surgery is in two hours.’
“Twice I missed games while on out-of-town field trips when I taught at the LaSalle Language Academy. And another time was for my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday. My wife gave me strict orders to miss that game.”
For such devout and unrelenting dedication to the Blue Demons, McCann was inducted Feb. 2 into the DePaul Athletics Hall of Fame as the recipient of the Dr. Robert Hamilton Special Service Award.
DePaul athletics director Jean Lenti Ponsetto approached McCann several weeks ago before a women’s basketball game he was working and said: “Mr. McCann, I need to see you for a moment. Come by my office.”
For McCann, that was a curious development.
“I thought something was up,” he said. “When she gave me the good news, I was happily surprised and very grateful.”
McCann has reported for duty for each and every Blue Demon home game since 1971 like clockwork.
Speaking of which, McCann had been authorized to purchase a stopwatch 48 years ago to use at games. It’s taken a licking and kept on ticking. It was taped up and kept working, although it stopped for a while during a game against Houston Baptist.
“I took it home, worked on it and it was still good,” McCann said. “The athletic department certainly got its money’s worth. I had to ‘retire’ it five years ago when the NCAA went to a digital timer.”
Fellow stat crew colleague Joe Spagnolo laughs at the mention of the timepiece.
“Kevin has been as steady as that stopwatch,” Spagnolo said. “I can’t remember him ever missing a game. I’ve been doing this for 19 years. I’m only 29 years behind him.”
Spagnolo and Walt Cohen do the inputting and calling of stats. Ted Reineking is the TV timeout coordinator and Tom Tallarito mans the shot clock. Juergen Frank is the official scorer and Dave Behof operates the scoreboard. Gene Honda (White Sox and Blackhawks public-address announcer) and Jim Riebandt (Bears PA) are the announcers at DePaul men’s basketball home games.
McCann, Spagnolo, Reineking and Tallarito are members of the Hoops Historians, an organization of coaches, officials and supporters of the game who have met annually at the site of the NCAA Final Four since the early 1990s. Former Blue Demon coach Jerry Wainwright, the late DePaul All-American Dick Triptow and Pat Irvine, sister of one-time New York Yankees manager Billy Martin, are members of Hoop Historians.
McCann has some colorful tales about his part-time job which he has worked during a career in education as a grade-school teacher and principal.
“One of the referees at a Creighton-DePaul game several years ago got injured and couldn’t come out for the second half,” McCann said. “That reminded me of the DePaul game against Biscayne College (Jan. 2, 1984) at what was then known as the Rosemont Horizon. It was originally a night game that was changed at the last minute to an afternoon tipoff. All the refs working that game were from out of town and couldn’t make it.
“I was asked to officiate that game. I had been a high school basketball ref and did some officiating after graduating from DePaul. I took the whistle and worked the first half of the Biscayne game. As you can imagine, my co-workers on the scorers’ table got a big laugh out of that one. College refs who lived close enough were able to make it for the second half.
“That took place in coach Ray Meyer’s final year. That was the team that featured Tyrone Corbin, Marty Embry, Kenny Patterson and Kevin Holmes. Those guys went 27-3 and lost to Wake Forest in the second round of the NCAA tournament.”
The biggest crowd and the most pressure McCann ever faced came at the Illinois-Arizona NCAA Midwest Regional final in 2005 at Allstate Arena where the Illini won 90-89 and advanced to the Final Four.
“That game had the biggest crowd I ever worked at as the timer,” McCann said. “I really had to focus. This was before the precision-timing system was installed. There was a little more pressure on the timer back then, especially since it’s our job to stay away from controversy.
“Now, the clock stops on the referee’s whistle. The refs have a unit attached to their waist and they click a button to start the clock. Only in the final minute do I take over and stop the clock manually. With precision timing, I watch the ref closely. If he forgets to restart the clock, I have to do it.”
McCann continued on his trip down memory lane.
“People forget how great DePaul has been down through the years,” McCann said. “There was the Mark Aguirre era when we made it to the Final Four and were ranked No. 1 in the country. People don’t realize how good a player Joey Meyer was and how he could really handle the ball.
“I remember the first ESPN game that was ever televised when we played Wisconsin at Alumni Hall. Dick Vitale was the announcer, and it was the advent of cable TV. There was also the time Tommy Kleinschmidt’s four-point play won a game for us.
“It was always something working games when Al McGuire was coaching Marquette with that intense personality. Bob Huggins is another guy who gets pretty fired up. I worked the game when Bobby Knight was coaching Indiana and we played them at the United Center. Nothing crazy happened in that game.”
McCann’s long history with DePaul dates back to his father, John McCann.
“My dad was DePaul’s sports information director from the 1950s to the early 1970s,” McCann said. “When I was eight years old, I sold game programs at Alumni Hall. My dad was a principal at Agassiz Elementary School and worked part-time at DePaul.
“Back in those days the only sports were men’s basketball, men’s tennis, men’s golf and men’s cross country and track and field. The athletic staff was the five M’s—Ray Meyer, Frank McGrath (assistant coach and director of buildings), Tom Monforti (trainer), Jim Maniola (ticket director) and John McCann.
“I attended DePaul and was a men’s basketball manager from 1969-73. The senior manager usually worked the scoreboard and the junior manager would work on the bench. When I was a junior, the senior manager, Phil Gutsell, wanted to work the bench. So, thus began my 48-year career working on the scorers’ table.”
Like many youngsters back in the 1960s, McCann looked forward to spending part of his summer vacation at a special location in Wisconsin.
“I was a camper and a counselor at Ray Meyer’s basketball camp at Three Lakes, Wis. from third grade until my junior year in high school,” McCann recounted. “Doug Bruno attended the camp when he was at Quigley South.
“We all took the train, and what a madhouse that was. Out of a trainload of kids, only two guys went up there dressed in sport coats—Doug Bruno and John Sandman. I used to work in the kitchen washing the pots and pans and Doug was a hard worker doing whatever coach Ray needed.”
McCann graduated St. Patrick High School in 1969. After graduating from DePaul, he taught at Bell School near Lane Tech and for 14 years at the LaSalle Language Academy in Chicago where he would bring his classes to DePaul on field trips. In November of 1990,
McCann was honored as a Distinguished Educator by State Superintendent of Education Robert Lininger.
“That was one of the high points of my life when I got that phone call,” McCann said.
He was the principal of Jamieson School located near Mather High School for 15 years, retiring in 2006. He worked part-time in DePaul’s College of Education supervising student teachers and as an adjunct instructor. He became a full-time academic advisor in August of 2011.
McCann married his wife Carol in 1991 and has three daughters. Maggie is a DePaul alum and teaches in the Chicago Public Schools system. Rachel is a graduate student at DePaul and Bridget is a freshman at DePaul.
“This has been a terrific run and it’s not over yet,” McCann said. “In these last 48 years, I’ve worked with some great people and made some wonderful friends.”