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MacMullan is named Gowdy Award winner

By Chad Finn
Globe Staff / May 12, 2010

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Jackie MacMullan estimates she’s been involved for “four or five years’’ in helping select the Basketball Hall of Fame’s Curt Gowdy Media Award winners, which are chosen annually at this time of year.

So she had been expecting a call from the Hall of Fame. Just not the one that came yesterday afternoon.

MacMullan, the longtime Globe basketball writer, columnist, and current correspondent, was informed by a Hall representative that she is one of two Gowdy Award honorees this year, along with Cleveland Cavaliers radio play-by-play voice Joe Tait.

The awards are presented to members of the media who made a significant contribution to basketball.

“I’m speechless really,’’ said MacMullan, the Globe’s Celtics beat writer from 1989-95 and a columnist from 2000-08. “It’s such a great group of people to be associated with. I’ve actually been involved in this process helping pick who wins this, and the names that always came across were so impressive. David DuPree, Jack McCallum, obviously Bob Ryan, Mark Heisler, all these people that I looked up to for 20 years. It was fun to be part of the process. So to actually be selected . . . it’s pretty humbling.’’

And to hear her tell it, completely unexpected.

“It’s funny, I was thinking the other day, ‘Wow, we should be [selecting the honorees] pretty soon, because we usually do it during the playoffs,’’ she said. “We usually do a conference call, I was thinking I’d call and find out when it is when I had some time. So [voting on the award] actually went through my mind the other day, but I never expected this.’’

MacMullan is the first woman to be honored in the award’s 21-year existence. “I think anyone in the business would tell you they’re not thinking about that [being a female sportswriter] when you’re working, because you’re just trying not to get your head kicked in and have someone beat you on a story,’’ she said. “I never really gave that part of it that much thought, but it is wonderful to be the first in. There are a lot of great women that covered the NBA. I probably just hung around a little longer than most.’’

She began working at the Globe in 1982 after graduating from the University of New Hampshire. During her career, which also includes a stint at Sports Illustrated (1995-2000), various and continued contributions to ESPN, and several successful books, most recently the New York Times bestseller “When The Game Was Ours,’’ a collaboration with Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, she has proved to be a role model and pioneer for aspiring female sportswriters.

But navigating the macho worlds of college and professional sports wasn’t always easy, particularly at the beginning, when she was almost always the lone female reporter in the locker room.

“I can remember covering the Big East tournament [in the early ’80s] with Lesley Visser, and there was a priest from St. John’s who must have been about 4-foot-11 — I had a foot on him — and he was just standing there and wouldn’t let us in. And while the colleges were actually worse, there were athletes who gave you a hard time. Bruce Hurst, who I became very friendly with later on when I was covering the Red Sox, gave me a really hard time. He was a Mormon and had to keep faith. Reggie White refused to talk to me in the locker room when he was with Green Bay. He said, ‘You’re a woman,’ and I said, ‘Yeah?’ and he said, ‘Well, I’m married.’ I said, ‘So am I. What does that have to do with anything?’ I didn’t get it, but he wouldn’t talk until I left. And Lawrence Taylor threw a hair dryer at me once.

“I have all of the horror stories that everyone of my generation has. But I can tell you this: I never had an issue with anyone in the NBA. David Stern would not stand for it.’’

The Gowdy Awards will be presented Aug. 12, a day before the Class of 2010 enters the Hall in Springfield.

Chad Finn can be reached at finn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globechadfinn.

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