Friday, August 1, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Bill Lyon: Daily News' Jasner: The ultimate professional

Phil Jasner, left, joins his son Andy at the 2002 All-Star Game. Phil died Friday night at the age of 68. (David Maialetti/Staff file photo)
Phil Jasner, left, joins his son Andy at the 2002 All-Star Game. Phil died Friday night at the age of 68. (David Maialetti/Staff file photo)

Just one more - that was his calling card, that was what drove him.

Just one more question to ask. Just one more quote to elicit. Just one more angle to pursue. Just one more detail to examine and reexamine. Just one more rumor to run down. Just one more - well, just one more of whatever it would take to get it right, to make it fair, to get to the truth.

Because of that devotion to just-one-thing-more, Phil Jasner was almost always the last man out of the locker room - and no one worked that room more deftly - and then he would sit and spread the tools of the trade before him: Typewriter in the early days, computers later, steno notebooks, tape recorder, cup of ice for munching (it sounded like rifle fire). Then he would assume the position - elbows out, flaps up, ready, commence writing.

He would pound the keyboard with the touch of a jackhammer, and the end product, after an hour or so, would roll out, complete, meticulous, accurate, evenhanded, professional. Always professional.

And, oh yes, Editor Man, Phil says he would be more than happy to submit another sidebar, if you'd like.

His enthusiasm was unrelenting and his work ethic staggeringly inspiring. Reporting and writing became an escape of sorts for him, a moment of release and relief - his wife, Susi, died in 2006 of lupus after a long and valorous battle.

For readers of the Daily News, for 38 years Phil Jasner was a voice of reason - calm, measured, thoughtful.

"Phil was the ultimate professional," said 76ers coach Doug Collins. "He was loved because he was all about the truth, he was all about facts. He wasn't about rumors or anything like that, he was all about doing the right thing."

On Friday, Phil Jasner died at home, succumbing at last to the cancer that he had fought so valiantly for two years. He was 68.

For 29 years, Phil was the 76ers beat writer for the Daily News. To cover an NBA team is to run a cruel gauntlet. It is sports' version of the one-night stand. There are mornings when you awake and wonder what day it is . . . and what city are you in? But Phil became adept at living out of a suitcase, and you were smart if you sought his advice on restaurants, airplane schedules, hotels, and rental cars. He was a welcome traveling companion.

Joe Juliano, who covered the 76ers for The Inquirer for four years, said: "No one worked harder every single day than Phil. He knew how to get a story mainly because he had sources all throughout the league. Off the court, he was a kind and generous man."

Everyone knew Phil, and vice versa. He was a diligent and persistent reporter, armed with a legendary stack of index cards containing the phone numbers of sources, with whom he maintained frequent and determined contact. And he was, within reason and without compromising himself, willing to share.

"He was really into his craft," said Aaron McKie, once a Sixer and now an assistant coach with the team. "I had a great deal of respect for the manner in which he approached his craft."

And Elton Brand of the Sixers said: "He was a great reporter and a throwback for the industry. He was just a great and honorable Philly guy."

That same sentiment was echoed by Ed Stefanski, the Sixers' general manager, who said: "We had many lively discussions about basketball. He was one of those beloved Philly hoops characters. He will be greatly missed."

And from Turkey, via his Twitter account, Allen Iverson wrote: "The world has truly lost a great man who will be sorely missed."

The true measure of the esteem in which the man was held can be found in the number 5. Phil Jasner was inducted into five Halls of Fame, including the Naismith Basketball Hall and, just last month, the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame.

He is survived by a son, Andy, whose great joy in life was to tell his father he was to be a grandfather. Twice. Jordana and Shira.

The last conversation I had with Phil, he had said: "Now I understand why you are so bananas over your grandchildren. They really are a great invention."

To his job, Phil Jasner brought passion, dignity, restraint, and a continuing quest for what was right.

In life, in the words of Doug Collins: "He was a good man. He had a good heart."


Bill Lyon is a former Inquirer columnist.

Inquirer staff writer Kate Fagan contributed to this article.

Bill Lyon For The Inquirer
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