Mardi Dean had to smile through her tears.
“Dad would have loved it,” she said.
There we were, gathered for Joe Dean’s funeral on Wednesday at First United Methodist downtown and you would have thought you were at a party.
So many old friends drawn together, which, in reality, is what funerals do.
In this case, I was taking a picture you could never have imagined six or seven years ago: Collis Temple standing between and wrapping his arms around Dale Brown and John Brady, who just moments before had their arms around each other.
Joe Dean was many things, but more than anything he was a basketball guy, from his time at Converse to broadcasting SEC games on Jefferson-Pilot to being LSU’s athletic director.
And at his funeral there were a hell of a lot of hoops coaching victories and points scored in the room.
Brown, the winningest coach in LSU history. The guy who followed him, Brady, now at Arkansas State. Current LSU coach Johnny Jones. Former LSU assistant Kermit Davis Jr., head coach at Middle Tennessee, and his dad, the former coach at Mississippi State. Another former Mississippi State coach, Richard Williams, who like Brown and Brady took a team to the Final Four. Of course, there was Joe Dean Jr., athletic director at Birmingham Southern and a former college basketball coach who gave an elegant remembrance of his dad.
There were players like Hall of Famers Bob Pettit, the former LSU and St. Louis Hawks legend, and former Mississippi State and Boston Celtics great Bailey Howell. And countless high school basketball coaches.
The football side included former SEC commissioner Roy Kramer, who drove from Tennessee, and Gerry DiNardo, who was hired as LSU’s coach by Dean. Dean, whose first football hire was Curley Hallman (oops), hit a home run with DiNardo, one of the great guys in LSU athletics lore and now an analyst for the Big Ten Network. Remember, too, that Dean not only hired him but fired him, which led to Nick Saban coming to LSU.
There were so many luminaries, from Jay Dardenne to Boots Garland, and, well, it’s impossible to name them all. There were a fair number of track and field victories in the form of former LSU coach Pat Henry, now at Texas A&M.
And there was sportswriter Ron Higgins of NOLA.com and the Times-Picayune, who just happened to be my guest on Sports 225 this week.
“Everyone doing Joe Dean imitations,” he said with a laugh.
Mardi was right. Joe would have loved it.