Love Meant Everything to Bud Collins

Collins (right) at Brandeis in 1961.
Courtesy Brandeis Archives and Special Collections
Collins (right) at Brandeis in 1961.

I met legendary tennis broadcaster Bud Collins at the Longwood Cricket Club, in Brookline, Massachusetts, during the 1984 U.S. Pro Tennis Championships.

As a former Brandeis varsity tennis player, I knew him by reputation, since he was the university’s first tennis coach, from 1959 to 1963. As a fan of the game, I’d grown up watching him deliver clever commentary and bestow funny nicknames on the players I idolized.

Although we never became close friends, when he died March 4 at age 86, I felt a sense of loss. That feeling was a tribute to his omnipresence in the tennis world and the way he embraced those around him.

I still recall how warmly he welcomed me into the pressroom at that first Longwood tournament. Right away, Bud — it was always “Bud,” not “Mr. Collins,” and certainly not “Arthur,” which is how his name is listed in the Brandeis Athletics Hall of Fame — expressed an appreciation for the way I had expansively used my press credentials from The Jewish Times, a publication known more for reporting on bagels and bar mitzvahs than tennis and trophies, to cover the tournament.

He happily weighed in on the hook I’d planned for my story, about the up-and-coming young (Jewish) tennis star, 16-year-old Aaron Krickstein, who actually won the tournament that year. As I recall, Bud was particularly energized by my cogent analysis of the frequent mispronunciation of Krickstein’s last name — “Krickstine,” rather than the correct “Kricksteen.”

After Bud found out I’d played for the Brandeis tennis team, we became like old pals, at least briefly. He fondly recalled his years at Brandeis, proudly noting he had coached the only undefeated team in Brandeis tennis history.

He also waxed nostalgic about his star players, including Jonathan “King Kong” Cohen ’64, Marty Zelnik ’61 and Abbie Hoffman ’59, the ’60s political activist who led the Youth International Party, aka the Yippies. Collins was eagerly looking forward to the undefeated ’59 team’s 25th reunion, which would be held in a few months at the U.S. Open. When asked why it wasn’t going to be held at Brandeis, Collins responded, “Are you kidding? They don’t want us near that place.”

In his career, Bud moved from Brandeis, to The Boston Globe sports section, to international tennis-reporting fame. Through it all, he kept a place in his heart for Brandeis. Come this July, when I’m enjoying “Breakfast at Wimbledon,” which Bud helped turn into a staple of tennis coverage, I’ll be reminded again of what we lost this year.

Alexander Wohl wrote this issue’s feature on Lenny Bruce.