Sportscasters Luncheon Features Legendary Sports Families

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Current USC broadcaster Pete Arbogast, retired USC broadcaster Tom Kelly, former USC basketball player Bill Boyd (Photo courtesy of Jim Riggio)
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Jeanie Buss poses with board members of the Southern California Sports Broadcasters Association (Photo courtesy of Jim Riggio)

By Jim Riggio
Special to MyBurbank

As a tribute to Father’s Day, the Southern California Sports Broadcasters Association, which meets regularly at Lakeside Golf Club in Toluca Lake, invited the sons and daughters of some of those who helped transform the Los Angeles sports landscape to speak to the group Wednesday.

On hand were current Los Angeles Lakers President Jeanie Buss, former Los Angeles Dodgers President Peter O’Malley, current USC Senior Athletic Director for Football J.K. McKay, Bill Boyd, son of former USC basketball coach Bob Boyd and Nan Meuhlhausen, daughter of legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden.

Each had things to share about their respective fathers.

Buss shared a scary moment in her life, when speaking with her father, the late Dr. Jerry Buss.

Jeanie Buss address the Southern California Sports Broadcasters Assn. (Photo courtesy of Jim Riggio)
Jeanie Buss addresses the Southern California Sports Broadcasters Assn. (Photo courtesy of Jim Riggio)

“When my father purchased the Lakers and the Kings and the Forum in May of 1979, I was only 17 years old. His first order of business as the new Lakers owner was to select the number one pick in the draft,” Jeanie Buss said.  “Some suggested to him that he choose a solid four-year college standout from UCLA named David Greenwood. But my father had his eye on a sophomore who had petitioned to turn pro two years early and had dazzled the NCAA Tournament, Earvin Magic Johnson, the first underclassman ever to be drafted with the number one pick.

“The first time I met Magic was shortly after the draft. He came to Los Angeles to meet with my father.  I was there to answer the doorbell.  I opened the door and there is this kid just two years older than I was with a smile that could rival the sun and light up the city. I showed him to the living room and we chatted for a few moments.  He told me as a matter of fact that he appreciated being drafted by the Lakers, but that he’s only going to stay for three years because he wanted to go home and play for the Detroit Pistons.

I did my best to hide my reaction and I excused myself to go upstairs and inform my dad what his number one pick had just said. My heart was pounding.  I told my dad the story. My dad said ‘Jeanie,  the first time he puts on a Laker uniform and walks out on the Forum floor he’s never going to leave.’  And he was right. “

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Meuhlhausen, who attends all UCLA home games, said she honors her father by leaving an empty seat for him.

Her grandson Tyler Trapani later played for the Bruins and scored the final basket in the history of Pauley Pavilion before it underwent renovations in 2011.

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Boyd’s father coached USC during its greatest days in the 1970s and said his father was often in the stuck in the shadow of other great coaches at USC and Wooden.

Current USC broadcaster Pete Arbogast, retired USC broadcaster Tom Kelly, former USC basketball player Bill Boyd (Photo courtesy of Jim Riggio)
(L to R) Current USC broadcaster Pete Arbogast, retired USC broadcaster Tom Kelly, former USC basketball player Bill Boyd (Photo courtesy of Jim Riggio)

“The kind of career he had was one we only later appreciated. If you look back at his career and some of the great teams he had, I was on a team that was 25-5 and we thought we were awful because the guys across town were 34-0,” Boyd said.

Boyd credited his father for doing whatever he needed to do in order to support the family before becoming an elite collegiate basketball coach.

“He started as a high school basketball coach. In those days you had to support yourself also by working some odd jobs.  He had some of the oddest. He worked for the Southern California Edison Company. He drove a Canada Dry truck. He delivered Canada Dry from Downtown Los Angeles to Laguna Beach when there was no 5 freeway,” Boyd added.

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McKay’s father, John, won four national championships and five Rose Bowls in his time as the USC head football coach.

“My dad got the job in 1960. The headline in the L.A. Times was ‘McKay Who’. They misspelled McKay. It was a rocky start. He had two bad years. He won four games one year and five the next.  Dr. (Norman H.) Topping who was the president of the university at that time called and said ‘I want to see you, come to my office’. Dad said ‘No, I want you to come to my office.’ So they met at Julie’s, which is pretty much his office. They had a bunch of vodka.  He comes home and his job is on the line. He may be gone. We wake up the next morning and the phone rings and Dr. Topping says ‘John, I have to ask you a question? Did I fire you last night’ and he said ‘No, you offered me a three-year contract.’ ”

McKay, who has been best friends with USC athletic director Pat Haden since the two went to high school together at Bishop Amat High in La Puente, also recalled being recruited by other universities. Haden also lived with the McKays as a senior in high school.

Former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley speaks with USC's J.K. McKay (Photo courtesy of Jim Riggio)
Former Dodgers owner Peter O’Malley (left) speaks with USC’s J.K. McKay (Photo courtesy of Jim Riggio)

“I got recruited to USC by my dad. Pat Haden was living with us. Coaches were coming to the door. It was kind of weird. My dad would answer the door,” McKay recalled. “We got recruited by Bear Bryant. We got recruited at Notre Dame and we seriously thought about as Irish Catholic kids of going to Notre Dame. My dad heard that and called me in by myself and said ‘John, I don’t care where you go to school. I need the quarterback.’ ”

McKay said he has fond memories of playing for his father in college.

“I had a great time at SC. It was absolutely a blast. I got to win a National Championship in 1972 and 1974 with my dad,” he said. “I do want to dispel one rumor. Some people believe I only started at wide receiver USC because dad insisted that I start. That is not true. It was my mother.  She said I had to start.  My dad was only complying with her wishes. “

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O’Malley discussed how his father, Walter, made the decision to move the Dodgers to Los Angeles from Brooklyn, New York in the late 1950s.

“Going back to 1946, which has been called the ten-year effort, it has been documented that my dad began to realize that Ebbets Field, which was built and opened in 1913 needed to be replaced. He tried for 10 years to find a place to build a stadium in Brooklyn.  He did not want the taxpayers or county to subsidize the facility. He wanted to design it and maintain it. About 1957 he kind of realized he couldn’t get it done in Brooklyn,” O’Malley said.

Former Los Angeles Times reporter Larry Stewart talks with Peter O'Malley (Photo courtesy of
Former Los Angeles Times reporter Larry Stewart (left) talks with Peter O’Malley (Photo courtesy of Jim Riggio)

“His critics claimed he was going to L.A. all the time. That’s not the case. When he announced the Dodgers were going to come here in the fall of 1957 he had only been here three times in his life. When he makes the announcement, he has no idea where he is going to play. The Rose Bowl was not crazy to have us. The Coliseum was not really crazy to have us. The old Wrigley Field was smaller than Ebbets Field.

“He didn’t do the deal with the Coliseum until January of 1958 and opened the season in April of 1958. He was a visionary who did not mind rolling the dice and he did roll the dice in that move. He was criticized to this day back in Brooklyn.  It was his decision to move the team. In his mind, he knew what he wanted to do. If you couldn’t do it in Brooklyn, he was going to do it here. And the fact that in those days Dodger Stadium cost $22 million to build. That’s a lot of money today. He had to sell some different things to come up with the money. “

O’Malley said his father was a pleasant man.

“Working for him was enjoyable. We got along great. We started out hunting and fishing together. He never really told me what to do. He just said Peter, ‘It’s common sense.  It isn’t that complicated. Keep it pretty simple.’”

 

 

 

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