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Sunday, April 2, 2023

Benner gave it everything and we’re all better for it

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It seems like only yesterday rather than many years ago that he was questioning me about my preference for a good opinion editorial as opposed to a game recap.

He never gave an inch when l wrote something he felt was overly critical of the Indiana Pacers and he had a canny way of telling me why l was wrong as he did on occasion.

I needled him constantly about attending Center Grove High School as opposed to my alma mater Greenwood, and we shared a passion for dogs, cookies from Taylor’s Bakery, and our beloved friend Wilson B. York who inspired us both.

David R. Benner left this crazy world last week but not before conducting a master lesson on how one can combine style, grace, and dignity with a sense of humor as intregal parts of their persona and utilize it to both lead and inspire others.

He was a journalist first and foremost and a perfect hire by the Pacers after a impressive career at the Indianapolis Star where he produced tons of good copy with the likes of fellow scribes Robin Miller, and his brother Bill Benner who also at the time was part of one of the best sports newsrooms in America.

David took his work seriously with the Pacers and always went the extra mile to protect players and for that they respected him. No matter how ridiculous a player had been, they knew Benner had both the recommended quote and their back. When they strayed away too far, he knew how to reel them in, and he wasn’t afraid to tell a player when they were not handling their media obligations professionally.

He led his colleagues admirably and fairly, and as a group they were honored multiple times by the National Basketball Association for being the best in the business.

One might say his greatest talent was dealing with individuals like myself who were always looking to stir the pot by debating their different points of view with him on an array of subjects ranging from the somewhat outrageous off court behavior of certain players, media seating assignments, locker room etiquette, and my personal favorite, one Larry Bird.

Through it all he was calm (unless you angered him) always polite, and incredibly loyal to the organization he loved so much. He loved the Pacers and over time, fostered sound professional relationships and personal friendships all over the NBA.

He continued to spit in the face of cancer until his final day and set the gold standard for both decorum and the ability to handle anything at anytime pertaining to his job.

I drove him nuts at times and he wasn’t shy about telling me,
but we shared an admiration for Donnie Walsh, Larry Brown, the late George Irvine, and his love for Reggie Miller was both genuine and well chronicled.

More than anything l owed him tremendously and while l told him that from time to time, l probably should of done it more frequently. The last time l saw him was a couple of months ago when the Golden State Warriors were in town to battle his beloved Pacers.

We talked, laughed a bit and went our separate ways.

He was the definition of class, and l often found myself striving to both win his approval and behave myself, which he would have told you is a full-time endeavor for yours truly each and every day.

I’ll miss him but l’m grateful for all the interactions we had.

He was arguably one of the finest human beings l’ve ever met and he touched more people than he ever could’ve realized, including this pain in his back side who respected him immensely and admired the way he was coveted by both his peers and players.

Rest easy Brother Benner.

Danny Bridges who wants to be like Benner when he finally grows up, can be reached at (317) 370-8447 or at bridgeshd@aol.com.

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