Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Former Roanoke Times Sports Editor Bill Brill Dies

(Update: Bill Brill died April 10 at 4:45 p.m. More later.)

(Update, Friday, April 8: The latest report is that Brill had a restless night, is impatient with the fuss and bother and wants to go home. Sounds like Brill's getting better. We'll hope so.)

(Update, Thursday, 10 a.m.: Brill is reported to have improved overnight and his condition has improved from "critical," according to Doug Doughty. "Not unlike one of those mements when Brill mysteriously found his golf ball in the rough, he has rallied," Doughty wrote.)

 Bill Brill, the controversial or legendary (depending on your perspective) retired sports editor of The Roanoke Times, is apparently near death in a Durham hospital. Doug Doughty, a sportswriter for the paper for nearly 30 years, has been issuing health updates on Brill, who has been treated recently for a life-threatening condition.

His most recent blanket e-mail to friends and former colleagues of Brill's says Brill is in "very grave condition" and a Do Not Resuscitate order has been issued. He says Brill "has written his obituary ... reserved Cameron Indoor Stadium for his funeral and has arranged for a caterer." He added, "Let's hope and pray that he's got some time left and that there will be some quality to it."

Brill hired me away from the Asheville Citizen in 1971 to handle the high school beat in the sports department, sight unseen. I interviewed for the job for about five minutes during a long distance phone call and didn't meet him until I showed up for work two weeks later.

Brill was one of the most unusually intelligent men I've ever known. His memory is phenomenal. I once watched him fill out a full, seven column box score for a basketball game he had just listened to on the radio and the only error in it was one made by the announcer who gave a field goal to the wrong player. His knowledge and understanding of politics has always surprised people, as well. Brill was probably the fastest typist I ever knew and the speed with which he wrote on deadline was simply astonishing. His writing didn't suffer from the speed; he is one of the best I ever knew.

Brill did more than anybody else to popularize ACC basketball in this area, much to the chagrin of Virginia Tech fans who always felt--with some degree of authority--that he thought little of the Hokies. Frankly, I always felt like he didn't think little of Tech. He just didn't think about them at all. His notion, correct at the time, was that Tech was what has come to be known as a "mid-major" and that the ACC (and his beloved Duke Blue Devils) were the major leagues. They were. Now Tech is in the majors with them and competes quite well.

Brill was the last of the real sports editors at the paper, a working journalist who wrote regular columns, covered games, wrote feature stories and ran the department, making assignments, scheduling the staff, making travel arrangements, all the details that several people handle these days.

Brill is a nationally recognized college basketball expert and he wrote the definitive history on Duke basketball a few years ago. I always liked Brill and tried--sometimes in the face of a heated Tech fan--to defend him and what he stood for. He is an interesting man who represented an era in the newspaper business which has, sadly, passed.


  1. Thanks for sharing the information. I enjoyed being one of his readers.

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  3. Thanks for a great read. Love Brill and wish him the best quality of life and continued health! Hearing he is one of the last of the old guard makes me like him even more.

  4. Brill may not have been liked by the Hokie fans, but I remember that he wrote one of the best analyses of the post-Bill Dooley VT athletic department that was published. It was (of course) well-written, to the point, and very matter-of-fact. It wasn't a Bill Brill hatchet job of the Hokies, but a very good write-up of the situation from a very knowledgeable person. It was a good read and nice to have things deciphered into something clear and understandable -- which that mess needed at the time. I'm sorry for the loss of yet someone else from the old school of journalism.