Sunday, August 7, 2011

RIP, Dave Solomon

The Register lost a great writer and an even better man on Saturday evening. Dave Solomon, the Register's longtime sports columnist, died in a single-car accident on his way home from covering a UConn football team practice.

I first met Dave in 2004 when we were both covering a Red Sox-Yankees game, and he was as friendly and helpful then as he was the last time we spoke about a week ago.

The first thing I noticed about him as a reporter and writer was that he always looked for the story behind the story, the angle that perhaps no other writer in the room saw but yet made for a better and more intriguing column than anything anybody else would write. It's a trait I've always admired and continued to witness first-hand while working side-by-side with Dave over the past four years on the UConn men's basketball beat.

There's no doubt Dave is one of the best columnist I've ever known. He broke several major stories just in the few years I've known him -- including the Dolphins' hiring of Tony Sporano as their head coach, beating all the Miami beat guys to the punch.

I'm positive Dave could have written for any paper in the country, but he seemed perfectly content where he was, living in Meriden with his wonderful wife, Judy, and chronicling every angle of UConn sports and local sports in general -- not just baseball, football and basketball (OK, he wasn't crazy about hockey), but sports that needed more attention like boxing. He was a great advocate for local boxers and gave them more publicity than any writer in the state.

Maybe the truest mark of what a pro Dave will always be is the fact that he will be greatly missed not only by his colleagues but by the people he covered. People like Jim Calhoun, Geno Auriemma, Randy Edsall, etc. may not have always agreed with what Dave had to write and say, but they always respected his opinon. A writer really can't get a better compliment than that.

That's one of the first things Calhoun told me when I first introduced myself to him after taking over the UConn beat in 2007. Calhoun and Solomon may forever be linked by the infamous Ryan Gomes press conference in '04. But after his over-the-top reaction to Dave's line of questioning about what he may not have seen in Gomes as a recruit, Calhoun called Solomon the next day to apologize.

“With some guys, if they don’t show you the type of respect, you don’t quite feel the same," Calhoun said this morning. "Dave always showed respect to me. I’m going to get written about daily by guys like Dave, and he’s not going to back down. I think that made him even better. We locked horns a few times, but I maintain that we always had a great friendship. I really, really like Dave Solomon. God rest his soul, I will miss him.”

Here's some more of what Calhoun had to say:

“I go back with Dave to the first press conference I had in 1986. We’ve kind of been together the whole time. He’s one of the few.”

“Dave was an opinionated, strong-willed, great guy, and a true professional. And he could really write. I always told him when he really wrote, he was never hurtful, but he could hurt you because he could really write. People who can write can hurt you.”

“I consider him a friend, and at times a confidante. We’ve had many one, two, three-hour conversations … He’s truly a professional and a great person. To the Solomon family, I extend my condolences. Even those who disagreed with Dave’s opinion probably never disagreed with Dave as a person.”

“Into our 26th year, we still had a “Hi, how are you, what’s going on” type of deal. That’s truly indicative. At no point in time I didn’t speak to Dave. At times I agreed, at times disagreed, but I enjoyed his ideas, I liked talking to him. He’s going to be missed by fellow media members, but also by coaches. In his own way, he didn’t have a problem telling you what he thought, but he would always listen to you. That’s unique.”

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