Always A Sun Devil

April 9, 2003

Netitor note: Larry Campbell was the offical scorer of ASU men's and women's basketball for more than two decades before passing away on March 7. He was known as the best in the business. Brian Gomez writes about Larry, who was remembered last night at the men's basketball banquet with a moment of silence.

By Brian Gomez,

If you had the distinct pleasure of being associated with Larry Campbell, you know he was a man who wore many hats.

He was a companion. He was a citizen. He was a neighbor. He was a counselor. He was a mentor. He was a researcher. He was a teacher. He was a coach. He was an official scorekeeper. He was a believer. He was a Christian. And, perhaps, above all else, he was a family man.

Campbell died March 7 at his home at the age of 63. His passing not only caused a sense of sadness within the Arizona State athletic department, but it also has resulted in a similar feeling throughout the entire Tempe community.

Campbell was the type of person who lived his life to the fullest, whether he was spending time with relatives, teaching a history class at Tempe Corona del Sol High School or keeping score at a Sun Devil basketball game. That's why not a single day has passed without someone shedding a tear, feeling heartache or recalling a vivid memory of 'a life well lived,' the centraltheme earlier this week at Campbell's funeral.

'No matter where Larry and I went together, we would run into someone whose life he had impacted,' said Jon Gale, the husband of Carrie Gale, one of Campbell's two daughters. 'As I think about Larry being in heaven, I know exactly what Jesus said to Larry. Jesus said, 'Coach, well done my good and faithful servant, well done my good and faithful servant.''

Having lived a life packed with overwhelming goodness along every step of the way, Campbell epitomized what it meant to be a Christian. He regularly attended the Arizona Community Church, a place where hundreds of people congregated Tuesday night to bid farewell to a man who had touched their hearts not only with his kind spirit, but also with his subtle humor thatoften went unnoticed.

Campbell's friends and family shared stories of the good times that shaped the life of a person known as much for his raised eyebrow and infectious smile as he was for his meager toolbox that included only two screwdrivers, a hammer and a pair of rusty pliers. They also talked about Campbell's lackluster golf game, which consisted of several trips to the rough and morethan one left-handed slice out of bounds.

Every sobbing moment was matched by one filled with laughs and lighthearted sighs. There were more stories told of Campbell in a two-hour service than some people experience in an entire lifetime.

'My dad gave away his heart a piece at a time to everyone he loved, but he saved the biggest piece for his wife and the ones he loved,' said Laurie Lange, Campbell's other daughter. 'He was the source of all wisdom. I believe he had the answer to every question I ever asked.'

Campbell was born on Oct. 3, 1939 in a small house in Farmington, N.M., to Idris and Wouida Campbell. He had one sister, Shirleen Johnston, and two brothers, Tommy Campbell and the late Glenn Campbell.

'This child was initially called an accident,' family spokesperson Sammy Campbell said. 'Larry Waid Campbell was the best accident that ever happened to the Campbell family.'

Campbell's love for sports initially developed when he was 14 years old. His older brother, Tommy, took him to the 1954 Rose Bowl, a game played between UCLA and Michigan State in Pasadena, Calif.

It didn't take long for Campbell to develop a competitive flair as a teenager. He often wrestled with his brothers in the living room of his grandmother's house.

But as time went on, Campbell matured and put an end to his childish habits before enrolling in college. Campbell attended Texas Tech, where he earned his undergraduate degree in 1961 and completed his Masters degree in political science two years later.

In 1962, Campbell married Jane Anthony, a junior at Texas Tech. The couple was due to celebrate their 41st wedding anniversary on March 24.

Campbell worked on his doctorate degree for a year before joining the staff of former Corona boys basketball head coach Sammy Duane. During his time with Duane in Farmington, Campbell developed a passion for coaching and an even greater desire to teach.

'He intended to go to law school, but he changed his mind at the last minute,' Jane Campbell said. 'He met me and I didn't want to drop out of school.'

After moving to the Valley in 1967, Campbell reunited with Duane as an assistant coach at Tempe High. He left to take over the head coaching position at McClintock, but eventually wound up enduring a third stint as an assistant to Duane at Corona.

Campbell and Duane meshed during their time together on the sidelines, despite their sharp contrasts in coaching styles and their different philosophies on what types of defenses to run. Campbell (man-to-man) was a diligent organizer, while Duane (zone) didn't care all that much forpreparation.

Duane spoke of one of the few times Campbell lost his temper during a game. Corona was locked in a close contest at Winslow, which had a floor covered with multiple lines in every which direction.

One of Corona's players was dribbling the ball beyond the perimeter when a referee under the basket blew his whistle and called a backcourt violation. Knowing that his player didn't step over the center-court line, Campbell voiced his displeasure as the official headed back up court.

