Over the decades I would only see Bill O’Rear in person once every year or two, usually when he came to Oahu for the state high school basketball championships.
But I’m going to miss him a lot anyway as he leaves Hawaii today for San Diego to rejoin his family. So will many sports fans, especially on the Big Island.
Bill retired recently as the sports editor of the Hawaii Tribune-Herald after more than 30 years of covering Big Island sports.
He is one of the few sports writers I consider a true expert in a single sport. His game is basketball and he played it with great technique, skill and passion at UH-Hilo. That was when I first became aware of him, when I was in high school and he played guard in the 1970s for some of Jimmy Yagi’s great Vulcan teams.
He played on the team that went 23-3, ending its season in the NAIA tournament’s second round losing to Illinois Wesleyan and Jack Sikma. The 1976-77 Vulcans got the full attention of the state’s hoops fans because of TV, and UH Manoa’s NCAA woes. They set the stage for Chaminade-Virginia.
When I met him a few years later, I jokingly told him we might be related since my Irish ancestors’ last name had an O’ in front of it, and O’Rear may have had a “don” deleted at some point. We both laughed and still call each other “cousin.”
I loved watching basketball games with Bill because he could and would point out interesting little things about players and teams that only he could see with his sharp eye as a player and coach, and without making me feel inadequate. It was always a pleasure, even when Bill sometimes got upset with the officiating that was clearly hosing the neighbor-island kids (in his opinion).
Bill was much more than a sports editor and former college athlete. He gave of his time and energy constantly at clinics, asking nothing in return. It was all from the heart.
He also never lost his competitive spirit. Bobby Command and Marshall Hughes can correct me, but when Bobby and Bill played us in a 2-on-2 game between Big Island and Oahu reporters covering states many moons ago, I’m pretty sure Bill could’ve named the score … but he took mercy and beat us by just one point.
A hui ho, Cousin Bill. Safe travels.