Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Dean of Interesting Syracuse Players

One of the things I have greatly enjoyed over the years with researching for the OrangeHoops site is uncovering some of the interesting lives that Syracuse basketball players have lived away from basketball. There are many atop my own personal list of ‘most interesting’, including the well known Jim Brown and Dave Bing, along with Jim Konstanty, Wilbur Crisp, Wilmeth Sidat-Singh, Warren Stevens, and Beal Banks, among others.

However, I think the most interesting life, particularly from the perspective of diversity, has to be that of Rick Dean. Dean was a physical player the Orangemen in the 1960s, teaming with Dave Bing, Jim Boeheim and George Hicker. The Orangemen were a short squad during that era, with Dean leading the way at 6’6”. Coach Fred Lewis had the Orangemen running a fast pace tempo, of which Dean was a part.

Dean’s basketball style alone would seem somewhat a conflict in stereotypes. He was a burly physical center, who often scored on layups, and as a result had a high field goal percentage. But he was also a very good free throw shooter, hitting 81% of his charity shots his junior year. He would be recognized as an Honorable Mention All American his senior year, along with a 2nd Team Academic All-American status.

Dean was drafted by both the NBA (San Francisco Warriors) and ABA (Denver Nuggets) upon graduating in 1967. He had however, been the top ROTC Cadet at Syracuse University, and chose instead to enlist in the Army Infantry and to serve in the Vietnam war.

Dean would be a platoon leader in the 101st Airborne Division, and would earn both a Silver Star and a Bronze Star for his actions in the war. He would remain in the military until 1970, rising to the rank of captain.

Dean then pursued a career in federal law enforcement, working for the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) for three years. He would make a sharp career change from there, entering the education field as an administrator and basketball coach. He would work for the North Carolina public school systems for 20 years in this capacity, along the way earning his masters degree from Appalachian State in 1979.

So what does a gentleman who has been an All-American athlete, Vietnam war hero, Federal Agent, and high school administrator/coach do for an encore?

Upon retiring for the North Carolina school systems, Rick Dean became an ordained Methodist minister, and has been the head pastor at Higgins Memorial United Methodist Church in Burnsville, NC, ever since.

Some day I may come around to naming my top 5 or top 10 all-time favorite interesting Syracuse basketball players. However, I’ll ruin the suspense for #1, for I will have Rick Dean in that position.