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Midwest shootings leave former UA coach dead

By From staff and wire reports
Arizona Summer Wildcat
July 7, 1999
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From staff and wire reports

UA athletic department officials are remembering former assistant basketball coach Ricky Byrdsong, who died Saturday after being shot near his home in a Chicago suburb. He was 43.

Police and FBI authorities suspect his death - along with several other Chicago-area incidents - was the result of a racially-motivated shooting spree by an alleged white supremacist. The suspect, Benjamin Nathaniel Smith, died Sunday night after shooting himself at the end of a high-speed car chase.

Lute Olson, head basketball coach at the University of Arizona, released a statement in response to the shooting, which occurred while Byrdsong jogged with his son.

"Ricky never had an unkind word or thought for anyone. I don't think there is a person who ever met Ricky who did not like and respect him. He was a man you couldn't help but admire and respect," he wrote.

Olson went on to say that his and wife Bobbi Olson's prayers are with Byrdsong's wife and family.

Byrdsong coached at the University of Arizona from 1982 to 1988, under former head coach Ben Lindsey for one season and Olson for the remainder of his tenure.

After he left the UA, Byrdsong coached at Eastern Illinois, Western Michigan, Detroit Mercy and Northwestern, where he led the team to its second NCAA Tournament appearance and first winning season in more than a decade.

Byrdsong became known for his unusual motivational technique of wandering into the stands during games as coach at Northwestern University.

Byrdsong is survived by his wife, Sherialyn, and three children.