Kansas City Star sports reporter Blair Kerkhoff, a past president of the United States Basketball Writers Association who is covering his 25th NCAA Final Four, was inducted into the USBWA Hall of Fame on Monday.
Kerkhoff’s insightful style has graced The Star since 1989, when he began covering University of Kansas athletics and his byline appeared for the first of 10,000-plus times in the paper and later on KansasCity.com.
It was The Star’s fortune to get Kerkhoff, who came to Kansas City figuring he could find work as his wife, Karen, started a job in the area. She was in Houston for the ceremony.
Basketball emerged as Kerkhoff’s greatest passion by the time he was going to the same high school Pete Maravich had attended in Raleigh, N.C. But following David Thompson and N.C. State in the 1970s led Kerkhoff to take notes on games he watched and write up stories to see how they compared with what he’d see in the local newspapers the next day.
His contributions to the game include five books and an advisory role with the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in Kansas City. But while Kerkhoff was recognized Monday for his work in basketball, his versatility is uncanny.
In the last year, he was immersed in the Royals and Chiefs beats as both teams made the playoffs and the Royals won the World Series. In asking a number of people to share thoughts about Kerkhoff over the last few weeks, many observations came up again and again:
From Star sports columnist Sam Mellinger: “Kindness … I’ve never seen him in a bad mood. Or, more accurately, I’ve never seen him where I thought he was in a bad mood. … One of those people I am literally happy to see every time I see him. … Funny. Honestly, one of the best and nicest people I’ve been lucky enough to know.”
From College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock: “Is there a more pleasant person in our business? A more hard-working person? A person with more insight? I doubt it.”
From USBWA Hall of Famer Steve Wieberg, formerly of USA Today and now with the Kansas City Public Library: “He makes me feel inferior. Even now, nearly four years since I left journalism.
“The respect he engenders, both from local and national colleagues and those he covers, speaks to the depth of his knowledge, the thoughtfulness with which he writes and his complete professionalism. I’ve never seen him angry. I’ve never heard him bad-mouth anyone.
“The Star, and Kansas City, couldn’t have a better ambassador.”