The nearly packed Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum is filled with loyal Phoenix Suns basketball fans. The crowd of faces is a blur. Some watch the court while others socialize and chow down on nachos and hot dogs. The coliseum staircase leads down to Phoenix Suns announcer Al McCoy and Utah Jazz announcer Rodney Clark “Hot Rod” Hundley sitting at their microphones and smiling at the camera, their voluminous hair and McCoy’s giant eyeglasses revealing their 1970s milieu.
Hired away from being a broadcaster for the Triple-A Phoenix Giants baseball club in 1972, McCoy has been “The Voice of the Suns” for 45 years, making him the longest-running NBA broadcaster of all time. Suns fans fell in love with McCoy’s snappy catchphrases and signature Midwestern cadence, which belies his Iowa roots.
Whether exclaiming “SHAZAM” after a Suns player sinks a three-point shot, or dolefully reporting the team may check into the “Heartbreak Hotel” after losing a well-fought game, McCoy’s sayings have made games exciting for players and fans for nearly five decades.
Reflecting on his enduring loyalty to the Suns and his remarkable career, McCoy, 84, still sounds awestruck. “It’s something you don’t really anticipate,” he says. “It’s something you might dream about.” He’s also been flattered by some awards, including being named PHOENIX magazine’s “Best Play-by-Play Announcer” for 19 years in a row. (This year marks his 20th – see page 134.) “I’m surprised that after all these years the fans still remember to vote for me,” McCoy says, adding the award is really an honor, since there are so many excellent play-by-play sports broadcasters in the Valley.
One of McCoy’s most memorable experiences with the team happened this year, when he was inducted into the Phoenix Suns Ring of Honor. It was an unforgettable night for McCoy, who looked out at a sold-out arena, including his family, all there supporting him. “It was something above and beyond,” he says.
Another job perk has been plentiful opportunities to talk to journalism students. Speaking to and encouraging young people in journalism, specifically sports broadcasting, has been rewarding for McCoy, who shares the secrets to his longevity and words of wisdom. “If you want to be a play-by-play broadcaster, I think the two most important words I’ve lived by are preparation and concentration,” he says. The advice McCoy always gives to young journalists: “Know where your next job will be” and “Good luck.” Follow McCoy’s advice and you just may score your own “Swish-a-roo!” or “Wham bam slam!”
— Claire Demirjian
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