Jim Paxson Sr. as a senior at UD in 1956.
Dayton basketball lost one of its great players and great ambassadors today with the passing of Jim Paxson Sr. He was 81.
I remember my grandpa, Jim Leary, taking me to games at UD Arena when I was young and saying hi to Paxson as we walked around the arena before the game. Of course, I knew him as the dad of Jim and John, mainly John because I was a Bulls fan at the time, and both of them attended Alter like my parents. Later in life, Jim became known as the dad of two NBA players, but there was a lot more to the man, as I’m finding out today in writing about his life.
Jim Paxson Sr. having his number retired at
Catholic Central High School in Springfield in 2000.
Some excerpts from the story I’m writing:
* “He was a hell of a teammate, the leader of a great basketball team and a lot of people will miss him,” said WHIO broadcaster Bucky Bockhorn, who was a UD sophomore in 1955-56 when Paxson Sr. was a senior.
* Dayton’s all-time winningest coach, Don Donoher, was part of the freshman class that included Paxson Sr. in 1950-51, the first season for the UD Fieldhouse. Donoher later coached Paxson Sr.’s son Jim at UD.
“Jim was just an all-around wonderful person,” Donoher said. “He was a major player in Dayton basketball history. Jim was just kind of raw (as a freshman). He just continued to grow. He grew physically. He was very talented. He played baseball. He could stand on the mound and he wasn’t a pitcher, but he could actually throw right-handed or left-handed. He was very athlete. He passed those genes on to his kids.”
* After basketball, Paxson Sr. worked in the insurance business and stayed close to UD.“He was (former Athletic Director) Tom Frerick’s right-hand man on so many initiatives throughout the course of UD history,” Donoher said. “They were inseparable. Tom really leaned on Jim in so many ways.”
“I never knew a guy that loved the University of Dayton athletic department, the basketball team in particular, as much as he did,” said Gary McCans, longtime director of event services at UD. “He was willing to jump in when we needed somebody to go out and be a salesman. He knew people throughout the community. If we needed something done, we knew we could call on Jim.”
In researching this story, I found this great Sports Illustrated article from 1983 about the Paxson family:
From the time he was very small it was evident that Jimmy was obsessed with trying to master his father’s game. “We wanted to be like our dad,” John says, “and I think the fact that he had been a player had a lot to do with us getting interested in it. He was a good role model for us.” The battles in the driveway between Jim Sr. and Jim Jr. were always hard fought, with father, who is 6’6″, swatting his son’s shots away and otherwise never giving an inch.
“He would do whatever he could to stop me from scoring,” Jim says, “then he’d let John and Michael score all over him, and that made me mad. When I was growing up I thought my dad was pretty hard on me. I was always supposed to set an example. In a lot of ways we didn’t get along very well during that period, so I guess I never looked at what I did as following in his footsteps.”
Sports Illustrated also featured Paxson Sr.’s son Jim in 1978 when he was starring for the Flyers:
Jim is the third member of his family to be a Flyer mainstay. His
maternal grandfather, John L. Macbeth, was a wealthy insurance man
who contributed generously to Dayton athletics. Last year, in fact,
Paxson, a marketing major with a 3.4 average, won the Macbeth
Trophy given to the team’s outstanding student-athlete. His father
and Donoher were teammates at Dayton in the early ’50s before the
elder Paxson left school to spend two years in the Army during the
Korean war. He came back in 1955 to finish his education and in
1956 helped take Dayton to the NIT finals. Upon graduation, he was
drafted by the Lakers and married Jackie Macbeth. After two years
of pro ball, he came back to Dayton and eventually took over his
father-in-law’s insurance agency.
Jim Paxson Sr.’s biography in 1955-56 Dayton media guide.