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Shea’s son, Derek told The News his father originally came to the area as a member of the 82nd Airborne, stationed in Fort Bragg. Before working at WTVD for 17 years, he worked for a year a a sportswriter for The Durham Herald-Sun. After leaving WTVD, he hosted shows for North Carolina State.
Shea, a San Francisco native, spent 17 years at WTVD-TV 11 in Durham as sports director, making a name for himself in the Triangle. “How do you spell sports? D-O-N S-H-E-A” became part of the local sports lexicon, although Shea, with a big smile, liked to quip that some people probably varied that spelling.
Shea was in Albuquerque, N.M., in 1983 when the N.C. State basketball team finished off its inspiring, if improbable, run to the national championship. Shea was one of those intrigued by the Wolfpack’s energetic, charismatic coach, Jim Valvano.
A few years later, Shea and Valvano were working together. After leaving WTVD, Shea began a 25-year relationship with N.C. State athletics, hosting the coaching shows, doing interviews, producing features.
With Valvano, it was easy. Valvano, always the entertainer, at times would let Shea kick off the show, then grab the microphone and take it from there.
Derek Shea, Don’s youngest son, remembers going to Wolfpack games with his older brother, Kyle. Or as Derek put it, “Going to work with Dad.”
“We’d go to the games, then go over to WRAL where they filmed the coach’s show after the game,” Derek Shea said. “Then you might be in Jim Valvano’s car as he drove you around the neighborhood.”
After Valvano’s departure from N.C. State in 1990, Robinson was hired as coach. He wondered if Shea, who had worked so closely with Valvano, could make the transition to a new coach, a new boss.
“Didn’t miss a beat,” Robinson said. “He was always loyal to me. For our shows, he sold the advertising, did the whole thing. Just a tireless worker.”