'Larry yelled at the guy who was coming across, and he said, 'You were under the basket, that's not your call,' and the guy just kept walking,' Duane said. 'And then Larry yelled at him again, 'That is not your call.' By this time now, the referee was almost in front of Larry, and Larry said, 'I said, that was not your call.' The referee just turned to Larry, and said, 'Well, this one is,' and he hit him with a technical foul.'

While Campbell played a major role in Corona's success on the basketball court, he had an even bigger impact in the classroom and in the community. As the chairman of Corona's history department, he forever changed the lives of his students.

Campbell was seen as a strict disciplinarian who always held his students accountable, but he also was genuine enough to convey his teachings. He was the consummate professional, however, he managed to have fun at the same time.

'He was very well liked by the students,' Corona American history teacher Lowell Brown said. 'He seemed to get along with everybody and he knew how to treat each kid as an individual, as somebody important. He had a very good judge of character, so he could tell a student's strengths and weaknesses and teach in accordance with that.'

Campbell completely retired last spring after teaching only two classes per day for the previous four semesters. He left the Tempe Union High School District once and for all with 34 years of teaching to his credit.

'I used to think there were only two kinds of people until I met Larry,' said Jim Murphy, Campbell's longtime friend. 'Those who believed the cup was half empty and those who believed the cup was half full. I found that Larry's cup was overflowing.'

Campbell was an active member in the Tempe Sister Cities Organization. He also served as president of the Tempe Historical Society.

Campbell paid close attention to detail in nearly everything he did in life, so it only seemed natural that he would become a scorekeeper. While working as the official scorekeeper for ASU's men's and women's basketball teams for 24 years and as a spotter for the Sun Devil football team and the Arizona Cardinals, Campbell established a name for himself as one of the best in thebusiness.

Campbell was good at what he did, simply because of his love for the game. He made a complex job seem as easy as riding a bike thanks to his careful vision and his keen awareness.

'There were many times over the years where he would catch an error and he would have to notify the officials on the floor and they would get it straightened out,' ASU Assistant Athletic Director Mark Brand said. 'That's why he was the best, because he was so on top of everything and he knew the rules.'

Campbell's primary duties as a basketball scorekeeper included keeping track of each player's number of points and fouls, as well as the possession arrow and the number of timeouts for both teams. His diligence helped ASU's scorer's table become regarded as the best in the Pac-10.

'He was the official book, so he had to double-check and triple-check everything,' Pac-10 basketball observer Bruce Frank said. 'He had to have a good eye and he had to be able to concentrate on the game. There were other resources to help him, but when you start getting help and when the basketball just keeps going, you could get in trouble.'

Since he started keeping score for the Sun Devil men's basketball team in the 1979-1980 season, Campbell watched seven different head coaches pass through the program, including the legendary Ned Wulk. He saw a dozen players complete their collegiate careers and move on to the NBA, the most notable of which were Alton Lister, Lafayette Lever and Byron Scott.

ASU made five NCAA Tournament appearances (including 2003) and eight trips to the National Invitational Tournament with Campbell keeping the records. The Sun Devils were ranked as high as No. 3 in the nation when he sat on the coveted hot seat.

In the early 1990s, Campbell did something very few people can lay claim to, something most diehard Sun Devil fans probably dream of doing. He angered Arizona head coach Lute Olson.

'ASU was playing UA and one of UA's players didn't check in at the scorer's table like he was supposed to, so Larry buzzed the official to stop play,' said Jeff Scott, ASU's public address announcer. 'The official came over, and Larry said, 'That player didn't report,' and they said he couldn't report because he didn't check in. Lute Olson went over to the official, and said, 'In all my years of coaching, nobody has ever called that, ever.' Every single year since then before every game when UA came into Tempe to play, he would signal over to Larry and he would say, 'Make sure you check in with him, otherwise they'll buzz you.' '

Not many people can remember the last time Campbell missed a game before he stayed home from last week's meeting against Oregon because he wasn't feeling well. Campbell died of a pulmonary embolism the following morning.

A moment of silence was held before the season finale versus Oregon State. A striped official's jersey with the name 'Campbell' printed on the back was hung from the scorer's table and Campbell's seat was left empty during the game.

'It was devastating for us because we had just seen him a few weeks before,' Sun Devil men's basketball head coach Rob Evans said. 'It was a very uneasy feeling for us to have lost somebody that we knew so well.'

Those wishing to share their remembrances and encouragement can write notes to the Campbell family. Please mail them to Jane Campbell & Family, 131 East Secretariat, Tempe, AZ 84284.

Flowers may be sent to the Arizona Community Church. Donations can be made to the Tempe Sister Cities Organization.

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