Milwaukee’s title conquest brought Doucette to his feet

“Voice of the Bucks” revisits glory days

May 4, 2011
By Truman Reed

Eddie Doucette
Eddie Doucette was the original voice of the Bucks from 1968-1984.
  • Championship Anniversary Index
  • After completing their 4-0 sweep of the National Basketball Association Finals with a 118-106 victory over the Baltimore Bullets on April 30, 1971, the Milwaukee Bucks brought home the championship trophy. Along with that trophy came the instant hopes of winning another one.

    As for the title-clinching game and every other one the Bucks had played to that point in their history, they were brought home to Milwaukee fans by the dynamic voice of radio announcer Eddie Doucette, whose innovative style and passionate flair will never be duplicated.

    To anyone who followed the Bucks from Day One, such team cornerstones as Jon McGlocklin, Bob Dandridge and Greg Smith became better known as “Jonny Mac,” “The Greyhound,” and “Captain Marvel” after Doucette coined their nicknames.

    And those who listened religiously to Bucks game broadcasts knew exactly what was going on and where it was happening thanks to such colorful Doucette descriptions as, “He bisects the cyclops” or “He explodes out of the toaster” or “He puts up a pancake jumper” or simply “Bango!”

    Most team broadcasters appear stoic as they sit courtside or in chairs above monitoring the excitement going on before them.

    On the night of April 30, 1971, though, Eddie Doucette wasn’t about to be contained as the final seconds ticked down to the Bucks’ championship conquest.

    “I was standing at the end,” Doucette said. “It wouldn’t have made any difference if the governor of Maryland or the mayor of Baltimore were next to me. I wasn’t going to let that moment get away from me. I wasn’t going to miss out on the most exhilarating moment of my career.

    “I decided at age 12, growing up in Massachusetts as a diehard Red Sox fan, what I wanted to do for a career. I wanted to make the game as exciting for the listeners as it was for me. I had to be their eyes and ears.”

    Doucette was given a few more responsibilities when he became one of the first individuals hired by the expansion Milwaukee franchise.

    "Back when it all began, we didn't know what we were going to do,” he said. “But Ray Patterson, who was then the president of the team, told me, 'Listen, I don't know how you're going to do this. We know high school and college basketball in this state, but we don't know anything about the pros. I'm going to give you a year to figure out how to do it, and if you haven't got it figured out in a year, you're gone.’ So I figured I had nothing to lose, and I'd go out there and let it all hang out. That's what we did, and fortunately it caught on."

    Before Doucette ever called his first Bucks game, he served as the team’s original publicity director, director of ticket sales, corporate sales and did public speaking appearances to promote the team all over Wisconsin.

    "I wore a lot of hats,” Doucette admitted “I felt like I needed a moose for a hat rack, for all those hats I wore."

    Doucette considered himself rewarded when the franchise he helped construct became a champion in just its third season, faster than any professional sports franchise ever had.

    “That whole season was pretty spectacular: 66 wins in the third year of the franchise. a 12-2 record in the playoffs … it was like men against boys,” Doucette said. “The New York Knicks did the Bucks a favor and gave the Bullets a tough series in the Eastern Conference Finals. They were beat up. There was nothing they could do. They threw everything at us in Baltimore that wasn’t fastened down, but nothing worked.”

    Doucette figured that when Bucks management acquired perennial All-Star guard Oscar Robertson in an April 21, 1970 trade with the Cincinnati Royals and placed him alongside center Lew Alcindor, who was named NBA Rookie of the Year in 1969-70, Milwaukee had the makings of a championship ballclub.

    “Lew Alcindor hadn’t become known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar yet (he changed his name the day after the Bucks won the NBA title), but I called Alcindor and Oscar Robertson ‘The KO Combination’ because they delivered the knockout punch,” Doucette said. “ I still believe to this day that I got to see the two best players at their positions in NBA history.

    “Oscar was a conductor. He didn’t have a baton, but a basketball in his hands. The way he and Alcindor and the rest of that team performed together, it was a masterpiece. Larry Costello ran a disciplined offense that would complement them and play to their strengths. The other guys were the epitome of what success is all about – complementary parts working together to get a victory.”

