By: Kent Lowe
BATON ROUGE - LSU basketball great, athletics director, Converse salesman, longtime television analyst and National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame member Joe Dean died early Sunday in Baton Rouge at 83.
Visitation will be held on Tuesday from 6-8 p.m. at Rabenhorst Funeral Home (825 Government St.) in Baton Rouge. Funeral services will be Wednesday at 11 a.m. at First United Methodist Church (930 North Blvd.) followed by burial at Resthaven Gardens of Memory (11817 Jefferson Hwy.).
The family requests that, in lieu of flowers or gifts, donations be made to First United Methodist Church.
Few men have influenced the game of basketball as diversely as Dean. Born April 26, 1930, the New Albany, Ind., native was a two-time All-Southeastern Conference and three-time All-SEC Tournament Team member at LSU from 1949-52, and was drafted by the Indianapolis Olympians in 1952. He was an alternate on the 1956 U.S. Olympic team and played on the first U.S. team to tour Russia. Dean was named to LSU Basketball's All-Century Team in 2009.
Dean led the Tigers in scoring in 1950 and '51, and was second to fellow Hall of Famer Bob Pettit in 1952. In 1952, he became the second player to score 1,000 career points at LSU.
Dean not only loved the game of basketball, but had a unique talent of sharing that passion. As a promotions and marketing executive with the Converse Rubber Company, from 1959-87, he was an advocate not only for the Converse products but promoting the game wherever he traveled. Dean signed promotional contracts with the top coaches nationally, with numerous hall of fame players including Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, and was a highly sought speaker and clinician.
Dean died one day before the anniversary of his National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame induction. On Nov. 18, 2012, Dean was part of a 10-man class of players and contributors who entered the prestigious hall in Kansas City, joining Pettit and Pete Maravich as the only LSU representatives.
Beginning in 1987, Dean served his alma mater as director of athletics for 14 years, longer than any person in the history of the school. During his tenure, the athletics department donated more than $7 million to the academic side of the university and added more than $50 million in facility improvements. LSU won 27 national championships and 40 SEC titles during Dean's tenure.
Additionally, Dean served alongside former Voice of the Tigers the late John Ferguson and later Tom Hammond as the analyst for SEC basketball, starting on TVS and including such networks as NBC, Lorimar, ESPN, Turner Sports and Jefferson Pilot/Raycom from 1969-1987. There, he coined the legendary phrase "String Music" to describe a jump shot that swished the net. This catch phrase was passed on to his son, Birmingham-Southern Athletics Director Joe Dean Jr., who continues his father’s tradition on the SEC-TV broadcasts of the league.
In the summer of 2007, Dean was named the 18th most influential person in the history of the SEC by the Birmingham News. He was also chosen as one of the top voices in the history of the conference, placing seventh.
One of his most famous basketball teaching events, the Dixie Basketball Camp that he started just outside Baton Rouge in 1966, continues today as one of the oldest and most popular summer camps in America at Southwest Mississippi Community College in Summit, Miss., now under the direction of Joe Jr.
Along with the Naismith Hall of Fame, Dean is a member of the LSU Athletic Hall of Fame, the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.
Dean married the former Doris Kernan Hall of Marksville, La., in 1952 and the two were together for 50 years before her death. Dean is survived by his three children: Joe Jr., Mardi and Mark; eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Statement from former LSU Men’s Basketball Coach Dale Brown:
“The summation of anyone’s life is a most difficult task. Now I hope I do justice to a man I loved very much, Joe Dean.
“He was a man filled with energy, ideas, business ethics, motivation, candor, a tireless spirit and a deep quest to live life fully. His love of LSU was immense and he was so proud to be its Athletics Director. Behind his gruff voice, and impatience there was a very sensitive man that reached out and helped so many young coaches fulfill their dreams. I personally am eternally grateful to him for giving my name to LSU Athletics Director Carl Maddox as a possible candidate for the LSU Basketball position and for standing by my side during the highs and lows.
“James Naismith invented the game, but Joe promoted this game better than anyone in the history of the SEC and was highly respected by tons of people in the world of sports. Now, ‘Mr. String Music’ is gone, but anyone that knew him intimately will never forget his spirit and tenacity.”
"The years I spent with Joe were magical. Broadcasting the games was special, but traveling the back roads of the South together created lasting memories. Joe would share stories from his colorful past in the way that only he could spin a yarn and our discussions would eventually wind up on two of our shared passions: basketball and Thoroughbred racing. We bonded into great friends. From his playing days, to his Converse years, broadcasting and athletic administration, he was one of the legendary characters in Southeastern Conference history. I'll miss him....and it won't be the same without seeing him in his spot at the Kentucky Derby every year."
- longtime broadcast partner Tom Hammond
“There are people that you meet in your life that have a profound effect on the direction that you take in your own life. Joe Dean was one of those individuals that sent me on a path that I never would have experienced. He had the ability to influence others in a positive way and to provide help when those less fortunate needed a helping hand. He loved life and lived it to its fullest.”
- Larry Conley, who worked with Dean on SEC broadcasts and succeeded him as lead SEC analyst when Joe became LSU's AD
“Joe Dean’s influence on the SEC has been profound on many levels because of his involvement as a student-athlete, alumnus, athletic director and broadcaster. His signature ‘String Music’ is synonymous with SEC basketball and he has been a fixture at our basketball tournament for many years. His presence will be missed, but his impact will live on for many of us in the SEC for years to come.”
- SEC Commissioner Mike Slive
"The popularity of SEC basketball exploded in the early-80s due to many factors. Coaches like Dale Brown, Wimp Sanderson, Hugh Durham, Sonny Smith and Norm Sloan tirelessly promoted the game and were blessed with unique personalities that the fans loved and, sometimes, opponents hated. The league's schools started putting money into the sport, building new facilities and arenas second to none. An equal factor in the growth of SEC basketball was television, and, by extension, SEC basketball television's main face, Joe Dean. Beginning with the 1983-84 season, SEC basketball went from having 1-2 telecasts per week to 4-5 per week. I was lucky enough to be the executive producer of the regional SEC basketball television package during this time and saw firsthand the impact Joe had on our product. He was much more than the primary color analyst on the package. He was a showman, an entertainer, who promoted the league endlessly, both on the air and off. Fans gravitated to him and his signature phrase, "String Music" -- radio stations had Joe Dean sound alike contests. An era ended in 1987 when Joe gave up TV to become athletics director at LSU. Joe has been a mentor and professional father figure to me for 30 years. I will miss him greatly.”
- Jimmy Rayburn, Chief Operating Officer for Raycom Sports, broadcaster of SEC basketball packages
"It’s rare that you have one person in your life who was a boss, mentor and close friend. That’s what Joe Dean was to me. He always had time for me regardless of the situation. He was truly a great man whom I loved very much. I’m sure I join many people when I say he will be greatly missed."
- Former LSU Football coach Gerry DiNardo
“I can't think of anyone that impacted intercollegiate sports on more platforms than Joe Dean. A great player, teacher, entrepreneur, broadcaster, and administrator. He taught me that the business of sports was more than just understanding the game. Joe inspired many in the business world, as well as sports broadcasting. The greatest ambassador for college basketball the SEC ever had. God Bless Mr. Dean and his family. It was an honor working with his son Joe on SEC Basketball simply because I knew his Dad would be watching. Joe Jr., will keep the memory of his father alive for many years to come. Sounds like, walks like and lives as his father did. Proud to say I was touched early on in my career by advice given from one of the all-time greats, Joe Dean Sr."
- Tim Brando, CBS Sports