As a rabid basketball fan, John McNamara embraced the Veterans Classic.
McNamara wholeheartedly supported the event created by Navy head coach Ed DeChellis because it brought big-time basketball to Annapolis.
To further support the Veterans Classic, McNamara covered the opening game in 2015, 2016 and 2017 even though he was no longer working as a sportswriter for Capital Gazette. McNamara, who worked in The Capital sports department for 24 years, had been named editor of the Bowie Blade newspaper in 2015.
“John loved basketball so much that, outside of his normal hours and outside his normal duties, he stepped up and covered the opening game of the Veterans Classic every year,” former Capital Gazette sports editor Gerry Jackson said.
McNamara was particularly excited about this year’s Veterans Classic after it was announced that host Navy would take on Maryland in the nightcap of the doubleheader. McNamara was the resident historian about local college basketball and knew very well the schools had not met on the hardwood since the famous 1985 NCAA Tournament game featuring legendary figures Len Bias (Maryland) and David Robinson (Navy).
Sadly, McNamara will not be in attendance on Friday night when the Maryland-Navy rivalry resumes at Alumni Hall in Annapolis. The 56-year-old Silver Spring resident was killed during the June 28 assault on the Capital Gazette newsroom.
McNamara will be remembered on Friday night as CBS Sports Network will air a short documentary about his life and career during the Veterans Classic broadcast. Additionally, the Naval Academy athletic department will pay tribute to McNamara by leaving a seat vacant along press row in his honor.
Navy included recognition of McNamara and the other four staffers slain during the June 28 attack in the Veterans Classic program that will be distributed to fans. It includes the Annapolis Strong logo and all five names of those killed – John McNamara, Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters.
“Tonight we remember all members of the Annapolis Capital staff who lost their lives on June 28, 2018, especially John McNamara, who worked for the paper for over two decades as a sportswriter and editor. The 1983 graduate of Maryland covered the Terrapins regularly, wrote game stories for the Capital during the 2015, 2016 and 2017 Veterans Classics and surely would have been in attendance at this year’s edition of the event.”
That statement will be read by the public address announcer during the first media timeout of the Navy-Maryland game and McNamara in particular will be recognized with his photo appearing on the scoreboard.
CBS Sports is televising the Veterans Classic for the fourth straight year and felt it was appropriate to include a tribute to McNamara as part of the broadcast. A four-minute documentary piece about McNamara will air during the studio show that will be held in between the Wichita State-Providence and Maryland-Navy games.
David Brand produced the piece, which features interviews with the aforementioned Jackson and other Capital Gazette sports staff members, former Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams and Andrea Chamblee, McNamara’s widow.
McNamara covered Maryland basketball for both the Capital Gazette and the Prince George’s Journal throughout the 22-year tenure of Williams.
“Maryland was big with John. He kept it kind of under his sports coat a little bit, but it was big that he was a Maryland graduate and he really liked covering the Terps,” said Williams, who attended McNamara’s funeral at the University of Maryland Chapel.
Brand did all the leg work for the documentary on behalf of the CBS Sports Network – traveling from New York to Maryland multiple times to interview various subjects about McNamara. Brand expertly weaves the interviews with photos of McNamara while also telling the story of what happened on that tragic day of June 28.
Considering the reporter’s connection to the Veterans Classic, CBS Sports felt it was highly appropriate to put together this short documentary video about McNamara’s life and work.
“I think the impressive thing is how much John loved college basketball and loved the Veterans Classic. John recognized what a great event it was and wanted to be there,” said Emilie Deutsch, vice president of original programming and features for CBS Sports.
“This is our way of thanking John for his many years of great work covering college basketball,” Deutsch added. “David did a great job with the piece and I think the underlying theme was John’s devotion – to his wife, to the newspaper and to the community that he covered.”
CBS Sports will be airing an in-depth documentary about the 2018 Veterans Classic on Thursday, Nov. 22 and it will include the tribute piece about McNamara.