    In 1971, the NBA had only 17 teams, and they were populated by a long line of future Hall-of-Famer. The Baltimore Bullets had three of them (Earl ‘The Pearl’ Monroe, Wes Unseld and Gus ‘Honeycomb’ Johnson) on their roster, but they were no match for their Finals opponent.

    “Egos were aside,” Doucette said. “The Bucks had nice, cerebral players who understood how to play the game. When you look at the Bucks, the Knicks, the Celtics, the Lakers, the Bulls and the Bullets of that era, those were some spectacular players and teams. But the Bucks were easily the best team in basketball at that time.

    “That team melded perfectly. The most impressive thing for me was how totally synchronized that Bucks team really was. It was a beautiful thing to see. There was that 20-game winning streak, the 12-2 playoff run, the sweep of the Finals.”

    In 1970-71, all five Milwaukee starters finished among the top 10 in the NBA in field-goal percentage. That feat had never been accomplished before and still hasn’t been matched.

    “That Bucks starting five was so efficient, with Alcindor in the middle, Jon McGlocklin at guard opposite Oscar Robertson, and Bob Dandridge and Greg Smith at the forwards,” Doucette said. “Bob Dandridge was a very talented player; I don’t know if people today really understand that. If you ask Julius Erving who was one of the best players at his position … he didn’t want to play against Dandridge. I’ve said for a long time that No. 10 ought to be retired.

    “Dick Cunningham went in and did his job backing up Kareem for eight to 10 minutes a game and did exactly what he was supposed to do. So did McCoy McLemore. And Bob Boozer and Lucius Allen were tremendous additions to the team.

    “When little old Milwaukee came into town back then, teams shook.”

    The Bucks were on the threshold of greatness a year earlier, when Alcindor arrived and they bettered their expansion season victory total by 29 games.

    When Robertson came aboard, he led the team across that threshold and became an NBA champion for the first time in his glorious career.

    “Oscar was like a Stradivarius in a room full of bow fiddles on the basketball floor,” Doucette said. “He made a decision to come to Milwaukee instead of Boston or Los Angeles – where he could have gone – because he knew Alcindor was the best young player in the league and he had the best chance to win a championship in Milwaukee.

    “He was 100-percent right, and it was great to see him bursting with euphoria on the floor after the clinching game when he was being interviewed. He was not only the guy who averaged a triple-double for a season; he was a magician on the floor and he could defend. He’d put that big body of his on people and they paid the price.”

    The Bucks, meanwhile, reaped the rewards. So, too, did Doucette.

    “I felt most rewarded for the things I tried to do on a night-by-night basis,” he said. “I’d sit down and want to make each game and event that would get people talking. I had to weave in fun and excitement and entertainment in order to do that.

    “I just found out that I’m going to be inducted into the Wisconsin Broadcasting Hall of Fame on June 23 in Madison. That’s quite an honor and one that I never expected.”

    Doucette fondly recalls the celebrations that followed the Bucks’ championship conquest.

    “I remember the owners and our team physican, Dr. George Korkos, having a celebration,” he said. “Once we got on the plane to fly back to Milwaukee, Dr. Korkos had a terrible headache and had fallen asleep. Jim Foley (the Bucks’ public relations director at the time) and I got on the plane’s loudspeakers and paged Dr. Korkos. You should have seen him snap up. Everyone loved it.

    “I urged Milwaukee Mayor (Henry) Maier to have a contingent of well-wishers waiting for us when we came home, and they were there. There were thousands of fans at the airport. Wisconsin fans are loyal and adoring when it comes to the Packers, the Brewers and the Badgers. It was that way with us back then, too.”

    Eddie Doucette and his wife, Karen, will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary in July. They live in Poway, Calif.

    Doucette will be inducted into the Wisconsin Broadcasting Hall of Fame June 23 in Madison.

    Their older son, Brett, who was diagnosed with leukemia in 1974, leading to the creation of the Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer (MACC) Fund, will be 38 next week. He is married and works in marketing at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

    Their younger son, Cory, 36, became a standout high school basketball player and went on to play at the NCAA Division III level at Linfield (Ore.) College. Also married, he now works in corporate insurance brokering.