The Golden Voice Behind Los Spurs

Ken Rodriguez is a San Antonio native who covered his first Spurs game in 1981 for The Daily Texan, the University of Texas student newspaper. He spent 26 years in the newspaper business -- 21 of them covering sports -- before joining the marketing department at Our Lady of the Lake University in 2009. His column will appear every Wednesday.

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When Paul Castro settled in to call his first NBA game, he brought to his Spanish-language radio audience youthful energy, raw enthusiasm and a most unusual resume: no previous play-by-play experience.

Think about that. When Castro joined the Portland Trail Blazers in 1990, he could not claim a single moment describing action at any ballgame at any level.

But on the strength of an audition tape and the recommendation of a radio station owner, Castro got a gig he thought would be temporary.

Unlike kids who grew up wanting to become the next Marv Albert or Chick Hearn, Castro wanted to produce and direct music videos. "That was my dream," he says. "I liked broadcasting after the first year and thought it would be a fun career. But I kept thinking I'd get to my music video plan later. So far, I haven't."

Spurs fans who listen to Castro's call on KCOR-1350 AM are glad he stayed. After 18 seasons, they've come to appreciate his talent and signature delivery: "Salta, vuelta, tira, dos!" Or as Castro might say in English: "He jumps, flies, shoots ... two!"

A fan favorite occurs when an opposing player draws a sixth foul, and Castro draws from multiple foreign languages to describe the exit. "I say, 'Sayonara, aloha, arrivederci, adios, goodbye, out of here!' When a key player from another country shows up, I ask him before the game how to say 'goodbye' in his language. Then I incorporate it into the broadcast."

Since joining the Spurs in 1994, Castro has conducted some memorable interviews in Spanish. Once, Minnesota rookie Ricky Rubio took the microphone and began asking him questions.

"How long have you been here," Rubio asked. "Do you like it? Do you have any advice for me?"

Rubio left an impression. "He's a great kid," Castro says. "He's going to be amazing."

Castro's stumble into broadcasting was remarkable. After graduating from Oregon State, Paul and his brother, Everardo, took a job hosting radio shows on KWBY-940 in Woodburn, Ore. (pop: 24,358).

The station owner got a call from the Blazers. We need a Spanish speaking broadcaster for our home games. Know anybody?

The owner recommended Castro, a native of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. "I had never done play-by-play," he says. "But I'd listened to a lot of play-by-play and figured, 'Come on, it can't be that hard.'"

He made an audition tape and got the job. "I wouldn't say I was great," Castro says, "but I was better than the other guys that tried out."

From hosting music and talk radio shows to broadcasting NBA games -- how many play-by-play guys follow that path? "It feels like I've been having a 20 year dream," Castro says, "and I don't want to wake up."

He's called five NBA Finals -- four with the Spurs, one with the Blazers -- remains one of five Spanish-language broadcasters in the league and has a thousand stories to tell.

Castro loves to interview Manu Ginobili -- "he makes me laugh and gives me good information" -- and has a soft spot for former Spur and fellow broadcaster Sean Elliott. Once, after a player stood him up for a post-game interview, Castro asked Elliott to fill in.

"My Spanish is terrible," Elliott protested.

"I'll translate," Castro promised.

The interview went smoothly, Elliott providing colorful sound bites, Castro translating them into Spanish. When the exchange ended and Castro put down the microphone, Elliott took a stab at Espanol.

"Te amo," he muttered.

"You just told me you love me," Castro said. "De nada (you're welcome)!"

Elliott pleaded with Castro. "Don't play it! Don't play it!"

Castro played the tape. The radio audience listened, hanging on every word. And then, just before the dreaded words, "te amo," Castro stopped the tape.

For Elliott, that may go down as his favorite Castro call.