This is going to be hard, but bear with me.
I first met Craig Sager back when I worked at Tulane as an assistant sports information director, and during those days he was doing “Sager Says” for the weekly college games on TBS.
Our teams were decent at TU; certainly not like my days at LSU, whose programs were very instrumental in my career progression, making friends and contacts that I appreciate to this day.
In my first year at LSU, the hoops program went to the Final Four and during our successful Sweet 16 run in Atlanta, we made a visit to his new sports bar, Jocks-n-Jills; and it was great hanging out with him and his other co-owners as they opened an Atlanta establishment that still exists to this day.
So fast forward a few years later and I’m now working for the Hawks and Turner Sports has the NBA; and while Craig hadn’t jumped into his multi-colored suits and jackets just yet, it was great getting to know the multiple personalities connected with Turner’s premier broadcast operation.
Ted owned the Hawks (and Braves) back then, and back then, the various organizations were quite a family…man, those were the days.
Related: 92-9 The Game Remembers Sager
Over my 23 years with the Hawks, we didn’t get many Thursday appearances on TNT, but during the playoffs, we would occasionally get that premium game and it was always a pleasure working with Craig, a true professional who didn’t walk around with an unapproachable ego like some in the business.
He appreciated the interaction with the fans, the lifeblood of the business – and many of us in it today – executives, players, media and others should do the same.
When cancer hit me in 2006, he was among the many who reached out and passed along his well wishes and encouragement as I had to endure two different visits and ultimately, surgeries, at Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Upon learning of his own battle with this insidious disease, I certainly returned the favor in my talks with him, and later, on visits when he happened to be at MDA and I had to make my annual checkups.
That last opportunity came this past August, as he prepared to go through what turned out to be his final bone marrow treatment; and between talks about our NBA years, his first Finals broadcast and our families, I’m truly thankful that we got the chance to have that last face-to-face time to reflect.
When I tell you I truly hate cancer, there aren’t enough angry words in the English language to accurately express my feelings. It took my dad, has affected me and has touched too many friends and associates that always gives me pause.
To Craig’s families (thinking about you, Lisa Gabel Sager Allen), his current wife Stacy, and children, and his Turner Sports colleagues, #SagerStrong will forever live within each of us, and all of you are in our thoughts and prayers tonight. Especially the NBA on TNT crew tonight…especially tonight.
Much love, Craig. Tell my dad I said “Hello.” We will continue fighting cancer as best as we can, my friend.