Big Mike is moving on

Marvin Westwestwords

The second-best sportswriter in town is leaving what remains of the printed news business.

Mike Strange has chosen retirement from the News Sentinel over a demotion cooked up by the foreign ownership group, Gannett.

“My role was being redefined as a non-columnist, helping out on football and being responsible for men’s hoops. I told them that 67 is too old to go back to being a beat writer.

“Their idea of helping out on football is shooting video, doing Facebook Live segments and, by the way, writing a little bit. The game story is going away and that is something I always put great stock in doing.”

Mike will be gone by the end of the month. I have a vested interest in this decision.

Mike Strange was my 1983 going-away gift to that newspaper sports department. On the recommendation of his Aunt Nancy McCullough, PTA friend of Sarah West, I recruited him from Owensboro, Kentucky. It was an easy sell, once I assured him that Knoxville had electric lights, mountains and lakes. He knew the Tennessee Volunteers were here.

Mike never seemed to hold it against me that I left him dangling, that as he came in, I went out, from sports to be managing editor.

He was in Indianapolis for my 2006 induction into the U.S. Basketball Writers’ hall of fame. There is no greater display of friendship than getting up early on the Monday of the NCAA final. That work day ends on Tuesday.

Three or four times through the years Mike thanked Sarah for advancing his credentials. He has spoken kindly to me.

“I hope you understand that you changed not only my life but my family’s life when you brought me to Knoxville. My dad lived his last 19 years in the Island Home neighborhood and is buried here. Mom will be, too. All of us have loved Knoxville. I never wanted to go anywhere else once I settled in here.

“I’m to the point where I’ve lived half my life in Kentucky and half in Knoxville. It has been a terrific career and I’ll be forever grateful you brought me here.”

At six feet six inches tall, of course he played basketball in his hometown of Frankfort. He earned degrees at Georgetown College and the University of Kentucky. He worked in Middlesboro before Owensboro. He has since been many places, all 50 states plus France, Italy and Switzerland and 19 Kentucky Derbies.

He enjoyed the Bachelor Auction. He treasures special readers from his mother’s Sunday School class at First Baptist.

Strange has a collection of writing awards. He was honored last week in absentia at the Tennessee Sports Writers annual dinner at Cumberland University. He couldn’t attend. He was working.

“Don’t ask what’s next because I don’t have that answer,” said Mike. “At the moment I’m happy to step away from Vol football and even more so from the current climate of the news industry.”

Be advised this nice guy didn’t finish last.

Marvin West invites reader reactions. His address is [email protected]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.