Whether watching David DuPree as he mingles among campers and staff at the Supreme Sports Club in Columbia, or as he walks off the court towards the parking lot after a Sixth Grade Rising Stars girls game in Clarksburg, one has to wonder the following: how many of the campers, players, parents or spectators know that the camp director and referee, respectively, is one of the most distinguished and honored sportswriters of the last thirty years?
The guess here is not enough, but at the same time the suspicion is that suits DuPree just fine. After all, being a sportswriter wasn't necessarily at the top of his career list in what was a different lifetime ago.
DuPree is a Seattle, Washington native who excelled in football, basketball and track during high school, but it was the football talent that led him to the University of Washington. A sociology major, he turned a chance meeting with Dow Jones & Co. into a job with the San Francisco bureau of the Wall Street Journal. While the majority of the time was spent on corporate storylines, "I did the whole suit and tie thing, meeting with corporate executives," DuPree says while relaxing on the sidelines of his camp in Columbia, the Journal gave him the flexibility to write stories or features on topics of interest. "I chose sports," he says with a grin.
One story in particular caught the eye of a friend of a friend, and an unsolicited invitation from Ben Bradlee arrived at DuPree's home in 1973, offering a chance to work in Washington. After some quick research on the employer of Ben Bradlee, DuPree flew to Washington and started writing for the Post's sports section, covering every aspect of the Washington area sports scene for 13 years.
But if football was his sport of choice in college, it was basketball that was his choice of sport for life. In 1983 USA Today called and offered him the chance of a lifetime: cover the National Basketball Association full time. "It was perfect. I don't want a ‘real job' in an office. I want to be out. So I told them you won't see me, but you will see my stories." For 25 years DuPree covered the NBA for USA Today, and in his spare time wrote stories and features for Sports Illustrated, appeared on local radio (The Tony Kornheiser Show) and television (George Michael's Full Court Press), and was awarded the Basketball Hall of Fame's prestigious Curt Gowdy Media Award.
During the course of his travels, DuPree played with some of the greatest players of a generation, and at one point found himself in a charity game with Rick Barry and Joe Theismann, (who scored 75 points in the game). And of course he attended and wrote about pretty much every important game, and every important subject, in the NBA, a lifetime of work in and of itself.
And then one day in 2008 his wife told him he could retire, and he did, just like that. But his passion and love for basketball required new outlets.
Which takes us to the Supreme Sports Club in Columbia, where DuPree runs the Columbia Association's summer basketball camps, and is Director of the Introduction to Sports camp. "They (Columbia Association) called me and asked if I would be interested in running the summer program. I accepted, and this is my second summer."
In addition to his work with the Town of Columbia, DuPree found yet another outlet for his passion when he obtained his certification to referee up though the high school level. "I was brought into refereeing by friends and passing the exams was fairly easy." In keeping with this new stage in his life, DuPree has no real interest in calling games above the high school level. "I can treat it as a hobby, and not a job," is how he describes his decision.
Indeed, DuPree always wants to make sure the game is fun. Back in his writing days Dupree and former Baltimore/Washington Bullets star Phil Chenier ran their own basketball skills and development camp. The pair mutually decided to end the camps due to outside commitments, but DuPree branched out post-retirement, and is now a personal coach, counselor and mentor to 15 players, both boys and girls, including players at Hammond, Oakland Mills, and Magruder high schools.
"I've always been able to work and communicate with kids. I am also a teacher, and if you are a teacher, you can teach anything." Having learned the fundamentals over the years from people like Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and any other number of NBA luminaries, DuPree is in the enviable position of having learned from the very best and willingly passes along the knowledge to his students. His passion for the sport and his students comes through as he lights up talking about them, and in his on the spot demonstration of the appropriate elbow angle for jump shots at the high school, collegiate, and professional levels (yes, each is different).
But in exchange for the knowledge and experience, DuPree puts demands of his own on parents and players. "You can't let kids play (on various teams) 12 months of the year. It has to be fun, and you have to set limits (on the amount of play). And parents must take an interest."
As for the players, DuPree demands that they respect teammates, coaches and officials. "You have to respect the referees, and can't blame other people for your actions. If you make mistakes it's either on me or on you," is his mantra, practiced by all both in workout sessions and on the court, no questions asked.
"This is great fun," is how DuPree sums up his post writing cum retirement career, which in its own way is just as rewarding as his previous career. DuPree gets to impart the years of basketball skills wisdom ("I can pass along the knowledge, and I learned from the best") and just as importantly, can help influence the actions and ethics to a new generation of players.
Here is a suggestion to that group of young players and campers: find out about the guy running the camp or refereeing the game, and sit down with him for an hour or so. I promise it will be worth your time.