The Obit For Lou Bello

Lou Bello

The Raleigh News & Observer, NC) - October 8, 1991

Harold Anthony "Lou" Bello, who became one of North Carolina's most colorful sports figures as an uninhibited game official and broadcaster, died Monday.

He was 70.

Mr. Bello died at Veterans Administration Medical Center in Durham after a seven-week battle with liver cancer.

A 1947 graduate of Duke University, Mr. Bello began officiating games in Duke's intramural program. He later was a basketball official in the Atlantic Coast, Southeastern and Southern conferences. He also officiated college and high school football and baseball games and was a Carolina League umpire from 1949 to 1952. He was a teacher in the Wake County schools from 1950 to 1958 and in 1966.

"Lou was all referee and part clown," said Horace "Bones" McKinney, Wake Forest University's basketball coach from 1958 to 1965. "He had as good a judgment as anybody refereeing during my time. When I saw him walk out on the court, I was not concerned. I knew I would get as good a shake as anybody."

He also was sensitive, Mr. McKinney said. "If he thought he hurt {a coach with a missed call}, it would hurt him afterward," he said.

Dean Smith, head basketball coach at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said in a statement: "Lou was one of the great sports personalities in North Carolina, first as an official, then as a radio commentator and simply a fan of sports, particularly basketball.

"His tremendous interests and good humor, but most of all Lou as a person, will be missed in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Our sympathy goes out to his family and many friends."

Lou Pucillo of Raleigh, an All-America basketball player at N.C. State in the late 1950s, also was a Bello admirer. "A heck of an official, dedicated, one of the top officials and humorous,"

Mr. Pucillo said. "I'm sure he would do this for players from other schools, but he'd hand me the ball at the foul line and say, 'Make 'em, Lou.' He got along with all the coaches and players. And when a game {became one-sided}, he'd kid around without embarrassing the losing team."

Mr. Bello stood out among a relatively anonymous group because of his antics. When crowds booed his introduction, he would applaud himself. When they threw pennies, he'd pocket them and ask for half-dollars.
Nelvin E. Cooper of Cary, who refereed many games with Mr. Bello, also enjoyed his partner's humor. But he saw his other side.

"Lou would work every game as if it were the ACC championship, the NBA championship or the state championship," Mr. Cooper said.

"I remember officiating a football game with him one night at Oxford Orphanage. He told us before the game to work this game like it was for the state championship, or the Super Bowl, because that's how important it was to these kids."

Mr. Bello kept things lively -- and light.

"He had a great capacity to make people laugh," Mr. Cooper said. "He put on a show. He did it in close games, too, for a while. I was younger, and he would get you through the tough times."

Some of Mr. Bello's funnier moments came in games involving Mr. McKinney's teams.

On one occasion in the early 1960s, Mr. Bello got word that Wake Forest coaches and players said he had "choked" in a game."We didn't really say that, but he thought we did," Mr. McKinney recalled.

"So Dave Wiedeman goes to the foul line for a one-and-one with two seconds left, and we're down by one point. "Lou gave him the ball and said: 'It's one-and-one, two seconds left and you're down by one. Don't choke.' Only Bello would say something like that."

K.M. "Charlie" Bryant, executive secretary of N.C. State University's Student Aid Association, the athletics booster group known as the Wolfpack Club, played in High Point high school games that Mr. Bello officiated.

"He had a real sense, awareness of what it was like on the floor," Mr. Bryant said. "He knew when to let the players play and when to crack down. He would not let the game get away from the players."

He said Mr. Bello made a donation to the Wolfpack Club after NCSU won the 1983 NCAA basketball championship and remained a member of the club. "He was special," Mr. Bryant said. "You only see someone like him once in a lifetime."

Mr. Bello was born and raised in Ossining, N.Y. He attended Duke before serving in the Army Air Corps in World War II, and he was a prisoner of war in Germany for eight months before returning to Duke after the war.

During the past two decades he also worked as a sports commentator for WRAL and WPTF television and WKIX radio.