Remembering A Lakers' Legend
2008-09 Tribute by Stu Lantz
This year, the Los Angeles Lakers are pleased to have Chick's long-time broadcast partner and current Lakers television color commentator Stu Lantz share some of his stories about the broadcasting icon. Lantz, now in his 22nd year broadcasting Lakers games, played collegiately at the University of Nebraska where his number 22 jersey still hangs from the rafters. Drafted by San Diego in 1968, he averaged a career-best 20.6 points with the Rockets during the 1970-71 campaign. Lantz played eight NBA seasons overall, including his final two with the Lakers, before retiring due to a back injury. Immediately following his playing career, Lantz embarked on a broadcasting career and has since been chosen Southern California's best radio color commentator six times by the Southern California Sports Broadcaster's Association and best television color commentator on five occasions while also earning five local EMMY Awards for his work in the Best Live Sports Telecast category.
I don't know where to begin when it comes to thanking Chick for all the years of enjoyment that he gave me. If you think that you had it good listening to him, think how good I had it sitting beside him for 15 years.
When Chick asked me to interview for the analyst's position, I had a case of laryngitis and could barely speak. When I walked in and told him that I could barely talk, he said, "Great! You've got the job!" People who knew me said that we would never last long together because I had strong opinions and Chick would never go for that. What they didn't know was how great a team player Chick was. Not only did we get along, but our relationship prospered year after year. Of course, there were times that he would get mad at me, but he wouldn't stay mad long. Like the time of his and Marge's anniversary -- Susan Stratton (the former long-time producer of Lakers basketball on KCAL-9) had made these elaborate plans to have Marge (via satellite from their home) join Chick at halftime during a game in Miami. It was to be a surprise for Chick, but he found out about it and when he got to the arena, he was furious. He didn't like any attention on himself. When I got to the arena, Susan Stratton was almost in tears. She pulled me aside and said, "Chick said that we better not go through with the halftime piece." She asked me what to do, and I said, "After all the work we've put into this, we're still going to do it." And we did. He was mad at me for two days.
When it came to being on time, no one could top Chick. He was always "first" wherever we went. If the plane was to leave at 10:00 a.m. and we had to be there by 9:30 a.m., Chick would be there at 8:00 a.m. It got to a point that I would try to beat him to the airport, the bus, the hotel lobby - wherever we had a specified time to depart. Well, in our 15 years together, I never beat him once. He was well known for being impatient. As soon as the departure time came, he was ready to leave. This led to his favorite saying, "Lets Go!"
As much as he was a genius in the field of announcing, he was challenged when it came to technology. Like the time that Chick got awakened by the hotel alarm clock around 3:00 a.m. It seems that the person who had the hotel room before Chick set the alarm clock and didn't turn off the automatic alarm. So Chick got to the room and did all of the prep work for the next day's game. He always updated the player stats from game to game. He would make new little stat sheets for each player, cut them out, and put them on his stat board. He retired for the night and was awakened at 3:00 a.m. by the blaring alarm. He couldn't figure out how to turn the alarm off, so instead of unplugging the alarm clock, he took his scissors (that he left on the night stand) and cut the cord. When he told me the next day, I was in stitches.
Each year when the daylight savings time change occurred, his grand-daughter Shannon would get a phone call to come over and set the clocks in the cars and in the house.
Another time, Chick and Marge were preparing to go on a ten-day cruise. I called just to check in with Chick just before their departure. I asked him if they were packed and ready to leave. Chick was in a bad mood because he was waiting around for the electrician to finally show up. Thinking that they must have a major electrical problem going on in order to send for an electrician the very day they were leaving for their trip, I asked what the problem was. Chick replied, "Well doesn't everyone who leaves their home for ten days call an electrician to set the on/off light timers?" And then there was the time that Marge went shopping one afternoon and Chick had trouble with the kitchen garbage disposal. Chick (of all people), decided to crawl under the sink and "fix" the problem. A few hours later, Marge walked into the house and found many disposal parts lined up along the kitchen floor. Chick was no where to be found. She finally found him out by the swimming pool, making a frantic phone call to the nearest plumber, obviously trying to convince them to get there before she came home.
One time on the airplane, Chick got up to stretch his legs. He came across some of the players/staff/crew who obviously had a serious card game going on. Chick was appalled! He walked back to Susan Stratton and said, "You can't believe what is going on in the front of the plane. Some of your crew members are gambling! You should go up there and say something to make them stop!" Susan didn't feel as though she was in a position to be telling "the guys" what they should or should not be doing. So, she kind of ignored Chick's statement and proceeded to take a long nap. Susan awoke and heard one of the crew members say, "Good job, Chick." as he walked by. A little later, someone else walked by and said, "Congratulations Chick". Susan was curious and asked Chick what that was all about. Chick said, "Oh, nothing." Finally, when still another person walked by and made a congratulatory comment to Chick, she said, "Come on Chick, what's going on?" Chick sheepishly replied, "I just won $400 -- then defensively said, "Well, I taught them a lesson!"
Then there was the STREAK!! It meant everything to Chick. Imagine announcing 3,338 consecutive basketball games. There were several times during my 15 years with him that he shouldn't have called the game because he wasn't feeling well. But, the streak had to go on. He was so proud of his streak - as well, he should. I'd tell him that the rest of us couldn't relate to it because it sounded so unreal. But -- real it was -- and I'm proud to say that I lasted longer than any other analyst that worked with him. Thanks Chick, for giving me that honor.