Bill Benner didn’t know what to make of a text message from CBS analyst Seth Davis.
“I said, ‘If it’s the real Seth Davis, I’ll call you back,’” Benner said.
Davis, the U.S. Basketball Writers Association president, delivered good news, telling the longtime Geist resident that he had been named to the 2021 U.S. Basketball Writers Association Hall of Fame class. Malcolm Moran, the USBWA executive director and Zionsville resident who has known Benner for several years, joined Davis on the call.
“I was emotional,” Benner said. “I was thrilled. I thanked Malcolm, especially, for having a long memory to remember when I was actually a daily basketball writer. Malcolm very kindly said he couldn’t believe I hadn’t been inducted already and it was an oversight.”
Benner, who was the USBWA president from 1998 to 1999, left the Indianapolis Star in 2001 after 33 years as a sports writer and columnist. He served as sports columnist at the Indianapolis Business Journal from 2001 to 2013.
“It’s a capstone on my career,” said Benner, who was inducted into the Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame in 2017.
Benner said it’s special to have peers look back at his body of work and highly regard it. As he looks on the names in the USBWA Hall of Fame, he is humbled.
“There are some sports writing giants in that Basketball Writers Hall of Fame,” he said.
The tentative plan is for the USBWA to conduct a virtual induction during the NCAA Men’s Final Four in Indianapolis this year and then hopefully honor the 2020, 2021 and 2022 inductees in person at the 2022 Final Four in New Orleans.
Benner, 72, retired in June 2020 as senior vice president for corporate, community and public relations for Pacers Sports & Entertainment and executive director of the Pacers Foundation.
Not completely retired, Benner hosts the “Inside Indiana Sports” segment on the statewide “Inside Indiana Business with Gerry Dick” television program.
Benner covered more than 20 NCAA Final Fours.
“I covered the (Olympic) Dream Team in Barcelona in 1992,” he said. “I’m proud of what I got to cover in terms of international basketball. I covered Brazil upsetting the U.S. in the Pan Am Games (in Indianapolis in 1987).”
Four years later, he went to Cuba as Purdue’s Gene Keady coached the U.S. Pan Am team. He covered three Olympics Games.
“I covered Damon (Bailey) when he won the high school championship in front of 41,000 (at the Hoosier Dome in 1990),” Benner said.
Covering the Indiana/Purdue rivalry when IU coach Bob Knight and Keady were at the controls was unparalleled.
“You can talk about Duke/North Carolina and Louisville/Kentucky, but when Knight and Keady were there, there was nothing like walking into Assembly Hall or Mackey Arena,” he said.
Benner chronicled when unbeaten Indiana won the NCAA title in 1976 and Keith Smart hit the shot to lift Indiana University to the 1987 NCAA championship. Another highlight was when Reggie Miller scored eight points in 8.9 seconds as the Indiana Pacers rallied to beat the host New York Knicks in a 1995 playoff game.
He covered the Pacers’ first game in Market Square Arena and was there for Indiana’s first and only trip to the NBA Finals in 2000.
Benner and his wife, Sherry, moved to Geist in 1988. Their daughters, Allison and Ashley, both graduated from Hamilton Southeastern High School