Broadcaster of the Week: Al McCoy, Phoenix Suns
Posted Mar 6 2007 1:43PM
With my fellow colleague Joe Tait of Cleveland having been in the Broadcaster of the Week spotlight recently, it is only fitting that I should follow close behind seeing that both Joe and I are the elder statesmen of the league. Both he and I have been announcing in the NBA for 35 years. The only difference is that this is my 35th year consecutively with the Suns, whereas Joe had stops in New Jersey and Chicago that broke up his tenure with the Cavs.
Who would have thought a farm boy like myself from Iowa would be behind the mike? Growing up, I was fortunate enough to play high school basketball and actually am still in touch with my high school basketball coach who is 85 years old. In fact, he loves to tell the story that when people would ask him why he kept playing me so much in games, he would reply, "Well, when Al is on the bench he keeps pretending he's broadcasting and he is so bad I would rather have him in the game than listen to him." So I guess I have always had a great passion for basketball.
Prior to the Suns, I had worked in broadcasting in Iowa, Chicago and Buffalo and actually came to Phoenix to do minor league baseball. Since I've been in Phoenix I've done Arizona State football and basketball, and I was actually doing minor league hockey in the old Western hockey league on radio and TV when the Suns came to Phoenix in 1968. I met with Jerry Colangelo and eventually in 1972 became the play-by-play man for the Suns. I think we were the first team to bring everything in house – radio, television, etc. We simulcasted, as several teams like the Lakers and Chick Hearn did for many years, up until just the last two years. However, I think initially my first year we might have done 12 TV games and then that went to 15 and slowly up the ladder because teams weren't doing that much television back in the early '70s. When we did do them, we simulcast.
I had been involved in management in broadcasting so I had a background in those areas. For many years Jerry Colangelo and I handled the radio and television. We sold it, we produced it, we did it all. In fact, I was just looking at an old press guide from 1972-73 and I think we had seven people in the Suns' office. Now there are over 200. That shows how times have changed.
It has really been amazing to be here and watch this city grow, not only population wise and business wise, but to see the tremendous interest in sports. Phoenix is now one of the new cities in the country that has the four major sports – basketball, baseball, football and hockey – and the tremendous facilities to go with them. It certainly speaks loudly that there is sports activity in the West and that it is centered right here in good old Phoenix, Arizona.
We have been extremely fortunate here in Phoenix with the teams that we've had. We haven't won a championship, but we've had great players that involved themselves in the community and with the fans. Connie Hawkins, who helped lead the Suns to the playoffs in only their second year of existence and who was one of the great All-Stars, was one of the first players instrumental in getting fans involved with NBA basketball. He was not only a terrific player, but a terrific pied piper for the game with fans and with youngsters.
This current group of players certainly fits that category as well, in particular Steve Nash. There is no other player like him. Steve's a great person. If you erase his basketball abilities, he is the kind of guy you just like to spend time with. He's a tremendous individual, a humanitarian and a great, great basketball player. Steve was originally drafted by the Suns, but at the time, the Suns had a couple of pretty fair point guards in Kevin Johnson and Jason Kidd. So eventually the Suns traded Steve Nash to Dallas. Of course Steve returned and with him the Suns were able to put together a group of players – with the drafting of Amare Stoudemire, the signing of Raja Bell, the long-term commitment of Shawn Marion and the addition of Boris Diaw – that fit the style of his game to a tee. With a coach in Mike D'Antoni that loves up-tempo basketball – basketball the way it should be played – the glove fit all the way around.
As a broadcaster, this Suns team is what you wait for and what keeps you going – a team that stimulates the excitement and response from the fans and everybody that watches them play. In all my years in the NBA, I have gotten to know many of the long time season ticket holders in New York, Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles – the long time hotbeds of NBA basketball – and I can't tell you how many times in the last three years, when the game is over, fans have come up to me in these cities and said, "Al, we just can't believe what a great, great team the Phoenix Suns are to watch. This is basketball as it used to be in the heyday of the Celtics and the Lakers. The Suns have brought back NBA basketball back to the way we love." It has really been terrific to hear that from fans all around the NBA. So for me, even though the plane might have landed late or the hotel room hasn't been made up or the bus wasn't on time, when they throw that ball up, analyzing and broadcasting the greatest athletes in the world on this team is still very exciting.
Our new owner, Robert Sarver, who I had known before he purchased the team, tells me I am here as long as I want to be. I don't know how long that will be. I just kind of take it a year at a time. Thirty five years is a long time. Obviously I would like to see this team win a championship so we'll see what happens.
Al McCoy's Top 5 Suns' Moments
The history of the Suns has kind of been in cycles. We were fortunate with winning teams and great players. You can start with Dick Van Arsdale who was the original Sun. Connie Hawkins of course. Then go up through the era with Paul Westphal's great years, Walter Davis, Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle, Charles Barkley, and up to the present times with Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire.
1970 Western Division Semifinals vs. Lakers
1976 Western Conference Finals vs. Golden State
Game 5, 1976 NBA Finals vs. Boston, 3 OT Class: "Shot Heard Round the World"
1993 NBA Finals
Al McCoy's Catchphrases
Throughout the years I've also become known for a number of my catchprases. Many, many years ago, the Suns were involved in a close game that was tied with seconds left. The Suns got a fast break and the player – who shall remain nameless – drove in for a layup and missed the shot. All of a sudden I said, "Oh, Heartbreak Hotel!" How did that come about? Well, back in my days as a disc jockey, when Elvis Presley had the song Heartbreak Hotel, the thesis of the song was that this guy was going so bad, that he was down at the end of lonely street at "Heartbreak Hotel." All I could think of was that this is how this guy must have felt after missing that shot that could have won the game. Other phrases like, "zing go the strings" and "twine time" were just spur of the moment things.
As the "Voice of the Suns" for 35 seasons, Al McCoy currently calls play-by-play action on Sports 620 KTAR, the Suns flagship station, and on the Suns Radio Network. McCoy's consecutive tenure with the Suns is the longest with one team among current NBA broadcasters.
The Phoenix Suns and Sports 620 KTAR recently honored McCoy with the naming of the Al McCoy Media Center at US Airways Center, a newly updated and improved media center which will be unveiled at the beginning of the 2007-08 season and will feature displays tracing Al's legendary career.