Remembering Chuck DeVoe
(Pictured above: Chuck DeVoe presents Nancy Leonard with her championship ring from the 1970 ABA championship. Photo courtesy of Mark Montieth)
On Dec. 28, the day the Indiana Pacers defeated Brooklyn to improve their record to 24-5, they also suffered a loss.
In this case, it wasn’t the team.
I’m talking about the Pacers family, which bid farewell to one of its founding fathers, Chuck DeVoe.
DeVoe was one of a group of extraordinary dreamers who believed Indiana, the basketball state, was incomplete and unfulfilled without a professional basketball franchise.
They pooled their money, bought a franchise in the fledgling American Basketball Association and the rest, as they say, is history.
But without those first steps, Indianapolis might not have completed the journey that continues to this day, where sports is an integral part of the city’s legacy and history, and where the Pacers continue to play a vital and integral role.
Chuck, a Princeton grad and U.S. Army veteran, joined his brother John in championing the Pacers. Chuck was the team’s president during those eight magnificent years in the ABA during which they won three championships and established themselves as the league’s elite franchise.
More importantly, the success of the Pacers during those years helped spur the construction of Market Square Arena in downtown Indy. And the presence of MSA was the first domino to fall in the redevelopment of downtown, which later led to the sports initiative that became the envy of cities across the United States.
Who knows how it might have played out if not for the DeVoes and those early risk-takers.
Chuck was also an exceptional tennis player and he and another brother, Steve, as well as John, led the construction of the Indianapolis Racquet Club. They also gave strong support to their friend, the late Stan Malless, in his quest to build the downtown Indianapolis Tennis Center, which served as home to both professional men’s and women’s tennis for many years and was another important piece of downtown development.
Most of all, Chuck was a good man, a good family man – his wife, Jody, survives – and a man who, like so many others, simply wanted to make his home town, Indianapolis, a better place to live, work and raise a family.
There will be another full house in Bankers Life Fieldhouse this afternoon as the Pacers play Cleveland. But with Chuck DeVoe’s passing, the building will seem ever so slightly emptier.