"He blanketed the Big 5," Andy said. "Some of my great memories as a kid were spending all day in the Palestra or in McGonigle Hall or Hayman Hall or Hawk Hill or wherever the venue was and just the way he worked it. In the pre-Internet era, the amount of copy that he produced is just amazing to me and I have proof of it because I've been going through it. The depth and the research and the way he went about it was just incredible. He loved Big 5 basketball. He was a Temple grad, but it was almost like he was a graduate of five institutions. He treated everybody the same. He gave everybody the proper recognition and coverage. He just truly loved it."
Phil, who was inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004, loved everything about his job, covering the Big 5, the Sixers or anything else.
"It was just an incredible passion and that passion started from the time he started working as a sportswriter until his last St. Joe's game," Andy said. "It was ironic that his last assignment was at an arena where he spent countless hours working and just loving his craft."
The Sixers practiced at St. Joe's for years. Phil's last assignment was a St. Joe's-Western Kentucky game.
"I spent more time at the Palestra than I did at home," Andy said. "I did my homework there like I did at the Spectrum. I knew all the guards. Those tripleheader days . . . I shot baskets in between. I had dinner. I kept doing my homework. Just great memories, but for him, he worked and worked. I've never seen such a tireless worker. He never complained. He loved it."
It always showed, from the start until the finish.
I had the privilege of covering Marvin O'Connor's college career at St. Joe's and Villanova. Transferring from 'Nova to SJU could have been quite difficult, but O'Connor made the absolute best of it.
His junior season at SJU was also Jameer Nelson's freshman season. They were terrific together, but never better than when Marvin lit up Stanford for 37 points in that NCAA game.
O'Connor was set up for a terrific senior season, but it did not play out as expected. He lost his explosiveness because of a nasty toe injury. I saw the toe after one game and could not imagine how he walked, much less played basketball. He averaged 17.5 points that season and I will always remember him as one of the toughest players I ever covered.
Marvin O'Connor will take his rightful place in the Big 5 Hall on Friday.
Butler's Brad Stevens not only has a team that plays with uncommon passion, it really helps that he is one of the game's original thinkers.
Gonzaga made a three with 49 seconds left in the first half of Saturday's epic game at Hinkle. That would suggest that the Zags would get the last possession of the half. They did not.
The game clock continues to roll in the final minute of the first half even after a made basket. The shot clock does not start until the offensive team has the ball inbounds.
I could not see it off TV, but I think Butler stalled a bit before picking the ball up and then throwing it inbounds. Then, they rolled it in the backcourt before touching it. When they picked it up, there were exactly 35 seconds left in the half. The shot clock started and Butler had the last shot of the half. It got blocked, but that was not the point.
Butler was in a win or tie situation, always a good place to be. I don't know if all that was coached, but I strongly suspect it was. I had never seen another team do it and it denied Gonzaga a possession it certainly could have used in a one-point loss.
Did you know
That Colorado is the defending Pac-12 champs after winning four tournament games in 4 days last March?
If you talked about Big Six wastelands, Colorado was always near the top of the list.
Under Colorado native Tad Boyle, the Buffs (12-6) are not only talented; they have become an event at Coors Events Center.
In 2008-09, they averaged 4,637. Last season, they averaged 7,804. They had never had a non-conference, regular-season sellout. Three of the first four non-con games were sold out this season.
Being in the Pac-12 has gotten the Buffs into the talent-rich Los Angeles area and they are making the most of it.
This and that *
One NCAA game I really want to see is VCU-Louisville. Let's hope the Selection Committee puts them in the same vicinity. VCU's "Havoc" defense and Louisville's pressure create so many turnovers that the teams seem to be running downhill on offense. I can only imagine what it might look like if these two shared the same court. Definitely wild, definitely entertaining and for players who are in great shape.
* How good is the Big Ten? Gonzaga and Butler have lost a combined four games. Two against Illinois, and they played each other. The Illini lost four of their first five league games.
* San Diego State is really good. Last Saturday, it trailed Wyoming at halftime, 20-9. The Aztecs shot 4-for-21 and had eight turnovers. No, they did not come back and win against the Cowboys, one of a half-dozen (or more) strong teams in the Mountain West.
* Going into Tuesday night's games, those "Catholic Seven" teams are a combined 80-44 (with a lot of home wins that they bought), 16-22 in the Big East.
* Defense is not the only thing, as Texas is proving. Through the weekend games, the Longhorns led the nation in field-goal defense (34.5 percent) and three-point defense (24.8 percent). They allow just .865 Points Per Possession, 14th nationally. They are 8-10, 0-5 Big 12. Why? Their offense is awful; scoring just .949 PPP, 248th in the nation.
* Saint Joseph's is committing just 12.6 fouls per game, fourth nationally. Michigan (12.1 per game) commits the fewest.