Terry Ryan Sean McDonough

Before Ryan McDonough's press conference three years ago to announce his hiring as Suns general manager, Phoenix president Lon Babby introduced all three McDonough brothers in attendance, noting that each of them owned championship hardware.

The siblings glanced at each other.

They knew that Terry McDonough owned a Super Bowl XXXV ring from his days as a Ravens scout, Sean McDonough owned a 2004 World Series ring from his days as a Red Sox announcer and Ryan owned an NBA Finals ring from his days as a Celtics executive. But they had not really put together the significance of it until that moment.

Will McDonough

"I don't know if there's another family that can make that claim," Sean said.

The trio of brothers is uniquely accomplished in sports. Sean, 53, is a college basketball, college football and Major League Baseball announcer for ESPN; Terry, 50, is vice president of player personnel for the Arizona Cardinals and Ryan, 36, is GM of the Suns.

Their father was Will McDonough, the legendary sportswriter for The Boston Globe.

"We all got our desire to be involved in sports," Sean said, "from being around Dad."

Just for kicks, when Will knew someone famous was about to call the house phone, he often summoned one of his kids to answer it.

"One of the fun things for me growing up as a kid was to answer the phone," Ryan McDonough said. "It could be anyone from Dan Marino to Pete Rozelle to O.J. Simpson on the other line."

ESPN's Bob Ryan can attest to Will's extensive Rolodex. His cubicle was adjacent to McDonough's while both worked at The Globe.

"We all marveled at Will," Bob Ryan said. "He had contacts that were unparalleled."

Will McDonough

A pioneering sports journalist, Will was one of the first to cross over from the print side to television. He was so revered that his 2003 wake was held in the new Boston Garden.

Despite those Boston roots, his progenies have moved to Phoenix, including Sean, a self-described "snowbird," who spends a portion of the year in Arizona.

Making this western migration even more serendipitous is the timing of it. After Ryan had gone through 12 to 15 hours of interviews for the vacant Suns GM position, he called his mother. She informed him that Terry, who had just been let go by the Jaguars, was also in Phoenix, interviewing for the Cardinals position.

"We were out here interviewing with the Cardinals and Suns at the exact same time, literally on the same day," Ryan McDonough said. "It was a crazy week, certainly something I'll never forget."


A three-sport high school athlete, Will had a charismatic toughness that caused sports figures to open up to him.

Will McDonough

He played racquetball with Celtics coach/executive Red Auerbach. Raiders owner Al Davis was a confidante. Bill Parcells described Will to The Globe as "one of my best friends."

"Something about him endeared him to jocks," Bob Ryan said.

But he also would stand up to them.

Following a Patriots-Jets game in 1979, New England cornerback Raymond Clayborn snapped at writers and intentionally bumped into them. After the defensive back shoved his finger in McDonough's face and poked him in the eye, McDonough decked him with two punches, sending him into a laundry cart. McDonough's media colleagues celebrated his toughness, dubbing it a brand of "Southie justice."

"It was part of … the folklore," Bob Ryan said.

McDonough's legendary status remains intact even more than a decade after his passing.

When at the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine in late February, Terry was approached by coaches and media alike, including ESPN's Todd Archer, stopping to tell him how much Will had meant to them.

When golfing with Padraig Harrington in the Deutsche Bank Championship Pro-Am, someone from the crowd -- at just about every hole Sean and Padraig played -- would yell how much they liked his dad or how much they miss him.

"I still get introduced as Will's son," Sean said. "And it makes me happy."

Sean McDonough

Will, who also appeared on-air for the CBS and NBC NFL studio shows, was a sports reporter and columnist for The Globe for 41 years before retiring as a full-time member of the staff in 2001.

He was the "greatest reporter in Boston sports history," Bob Ryan said, "very well maybe in Boston (newspaper) history."

Deeply connected to the fabric of the city, McDonough, the youngest of nine children of Irish immigrants, grew up in a working-class neighborhood of South Boston. As one of his first jobs, he served as the campaign manager for Billy Bulger when he ran for state representative in 1960.

Billy Bulger's brother is notorious gangster James "Whitey" Bulger, about whom the movie, Black Mass, was based; Jack Nicholson also loosely portrayed him in The Departed. Bob Ryan half-jokingly said that McDonough probably knew where "Whitey," one of the FBI's "10 Most Wanted Criminals," was hiding after he fled Boston in 1995 and before his 2011 capture.

Noting McDonough's unique resume, Bob Ryan said, "no one like him will ever surface again."


