If you look up at the Liacouras Center rafters, you’ll see a row of banners with names like John Chaney, Mark Macon and Candice Dupree — some of Temple University’s basketball greats.
But at the end of the row you see the name Al Shrier. He wasn’t a former player or coach, but a first-class person, who was a fixture in the Philadelphia sports scene.
Shrier, who worked as the sports information director in Temple’s athletic department for 65 years, died on Monday. He was 88 years old.
When he retired in June 2018, Shrier was the longest-tenured collegiate sports information director in America.
But for most people, Shrier was a mentor and some who always made “sure you’re taken care of,” said Kevin Negandhi, who covered Temple basketball in the mid-1990s as a student journalist.
“[Shrier] touched so many lives through just being kind and caring,” Temple sports information director Larry Dougherty said on Tuesday.
Shrier controlled media events for Chaney’s Elite Eight teams, Harry Litwack’s National Invitation Tournament teams in the 1960s and current coach Fran Dunphy’s Atlantic 10 Conference championship teams.
“[Shrier was] somebody who had his finger on every pulse that was going on within the city sports-wise,” said Dunphy, who first met Shrier in 1967 when he played for La Salle.
“Caring,” “sharp” and “cool” are words often used by those who knew Shrier closely. Shrier was a presence at Temple games and Big 5 doubleheaders at the Palestra and was always helpful to media covering those events.
One of Shrier’s lasting lessons was “to treat everyone the same,” Dougherty said.
Whether dealing with student media or tenured members of other Philadelphia media outlets, Shrier would treat everyone with the same respect, Negandhi said.
Shrier is so widely respected in return for his gratitude and contributions to Temple basketball, no matter how old you were, you called him “Mr. Shrier,” Negandhi, a 1997 communications alumnus and current sports anchor for ESPN’s SportsCenter, added.
“As a college kid to have the influence of somebody like that and his stature and he respects you and that that’s a great way to start your career,” Negandhi added.
In 2003, Temple honored Shrier’s 50th year at the university with his own bobblehead doll. Ten years later, Temple athletics hung Shrier’s banner in the Liacouras Center and renamed its renovated media room after him.
Shrier is the first athletics administrator in NCAA history to have both of those honors.
Alongside Shrier’s name on his banner is a briefcase, an object that quickly comes to mind when recalling memories about Shrier.
He was always the “cool guy with the briefcase,” said Aaron McKie, a former Owls guard and the associate head coach of the men’s basketball team.
Shrier always carried a briefcase with him. The exact contents are unknown, as he kept it secret, but that did not stop people from asking what’s inside.
“All of us that interacted with him through the years always had a briefcase joke, but we never got to the bottom of what was inside that briefcase,” Negandhi said. “So Mr. Shrier always had something on us.”
During the course of 65 years at his alma mater, Shrier created countless stories with people, whether it was telling McKie “welcome to the big time,” before Temple competed in the Sweet 16 of the 1993 NCAA Tournament, or cracking jokes with Negandhi in the media room before games.
“There were times [Shrier] just come strolling past me and you know, say, ‘Hey, how you doing? How are you handling everything?’” McKie said. “That was always a warm feeling to know that somebody cares. So as always, I was always very appreciative, just gonna miss him.”
Shrier’s name and his famous briefcase are stitched on a banner that will hang in the Liacouras Center above the teams he helped for decades.
“To have a SID to have his own briefcase hanging from the rafters…[his own] bobblehead after working 65 years working for his own alma mater, it’s priceless,” Dougherty said.
Shrier is survived by his wife, Ruthie, of 49 years.