Wes Durham talks with his father Woody Durham prior to the North Carolina vs. Georgia Tech football game on September 10, 2004 in Atlanta, Ga. Wes Durham called the game for the Georgia Tech radio network, and Woody for the North Carolina network. Robert Willett rwillett@newsobserver.com
Wes Durham talks with his father Woody Durham prior to the North Carolina vs. Georgia Tech football game on September 10, 2004 in Atlanta, Ga. Wes Durham called the game for the Georgia Tech radio network, and Woody for the North Carolina network. Robert Willett rwillett@newsobserver.com

Luke DeCock

In wake of father's death, Wes Durham stays on the air: 'This is the place I need to be'

By Luke DeCock

ldecock@newsobserver.com

March 07, 2018 04:08 PM

New York

Amid the flurry of phone calls, texts and emails that bombarded Wes Durham on Wednesday in the hours after his father's death, there was one message that resonated above all else.

“My mom said this morning, 'You're exactly where you need to be,' ” Durham said.

The son of legendary UNC broadcaster Woody Durham, who died early Wednesday morning at age 76, Wes Durham will put aside his bereavement to call the two evening ACC tournament games on the ACC Network, including the emotional late game between North Carolina and Syracuse.

The son of a broadcaster could see no better way to honor the memory of his father, but that's how Woody wanted it anyway. He told his wife Jean a few weeks ago that no matter what, Wes needed to be in Brooklyn. He was already going to accept the ACC's Bob Bradley Spirit and Courage Award on behalf of his father Wednesday night, in honor of Woody Durham's battle against aphasia, but that award takes on new meaning and there will now be a moment of silence as well.

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That was all planned. No one could expect North Carolina to end up in the late game to the accompaniment of a Durham voice, on this day of all days.

“The irony is, I get Carolina," Wes Durham said. "I get Carolina on the day he died. Lot of craziness in that, isn't it?"

ACC Network statistician and UNC basketball historian Fred Kiger wrote a tribute to Woody that will air at the beginning of the broadcast. Wes Durham watched it, in private, when he arrived at the arena Wednesday afternoon. But he won't watch it when it airs live.

“I could see it live and probably be OK, but I don't want to roll those dice,” Wes Durham said. "I don't want to gamble."

Video: Wes Durham talks about his dad’s preparation and his ability to memorize the depth charts for opposing football teams, traveling with his father to football games, and the tools he learned and uses today in his broadcasting career.

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The ACC tournament holds special meaning for Wes Durham anyway. Watching his father's painstaking preparation to call all eight or nine games of the tournament, back when all the team radio broadcasts did such a thing, was part of Wes Durham's inspiration to follow his father into the business. The plan, for both the family and the ACC Network, was always for Wes to stay in Brooklyn if this day came.

When the day did come, there was no second-guessing.

“I'm more convinced today than I was yesterday that this is the place I need to be,” Durham said.

Sports columnist Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock