Wizards to re­tire Che­nier’s num­ber de­spite see­ing broad­cast­ing run end

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY TODD DYBAS

On the walls around the Wash­ing­ton Wizards’ prac­tice court are gi­ant drop cloths with four in­di­vid­ual names and num­bers: Wes Unseld, No. 41; Elvin Hayes, No. 11; Gus John­son, No. 25; and Earl Mon­roe, No. 10. There will be an ad­di­tion to that tight group this sea­son: Phil Che­nier, No. 45.

The Wizards will re­tire Che­nier’s num­ber on March 23, 2018, when the team hosts the Den­ver Nuggets.

Che­nier played nine sea­sons for the Wizards, nee Bul­lets, be­fore spend­ing 33 sea­sons as the color com­men­ta­tor for the team. It was an­nounced near the end of last sea­son that the or­ga­ni­za­tion and Com­cast Sport­sNet Mid-At­lantic had de­cided to move on from Che­nier, 66, break­ing up his decades-long run with play-by-play man Steve Buck­hantz on Wizards game broad­casts.

“I am so proud to have the honor and bless­ing of my No. 45 hang­ing with the greats of this fran­chise,” Che­nier said in a press re­lease. “It’s a state­ment to my team­mates, coaches and all those who have sac­ri­ficed, sup­ported and guided me over the many years that says ‘job well done.’ I also share it with the fans who have ap­proached me with kind words and fond mem­o­ries from both my play­ing days and my broad­cast­ing ca­reer. My whole fam­ily is so grate­ful to Ted Leon­sis, the MSE own­er­ship group and the en­tire or­ga­ni­za­tion (from staff to play­ers) who have been so kind, thought­ful and rev­er­ent to­wards me. I would also like to thank the Pollins, who brought me in to this or­ga­ni­za­tion 46 years ago, and the many peo­ple in­volved with the team dur­ing my early days. I’m so ap­pre­cia­tive of each and ev­ery ex­pe­ri­ence I’ve had here and can’t wait to share this honor with my DC Fam­ily in March.”

The jovial Che­nier was a fluid scorer who av­er­aged 17.9 points per game for the Bal­ti­more, Cap­i­tal and Wash­ing­ton Bul­lets be­fore he be­came en­trenched in the team’s broad­casts. Che­nier was an All-Star in 1974, ‘75 and ‘77. He also played with the four other play­ers who have their jer­seys re­tired by the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Che­nier is tied for fourth among Wash­ing­ton play­ers in field goals, is sixth in points, sixth in min­utes played and ninth in games played.

But, for as good a player as he was, his largest stamp on the team likely came from his ex­tended broad­cast ca­reer. He and Buck­hantz — who was pub­licly crit­i­cal of Che­nier not be­ing re­tained on the broad­cast — had rare chem­istry that led to the two rhyth­mi­cally fol­low­ing each other as op­posed to one step­ping on the other. Che­nier was able to re­lay in­sight as a for­mer player and cri­tique that was con­struc­tive and telling. He had no gim­micks.

“Classy, dig­ni­fied, in­formed and pre­pared, Phil has ex­em­pli­fied the very best as a player and broad­caster,” Buck­hantz said in a press re­lease. “Grow­ing up with the Bul­lets with Phil as one of my role mod­els made a huge im­pact on me, so it has been an honor and bless­ing to spend the last twenty years along­side him as a part­ner and a friend. I will feel a tremen­dous amount of pride watch­ing his num­ber 45 jer­sey raised to join the other great­est Bul­lets of all time.”

Mon­u­men­tal Sports & En­ter­tain­ment, which owns the Wizards, Mys­tics, Cap­i­tals and Valor, has said the Che­nier will con­tinue to work with the team “by be­ing fea­tured in Mon­u­men­tal Sports Net’s Wizards con­tent, with a larger pres­ence in the Wash­ing­ton Bul­lets & Wizards Alumni As­so­ci­a­tion and in a va­ri­ety of other key roles within the or­ga­ni­za­tion.” He is also ex­pected to be used by CSN Mid-At­lantic dur­ing Wizards broad­casts, though the de­tails of his role have not been ex­plained and that net­work has made a plethora of re­cent changes.

The Wizards open the sea­son Oct. 18. Che­nier’s re­place­ment is yet to be an­nounced. Whomever it is will have the joy and awk­ward­ness of work­ing the night Che­nier’s jer­sey is re­tired. Che­nier will have an­other night to spend with the fans who have known him for decades.

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