The V in Thanksgiving

Published: November 23, 2017

I thought about writing this post at the start of the season, but it didn’t feel right, so I waited. I’m not driven or moved by arbitrary deadlines. Especially not with this. A holiday celebrating food, generosity, and history in part using sports is right. Yeah.

I want to express my deep gratitude and appreciation for Gerry V.

For those that don’t know Gerry Vaillancourt, he’s quite openly from Queens and grew up a “hoops junkie.” He played, coached, scouted, and found his way to New Orleans when the Hornets relocated, as he was their color analyst. He stayed around for years after the team was sold, being involved in local tv and radio. He recently relocated back to Charlotte, of course doing sports radio, and being closer to his family so he could be a grandfather more completely.

Gerry is an overflowing reservoir of basketball knowledge and passion. He loves to talk about it with anyone (which is lucky for me) and loves to teach (also lucky for me). He was continually involved in youth sports. And, no, not just showing up and throwing a ball out. He used to tell me in detail how some of the games went. Here’s a faithful paraphrase of his huddle speeches:

Gentleman. . . . how much fun is this? Pancakes, that was a great shot. It didn’t go in, but you keep taking it. Loopy, that was great when you passed it back. These guys love it when you do that. Everyone’s taken a shot but Double Knot . . . let’s get him the ball. You guys want to try a screen? Here’s how . . .

Gerry is professional in everything he does, but he’s not a stuffed shirt, even if he loves to wear a suit. He’s a little Keith and a little Mick. He likes to find the groove and see where it takes him while also setting the tone and terms, and he’s great with machine gun one-liners. It’s a style that is not common today, and it is missed.

I could tell you that Gerry moving was a loss for us and for me, but it wasn’t. We were lucky to have him, and all that time was just a bonus. Lagniappe for the locals.

Gerry was in my life far longer than I was in his. I listened to his shows when he got to town, and his style really resonated with me. When I had season ticket perks to cash in, I took the options to meet Sean Kelley (also a great guy and an incredible citizen to boot) and Gerry in the radio booth. I used to send them emails during games to answer Gerry’s music trivia questions. It was a highlight for me when I got a reply or a shout out on the air.

When Gerry moved over to TV, I steeled myself for rejection and reached out to him, telling him that if he needed a basketball outlet, we’d give him a platform. We met for the first of many meals at the Shimmy Shack. I was so nervous, I forgot to say “no mayo” on my Blarney Burger, and I had to choke it down with that nastiness on there because I didn’t want to distract the conversation or appear as flawed as I truly am.

As time went on, we talked basketball, and the conversations grew into all our common interests: football, food, philosophy, but mostly dogs, history, and especially music. It was always over food or coffee. This was helpful, as he used to lay out plays for me using french fries, buffalo wings, salt and pepper shakers, etc. He became a friend and a mentor, but he was always a hero of mine.

I often break the rules. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it does not. This time, it was one of the best moves I ever made. I met my hero, and I’m a better man for it.

I love you, V.

I hope I’m making you proud, and until the next cup . . .

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