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Vol. 57, No. 1 • November 2019 • .pdf version
First O'Connell Award goes to Terry Hutchens
When I first encountered him in the mid-'80s, Terry Hutchens was gangly (at least when we first met), goofy (always) but he also was from California, and that was enough for this native Hoosier to approach him with a measure of caution.
I first became aware of Hutch when he landed a job at the Fort Wayne News Sentinel.
But not long thereafter, he was hired by the "B Team," which was the afternoon Indianapolis News. I, of course, labored for the self-proclaimed A Team, the morning Indianapolis Star, and back then – though our paychecks were all signed by the Pulliam family – we enjoyed a friendly rivalry. So while we could enjoy a pre-game press feed and possibly a post-game brew together, we wanted to beat them on stories, and they wanted to beat us.
In short, the tall, goofy B-teamer Terry Hutchens from California would have to win us over. My, did he ever.
"Hutch" to everyone, he made his way up through the sports writing ranks like you're supposed to, from high school to amateur sports and finally to his big break, assigned by The News to the Colts in 1991.
Six years later, The News went the way of many afternoon papers, the staffs merged and Terry took over the prestigious (basketball in particular) and challenging (hello, Bob Knight) Indiana University beat.
I was The Star's columnist at the time. Hutch, my former friendly rival, was now my colleague, so now I had to endure – on a regular basis – road trips, press box adjoining seats and most of all, Hutch's non-stop efforts to poke fun, make fun, wise crack and wise ass.
As both a practical and impractical joker, he was really, really good at it. And no one – no one – could escape.
He always called me "Billy" and he was always trying to set me up, offering up some preposterous take with such I-swear-it's-true honesty that eventually I'd fall for the ruse ... and then he'd let me know much to his delight and laughter that he'd won another one.
"Billy, got you again."
Damn you, Hutch.
But when he wasn't joking, he was working. Hutch wrote and reported his butt off.
And he was good: Indiana's sportswriter of the year five times.
His dedication to the craft extended to books. For a guy like me who labored to extend an essay beyond the column length of 800 words or so, I marveled at Hutch's ability as the full-fledged author of no fewer than 11 books. They ranged from lighthearted children's tomes to a heart-wrenching capture of the life and career of Indiana football coach Terry Hoeppner, who succumbed to brain cancer just when it seemed he'd turned around the long-struggling IU football program.
Hutch also shared his journalistic talents with young wanna-be scribes, serving as an adjunct sports journalism professor at the IU School of Journalism at IUPUI in Indianapolis.
After I left The Star in 2001, our journalistic interactions diminished.
Yet I had the good fortune to keep up with his writings because, of course, everyone read Hutch's work in The Star and later for Scout.com.
But I also kept contact personally. Hutch and I both attended the same Catholic church in suburban Indianapolis, where he was a faithful (pun intended) baritone presence in the 11 a.m. choir.
Yep, Hutch could sing, too, both in the choir and in the annual nativity enactment and in church plays. And his voice was a forum for his strong faith, along with his dedication as a coach to the church's CYO program.
Hutch had a huge heart. Presented a $5,000 check for winning a writing contest sponsored by the Big Ten Network, Hutch didn't splurge it on himself. Instead, he in turn presented it to the local ALS Association in memory of his father, who died of ALS.
On another occasion, a youngster showed up at one of his book signings. Hutch struck up a conversation with the lad and then said, how'd you like to be a character in my next book? And sure enough, in his next children's book, there was a character based on the boy.
Former IU basketball player Todd Leary knew first-hand of Hutch's compassion. Leary went from doing color commentary on the IU radio network to being sentenced to a one-year prison term for misappropriation of funds. Hutch vowed to be with Leary through his darkest days and religiously visited Leary every two weeks until his release. He didn't do it for a story. He did it to be a friend.
Finally, Hutch was an amazing husband to his beloved Susan and a proud father to sons Kevin and Bryan.
We lost him suddenly, tragically last December. The tributes poured in. The church was filled for his service. The reception following the funeral Mass was filled with person after person taking the stage to recount story after story about Hutch's skills, wit, compassion, heart, service.
That he is the recipient of the USBWA's Jim O'Connell Award for Excellence in Beat Reporting is a tribute to both Terry and Oc.
And all of us Hoosiers sure miss that gangly, goofy, and most notably, Ex-Californian.
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