Gerry Vaillancourt, a fast-talking sports radio fixture in the Queen City often known by the moniker “Gerry V,” died Sunday in Charlotte. He was 72.
The cause of death was a heart condition that Vaillancourt had been diagnosed with 25 years ago, his daughter, Kelly Vaillancourt, said.
“We never thought he’d get 25 more years after that diagnosis,” Kelly Vaillancourt said in an interview Sunday. “But he never did anything by the book. You never knew what you were in for each day with him, but you knew it was always going to be a good time.”
Vaillancourt worked in the Charlotte media market for decades, starting in the late 1980s when the original Charlotte Hornets were being born. He was a mainstay on the Hornets’ TV and radio broadcasts from 1990-2002 while also hosting sports talk radio shows on several local stations. Vaillancourt then moved to New Orleans when the Hornets did, working in that city for close to a decade. He returned to the Charlotte area in 2017, hosting another local sports radio talk show.
Vaillancourt grew up in New York City and played basketball at Gardner-Webb. He later coached the sport at both the high school and collegiate level. “He would often say that basketball had saved his life,” Kelly Vaillancourt said.
Said Jim Szoke, a longtime colleague and friend of Vaillancourt’s on both WBT and on Charlotte Hornets radio broadcasts: “Gerry was one of the originals in the start of sports talk in Charlotte: funny, entertaining and a basketball encyclopedia. I used to love when Hubie Brown was on as a regular guest and listening to them talk hoops in great detail.”
George Shinn, the original Charlotte Hornets owner, said Monday in a statement he was “deeply saddened” to hear of Vaillancourt’s death.
“Gerry was a beloved member of the team on radio and television broadcasts for the original Charlotte Hornets, the New Orleans Hornets and a part of the effort to keep the team alive when we relocated to Oklahoma City following the devastating events of Hurricane Katrina,” Shinn said. “He was integral during those early and magical formative years and beyond on the airwaves bringing joy, wit and expertise to so many and will be greatly missed.”
Among Vaillancourt’s survivors are his two daughters, four grandchildren and three sisters. “I think the entire world knows what a joy he was and how his zest and love for life was infectious,” said Shannon Vaillancourt D’Alton, one of Gerry’s daughters. “His smile and wit was contagious and his time was far too short.”
Vaillancourt’s heart issues had returned only in the last few days, and he had been doing occasional radio spots as usual for the last few months. He was fond of telling his friends and his listeners that they should “chase their crazy,” which meant, as he once wrote on Twitter: “Chase what you’re crazy about. The day will come when you’ll regret that you didn’t ‘chase your crazy!’”
Wrote his daughter Kelly on the Caring Bridge website Sunday of her father’s death: “Our family is devastated, but we will honor his memory by living life the way he did — with chuckles and grins, positivity and always chasing our crazy.”
Burial arrangements are incomplete, but Kelly Vaillancourt said a celebration of her father’s life would be held sometime in the spring. “He didn’t want a funeral,” she said. “He didn’t want people sitting around being sad. He wanted people to eat, drink, laugh and tell stories. He wanted a party, and so that’s what we’re going to do.”
Roderick Boone contributed to this report.