Hot Rod Hundley Dies ; Charleston High, WVU, NBA Star Was 80

By Atkinson, Tommy R. | The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV), March 28, 2015 | Go to article overview

Hot Rod Hundley Dies ; Charleston High, WVU, NBA Star Was 80


Atkinson, Tommy R., The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV)


Rod "Hot Rod" Hundley, a Charleston native and West Virginia University men's basketball icon, died Friday night. Hundley, who turned 80 in October, was battling Alzheimer's disease. The National Basketball Association's Utah Jazz confirmed Hundley's passing, telling the Associated Press that the team's former play- by-play announcer died at his home in the Phoenix area. Hundley, who played for the Minneapolis and Los Angeles Lakers, broadcast 3,051 Jazz games from 1974-2009.

"I am saddened by the news of the passing of my longtime friend, Rod Hundley, NBA Hall of Famer and Chelyan native Jerry West said in a statement. "I first met Rod when I was 18 and he encouraged me to attend West Virginia University. We were Laker teammates and never lost contact.

"Rod was not only a great basketball player, but one of the best play-by-play announcers in the game. He will be missed by all those he touched through his legendary career as will his colorful story- telling.

Hundley returned to Charleston in December, when the YMCA of the Kanawha Valley renamed its gym the Hot Rod Hundley Gymnasium, with Charleston Mayor Danny Jones declaring the day "Hot Rod Hundley Day." Hundley also was honored the next day, at halftime of the annual WVU-Marshall game at the Civic Center.

"There will never be another one like the Hot Rod," said Nemo Nearman, a longtime friend of Hundley and fellow standout at Charleston High School in the 1940s. "There's only one Hot Rod Hundley. We called him the original. He delighted thousands and thousands, and maybe millions of people with not only his basketball, but his personality.

"He was everyone's friend. He was certainly a terrific representative for the state of West Virginia. Once you knew Rod, you always knew him.

"I knew all about his physical problems, but I thought he'd be around with us for a while. That wasn't Rod Hundley, not the last year."

WVU men's basketball coach Bob Huggins took to Twitter to express his condolences Friday.

"West Virginia lost a dear friend today as Hot Rod Hundley has passed away. He will be dearly missed. Rod not only was a friend of WVU, but a dear friend to our basketball program. I will miss him very much. RIP Hot Rod.

Charleston City Councilman Andy Richardson, who was instrumental in the renaming of the YMCA of Kanawha Valley's gym for Hundley, had become a close friend of Hundley's the last few years.

"I understood that he deteriorated considerably since he was here in December," Richardson said. "We gave him a special day, didn't we? My heart is heavy as are so many Charlestonians and West Virginians. We've lost one of our own and one of the greatest ambassadors for our state.

"Despite the frailties that he faced, I was able to communicate pretty effectively with him. We would talk occasionally on the phone even if he wasn't in Charleston. We laughed together and had the common bond of Charleston High School and West Virginia University.

"He loved the city. I really think if it hadn't been for a number of different families that took him in and cared for him, and the YMCA being a safe place for him to go ... it changed his life. He could have very easily been a wandering child of the streets and faced a much, much different life than he did."

Hundley honed his skills at the YMCA, earning the nickname "Hot Rod" for his dribbling antics and daredevil maneuvers at WVU while becoming one of the state's most beloved and celebrated basketball heroes. …

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