Red Head Lives On In Our Hearts (Honoring Johnny “Red” Kerr)
I’m not a very emotional guy by nature. I show anger, excitement, and passion, sure, but sadness? It’s not as easy for me. After writing about Stormin’ Norman yesterday, I was basically spent in terms of being able to feel sad. Then the tragic news came in late last night that Johnny “Red” Kerr passed on after his battle with prostate cancer got the best of him.
Red was the voice of the Bulls for an entire generation, my generation. I grew up listening to his calls on the radio. Who can forget Red screaming “It’s Good! It’s Good” after Jordan’s shot on Ehlo? Or before every game how Jordan would throw dust from the resin bag all over Red? My memories of Red mostly have to do with his sound analysis and love of the Bulls. Loved far and wide throughout the league, Red came to be associated with the Bulls more than any other personality during the franchise’s existence.
After leading the Fighting Illini to a Final Four in 1952, he was drafted into the NBA. Known as one of the top centers in the league, he played most of his career for the Syracuse Nationals, which eventually became the Philadelphia 76ers. He was known as one of the better centers in the league, dragging Chamberlain and Russell up and down the court on a nightly basis. He made 3 all-star games and held the record for consecutive games played until 1983.
He came to be the Chicago Bulls first coach in the 1966-1967 season. He was the first (and only) coach to take an expansion team to the playoffs. He also won Coach of the Year in that first year as coach. His famous line about that young expansion team was, “Bulls is our name. Defense is our game. Look in the Yellow Pages under Excitement.”
He then went on to coach the Suns briefly, but came back to provide commentary for the Bulls from 1975 until the end of last season.
Kerr was always known for his keen basketball mind and for his love of the game and the Bulls. While in recent years his health was failing, he always had a key insight about the night’s game. A tribute fit for a king was given to Red a few weeks ago during halftime of a Pistons game at the United Center. Everyone came out to honor him, from Scottie Pippen to Barack Obama. At least we can all take solace in the fact that he was properly honored for everything he has done for the community and the team.
Keep Red in your prayers and as Red would say “Stay on those boards!”