No doubt most of the people at the event knew Lacy more as a preacher than as a sportswriter. As one of the speakers said (and I am paraphrasing), sportswriting was what he did, but preaching was who he was. We will miss his coverage, and also miss him as an advocate for more Huskie coverage with his editors. Mostly we will miss him as a person.
Lacy, the first African-American sportswriter at the Sun-Times, led quite a life. Renowned in Chicago and around the NBA for his coverage of the Bulls, as well as boxing, I believe he truly enjoyed covering the Huskies in recent years. I marveled as he took his seat in the press box with his heart pump, and told stories of his battles with a brain tumor, prostate cancer and heart failure, of how he would miss a couple weeks while going up to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota to make sure he was still in shape for the potential transplant. I tried to make sure he had a ride to and from his car in the media parking lot at Huskie Stadium and that he would not have to make the trek down to the postgame press conferences but would get quotes in the box. We all prayed he would get the call that his new heart was ready, but it did not come.
Joe and I reminisced about Lacy with Fred Mitchell of the Chicago Tribune today. No one could ask a question like Lacy. On the line by phone for our weekly press conferences, our players would smile whenever his turn to ask questions came. One week, during the player portion of the press conference, Lacy's unmistakable voice came through the phone "I would like to speak with the dynamic, the impeccable, the graceful, the athletic, the esteemed (pause)..." Pat Schiller pointed at Chandler Harnish, Chandler sat up a little straighter and grinned, obviously thinking that the question would be directed his way, "...Mr. Willie Clark." Everyone in the room smiled. You couldn't help it. That was the effect Lacy had. I think our players got as much from talking to Lacy as he learned for his stories. I wish they had known his background, known that they were talking to a part of history and that they were talking to a person who had battled more in his life than they ever would on a football field, faced down more adversity than they could imagine.
Lacy was very excited to cover our football game at Kansas, his alma mater, last year. He planned the trip for weeks, setting up credentials, making arrangements for parking near the stadium. He spent the entire following week re-visiting his alma mater. Fred said he knew that the trip was a highlight of his past year.
Everytime you called Lacy - whether at home or on his cell phone - you got his trademark greeting "God Bless You." As we say a fond farewell and pass along our heartfelt condolences to his family as well as his Sun-Times family, Lacy, God Bless You.