Barry MacKay’s tennis game was great, and his announcing of the sport was even better.
But to talk to those who knew him best, MacKay’s greatest accomplishment was his friendship.
“A nicer guy never existed, believe me,” said long-time friend George Smith of Washington Twp.
MacKay died Friday in San Francisco after a long illness. He was 76.
“I am stunned to hear that my pal, ‘The Ohio Bear,’ (Barry MacKay) is gone. I will miss his warmth and goodness,” Tweeted tennis journalist Bud Collins after learning of MacKay’s passing.
MacKay graduated from Oakwood High School in 1953 — winning a pair of Ohio state titles his junior and senior seasons — and was inducted into the school’s first Hall of Fame Class in 2008.
In between he won the NCAA singles title with the University of Michigan in 1957, was a member of the U.S. Davis Cup team from 1956-60, reached the semifinals of Wimbledon in 1959 — losing to Rod Laver 11-13, 11-9, 10-8, 7-9, 6-3 — and was ranked No. 1 in the U.S. in 1960.
Laver — considered by many the greatest player in tennis history — said he looked up to MacKay and appreciated his advice.
“Barry was a wonderful individual and a great player,” Laver told ATPWorldTour.com. “He’s going to be a heavy loss for all of us because he did a lot for the game.”
After his playing career, MacKay served as a commentator and lead analyst for The Tennis Channel, ending matches with his trademark call: “And there it is.”
“The nicest thing about Barry is that he was so warm and friendly to everyone. The guy was in tennis for over 50 years and you never heard anyone criticize him or say negative things about him,” Donald Dell, a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, told ATPWorldTour.com.
“He was really liked and admired by all, which is very unique in the tennis world, as it’s very competitive. I think Barry had an infectious friendliness and warmth that people picked up on. People would come up to him and ask, ‘How’s The Bear?’ He was just loved by everyone in tennis, which is why you’re seeing such a reaction to his passing.”
MacKay was also the tournament director and promoter and promoted two U.S. Davis Cup finals.
According to the San Jose Mercury News, MacKay lived in Sausalito with his wife Michelle.
“He was a great guy, and obviously his tennis career was pretty darn good, too,” Smith said. “You couldn’t find an enemy of his.”