Terry McDonough

Sean is the most talkative and emotional. Ryan is the most introverted and intellectual. And Terry, the best athlete, is most reminiscent of Will in both his appearance and disposition.

"Terry is probably the most like our father in terms of the fire and the passion, the intensity," Ryan said. "Our father was a great guy and a tremendous dad, but he could be a little bit short-tempered."

Things would get physical at times between the brothers, but Sean quickly learned not to pick on Terry.

"Terry was big and intimidating enough even as a young kid that you didn't really want to mess with him," Sean said.

Because of the age difference, Terry and Sean acted more like uncles toward Ryan, and Terry joked that he spoiled Ryan.

"Ryan is the most mature out of all of us," Terry said. "Ryan's a thinker. He doesn't react on emotion. He was just born with a level head."

Ryan McDonough

The McDonough brothers have two sisters: Erin, a chief communications officer at Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Cara, an executive at Under Armour who has two degrees from Harvard.

"The girls are the two smartest ones -- in all honesty -- and the nicest," Sean said, "and by far the best looking."

Will's first wife, Wilma, gave birth to Erin (in 1964), Terry (1965) and Sean (1962), and his second wife, Denise, is the mother to Cara (1982) and Ryan (1979). But the family is close-knit, and that sentiment is no different toward their half-siblings.

"I never made that distinction," Sean said.

Sean, who responded to a reporter's interview requests while at a Suns game with Ryan, celebrated Ryan's hiring by the Suns with a champagne toast at his South Boston condo and even officiated his wedding last summer.


From a young age, Sean knew he wanted to cover sports. He watched games and recorded his commentary on a tape recorder and cut out rosters from the newspaper.

Sean McDonough

Will suggested he pursue a career in television, which was the wave of the future back then, rather than print journalism. A 1984 cum laude graduate of Syracuse, Sean became an Emmy-winning broadcaster.

Will also foresaw Terry's career path. When Terry was 15, he and his dad were driving back from a Boston College football game. Just as they passed Commonwealth Avenue, he asked his father what he saw in his future.

"You're going to be an NFL scout," Will told him.

Will knew Terry was born for that role because after Patriots games he would analyze which players performed well and who played poorly.

Terry, who leaned on his family to overcome a tragic reckless driving accident as a youth, became an all-conference running back at Hingham (Mass.) High but tore his ACL while playing at Bridgton Academy. He then enrolled at UMass, where he majored in sports management.

Terry McDonough

Will called his friend, Bill Walsh, who would become his colleague at NBC, and that helped Terry secure an internship with the 49ers. Even though Walsh retired and George Seifert was named the new 49ers head coach, Terry was able to remain with the Super Bowl-winning team in the fall of 1989.

That internship got Terry's foot in the door as he would land personnel and scouting jobs in NFL Europe and with the Browns, Ravens and Jaguars. Bill Belichick, then the head coach of the Browns, hired him as an area scout in 1992.

"(It was) my first full-time job in the NFL," Terry said, "And 25 years later, I'm still here."

And he's still ascending.

When Jason Licht left the Cardinals to become the Buccaneers' GM, Terry was promoted to fill his post. Now after assembling one of the NFL's deepest rosters with the Cardinals, Terry has become a hot name who likely will land a GM position soon -- just like his brother, Ryan.

Ryan McDonough

Ryan, following his father's path, enrolled at the University of North Carolina (1998-02) to pursue a career in broadcast journalism. While in Chapel Hill, he broadcast games of the minor league Carolina Mudcats; was the public-address announcer for UNC's baseball, soccer and volleyball teams and worked for Steve Kirschner in the UNC sports information office.

"I liked it," Ryan said. "I thought that was what I was going to do."

But Ryan, who was UNC's JV basketball manager his freshman year, missed the competition and longed to be a part of a team.

The broadcast work, though, paid off. The Celtics were seeking someone to help with video scouting, and Ryan knew how to shoot, edit and organize footage. Shortly after he was hired, Danny Ainge, an open-minded executive, began to pick the brain of Ryan, the 23-year-old special assistant to basketball operations, regarding players he had seen on video.

Will McDonough

In 2010 the Celtics promoted Ryan to assistant general manager. Three years later at the age of 33, he was appointed Suns GM.

Will died about a month before the Celtics hired Ryan, but his good friend, Auerbach, had helped Ryan's chances by putting him in touch with the new Boston ownership group.

"My father sensed that something was going to work out with the Celtics," Ryan said. "But at the time of his death, we didn't know for sure."

Shortly before Will passed away, his family was gathered with him at the hospital.

"He was at peace," Sean said. "He was so proud of all of us."

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