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Wes Unseld, legendary center for Baltimore Bullets, dies at 74

Mike Klingaman, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in Football

For nearly four years, Loughery and Earl Monroe would be recipients of those pinpoint heaves that hit them in stride and made the team a contender.

"I felt like (Hall of Fame wide receiver) Lynn Swann, on the end of those outlet passes," Loughery said. "With Wes, my average went up by nearly seven points a game (to 22.6). He did all of the intangibles that make you win -- and he turned our franchise around."

Gene Shue, who coached the Bullets during Unseld's five years in Baltimore, called him "one of the league's most amazing players ever. I never found another who was so totally unselfish. We had only three offensive plays for Wes and used to joke about it."

But Shue (Towson Catholic and Maryland) said Unseld's demeanor during games could be scary.

"In the huddle, I'd be talking while Wes' eyes were locked on me with such intensity that I'd think, 'Is this guy going to kill me?' I knew he understood every word I said."

"Wes was truly a gentle giant," Bullets teammate Phil Chenier said in a statement Tuesday. "His scowl could be intimidating but really he was a kind, thoughtful and protective comrade. Wes is the epitome of a great teammate, team leader and friend."

Unseld had a playful side too, Bullets forward Jack Marin said.

"He scared the hell out of (rookie center) George Johnson one night in Phoenix," Marin said. "Wes bought a rubber snake, wrapped it in George's uniform and stuffed it in his gym bag. When George pulled his jersey out ... "

While in Baltimore, Unseld took part in community affairs. He worked regularly with disabled children at James Kernan Hospital and spoke on the perils of drug abuse at Baltimore County schools.

 

In retirement, Unseld stayed with the Washington Bullets as vice president, then head coach (202-345) and, finally, general manager. He settled in Westminster and helped his wife, Connie, who in 1978 established The Unseld School for elementary students.

"I'm proudest of the fact that I had a career in Baltimore," Unseld told The Sun in 2012. "I grew to love this city early on. Baltimore has its communities but I've always been able to go into each -- whether Reisterstown, Little Italy or Turners Station -- and get the same reception."

Unseld's death elicited responses from several sports figures on Twitter, including current Wizards star Bradley Beal, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis and ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas.

Besides his wife, Unseld is survived by his daughter Kim, his son Wes Jr., who is an assistant coach with the Denver Nuggets, a daughter-in-law and two grandchildren. Information regarding services is pending. In lieu of flowers, the family asked that donations be made to the Unselds' School.

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