Writer reminisces about years with the Enquirer

Sports journalist Peter King details his time reporting about Musketeer hoops

Newswire photo by Sydney Sanders | Sports writer Peter King spoke to the Newswire about covering the Musketeers at the Enquirer during the early 1980s, a time when Xavier was just beginning to ascend to prominence in the college basketball scene.

Peter King, known today for his work at Sports Illustrated and NBC Sports, once covered the Xavier Musketeers for The Cincinnati Enquirer.

After graduating from Ohio University, King worked as a general assignment reporter for the Enquirer. He covered Xavier basketball, high school and college football and served as the Reds’ backup beat writer.

Recently, the Newswire had a chance to talk to King about his time covering Xavier.

“It wasn’t in any way a powerhouse program,” King said about the state of Xavier basketball when he covered the team from 1980-1984. “I think the first year I covered them, there was some thought that they may not stay in Division I.”

“Bob Staak did a really good job in basically emphasizing and making sure that they had a good bedrock program.”

Staak, the Xavier head coach and athletic director from 1979-1985, is credited by many for turning around Xavier basketball. In his first three years, Xavier went 28-54. In his final three years, the Musketeers went 60-32 before he left to coach Wake Forest. Staak also recruited Byron Larkin, who remains the leading scorer in program history.

King credited an unlikely figure for helping Staak along. He was inspired by Hall of Fame NC State head coach Jim Valvano.

“His whole thing was recruiting,” King said about Staak. “Because he was such good friends with Jim Valvano, one time I was in Staak’s office that first or second year and Valvano was recruiting some kid in Cincinnati, and he showed up in Staak’s office. (Valvano) was the one who really emphasized recruiting, and I don’t know if Staak would say he learned that from him, but I know that the biggest thing for them (at Xavier) was doing better in recruiting than the previous staffs had done.”

During King’s time covering Xavier, the team was in the Midwestern Cities Conference (MCC). In King’s first two years, the Musketeers went a combined 20-33, including a 9-14 record in the MCC. At the time though, King said he was more concerned with a rivalry occurring off the court — one between the Enquirer and the now-defunct Cincinnati Post.

“I just wanted to cover the team and beat The Post,” King said. “We had a good competition at the time between the Enquirer and the Post in those days, and so I was most concerned with winning any news story there was on it instead of however the team did.”

King also credits Staak’s demeanor for helping him as a writer.

“Staak was an interesting guy to cover. He was very fiery, he was kind of an explosive guy. If you wrote something he didn’t like, he would let you know it loudly,” King explained. “I was whatever at the time, 25 years old, so it was good to cover a competitive beat with a guy who is sometimes tough to cover. It was really good experience, and I enjoyed it.”

Despite being years removed from his days covering Xavier and having moved on to to cover numerous Super Bowls and more prominent names than those that graced the hardwood at Schmidt Fieldhouse, King still remembers many of the players he covered during his time in Cincinnati.

Some names that he mentioned were Steve Wolf, Anthony Hicks, Tom Condon and Dexter Bailey.

“This team was a really, really good group of guys to cover,” King said. “They were all great human beings. I think Wolf was probably my favorite guy on the team.”

By: Joe Clark | Staff Writer