When he took over local UA basketball television color commentator duties in 2009-10, Corey Williams was understandably apprehensive.
Not only was he new to the business but he was replacing Bob Elliott – a friend of play-by-play man Dave Sitton and former UA basketball star.
He needed not worry. He was joining Sitton, after all.
“I can’t really describe how open Dave was to teach me everything about the business,” Williams said. “There wasn’t any type of orientation or training, but Dave took me and really helped. There was no question I couldn’t ask him. And he had no cause to do it. He could have given me the cold shoulder as Bob’s replacement, but he didn’t at all. He was very encouraging. I’ll never forget what type of friend Dave was.”
Sitton, who has died at age 58, and Williams came to know each other well during the idle time of UA basketball trips. They also began to needle each other, once before working a UA-USC game at the Galen Center.
“He made fun of the fact I had never really seen Los Angeles,” said Williams, who played for the Wildcats in the 1990s. “I had been several times but it was always airport-hotel-arena. I never really knew Los Angeles. So we rented a car and drove everywhere – Dodger Stadium, Hollywood, Santa Monica Pier, Long Beach – for five hours. We went through a whole tank of gas.”
Sitton, of course, had not just an impact on local sports but also cancer. He was the UA Cancer Center's director of marketing and a cancer survivor himself, and never hesitated to help those stricken by it.
Williams said Sitton quickly reached out to Williams' father, who survived a bout with lymphoma nearly two years ago.
"Dave stayed with me at a rough time," Williams said. "He called my dad and offered him advice, told him what to expect. When somebody you don’t know offers to help, how can you not like that person?"
Former UA coach Lute Olson knew Sitton as a basketball broadcaster, when Sitton fought cancer himself and when Sitton worked with the UA Cancer Center. Olson said he had weekly meetings with Sitton when Sitton was marketing director for the UA Cancer Center and Olson was a part-time ambassador for the UA Foundation.
“I don’t think there’s anybody in Tucson that did as much for charity as what Dave did,” Olson said. “He was always the kind of guy that if you needed something, you could call Dave, and he’d know somebody who could help you get things done.
"He’s a great guy and I think the community will really miss him.”
Olson's words were true to those of us in the media, too. Several times while digging into stories, I've needed a recommendation for a contact, a phone number or an opinion -- and called Sitton. He always did come through.
And when Williams says people used to tell him that “you couldn’t meet Dave and not come away with energy,” that was true, too.
The last time I saw Sitton, I was seated next to him on one of those 22-minute Phoenix-Tucson flights last spring. I often read on those flights, since they're too short to pop open a computer, but wasn't about to do so that time. Dave was too interesting.
I don't remember what we talked about exactly -- a little rugby, a lot of basketball, some travel stuff, maybe -- but I do remember leaving the plane in a good mood.