A character takes a shot at politics

Times Staff Writer

If there’s anyone in the sports world who is predisposed to be a politician, it has to be a basketball coach-turned-broadcaster.

Then it should be of limited shock value that former Indiana Pacers and Bradley University coach and former NBA commentator Dick Versace didn’t just throw his hat into the ring, he swished it.

Versace, 67, won an uncontested Democratic primary race for the 18th Congressional District seat in Illinois held by a retiring Republican.

There are many items already on Versace’s resume, including a past noteworthy for his vitriolic sideline behavior, a knack for talking and a shock of hair that would have made Artis Gilmore weep.


His mother, Marie Teresa Rios, was a noted Puerto Rican author who wrote the book on which the 1960s sitcom “The Flying Nun” was based.

His brother, Rocky, was a Medal of Honor recipient from the Vietnam War.

His first move as an assistant at Michigan State was to help recruit some kid named Magic Johnson.

Versace became a television analyst after he was fired by the Pacers, and then worked for the Grizzlies of the NBA in Vancouver and Memphis.


From here on out who knows what’s next, but if Versace makes it to Congress as a former coach-broadcaster, imagine the filibusters.

And if anybody crosses him, look out. He’ll probably make that person run laps.

Trivia time

Who preceded Versace as head basketball coach, first at Bradley and then with the Indiana Pacers, and who came after him?

Odd odds

Janet Jones Gretzky, Wayne’s wife, was featured as a participant on an ESPN broadcast of a high-stakes gambling golf show, in which nine teams of two players put up $250,000 each to play in the tournament.

Did anyone find that unusual? It’s only been a year since she was implicated in an illegal gambling ring, allegedly run by a former assistant coach of the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes, coached by Wayne.

Lights, camera


Ever wonder what NBA players do in their off time, outside of spending their dough, of course? Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat just signed with the William Morris Agency for marketing work.

Wade will get a WMA-style push for international endorsements involving the Beijing Olympics, and also for possible jobs acting and producing, according to the SportsBusiness Journal.

Should be as easy as drawing a foul.

Voice lesson

Bryant Gumbel of the NFL Network doesn’t call a game until the Indianapolis Colts-Atlanta Falcons meeting on Thanksgiving, but that didn’t stop Neil Best of Newsday from writing that Gumbel is “decades behind” his peers on other networks, and also “lacks their traditional vocal ‘pipes.’ ”

Said Gumbel: “Whatever my voice is or isn’t, it’s the only one I’ve got.”

Trivia answer

Joe Stowell preceded Versace at Bradley and Stan Albeck followed. George Irvine preceded Versace with the Pacers and Bob Hill followed.


And finally

Who said that Terrell Owens was a headache? Oh, yeah, those teams in San Francisco and Philadelphia. But Owens hasn’t caused one problem with the Dallas Cowboys this season, at least so far.

In fact, after Sunday’s 31-20 victory over the New York Giants, Owens now has three straight games of at least 100 yards in receptions, plus a total of eight touchdowns.

As a result, Owens is feeling pretty good about himself -- as if that’s so unusual.

Said Owens: “This is just scratching the surface for me. The sky’s the limit for me.”