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Jazz confirm Hot Rod called it a day

Published April 24, 2009 8:17 pm

Basketball » The well-respected broadcaster has been with the team for 35 seasons.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

As he filled out his scoresheet in the Jazz's family room before Thursday's game, "Hot" Rod Hundley paused to note that he had been doing so the same way since he worked with legendary Los Angeles Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn starting in 1967.

Never mind that the NBA made the switch to three-referee crews for the 1988-89 season, Hundley's sheet still had room for the names of only two officials, along with rows and columns for points, fouls and quarter-by-quarter scoring.

One of the last of his generation of broadcasting greats, Hundley soon will call his final game. What he suggested in a conversation Thursday, the team made official with an announcement Friday that the voice of the Jazz is retiring after 35 seasons.

Hundley, who the Basketball Hall of Fame honored with the Curt Gowdy Media award in 2003, celebrated his 3,000th Jazz broadcast in January and learned just last weekend he will join Jerry West in having his old No. 33 retired by West Virginia University.

"All these nice things seem to have just fallen in place," Hundley said. "I said, 'What else can I do to beat all of this?' I think I've done as much as I can do, and have enjoyed it actually the whole time."

His final game will be the Jazz's last this season. The team trails the Lakers 2-1 in their first-round playoff series.

Jazz president Randy Rigby said in a statement that Hundley was as much a part of the franchise's identity as the old music note logo, or as John Stockton and Karl Malone.

Having first met Hundley when he was a college star at the University of Evansville and when Hundley was a Converse representative, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said, "He's a fixture here in this community and all around the league with our organization."

Longtime Cleveland Cavaliers broadcaster Joe Tait, who has called games since 1970, praised Hundley's style. "You didn't need to have anybody say that was 'Hot' Rod Hundley; you knew," he said, adding that Hundley always will be identified with the Jazz.

"It's something that a number of the modern owners haven't figured out," Tait said, "that radio announcers still have a very close identification between a team and its fans, even as so much emphasis is made on TV and Internet, things of that nature."

Hundley, the last remaining member of the original New Orleans Jazz staff, had discussed the possibility of working a schedule of home games next season, but the organization was not as receptive.

"I think that's a difficult arrangement," Rigby said Thursday. "I think for both of us as we've talked about that, we've really kind of ruled out the home-only arrangement."

Hundley will turn 75 in October, recently built a home in Peoria, Ariz., and wanted to see more of his 9- and 6-year-old grandsons and less of the Utah winters.

That the Jazz are on the road so much also has taken its toll. "I was thinking about that over in L.A.," Hundley said. "I was sitting there for four days. 'Why am I doing this?' "

Hundley has broadcast 3,048 Jazz regular-season and playoff games, as the team's simulcast voice on radio and television for 31 seasons and radio alone for the past four seasons.

But the NBA hasn't made Hundley's job any easier in recent years. No longer are teams required to provide courtside seating for radio broadcasters, forcing Hundley to call games from the very top of the lower bowl at EnergySolutions Arena and elsewhere.

"I don't like to make a mistake and you make mistakes up there," Hundley said. "I used to fly with it. The referee hadn't even blown his whistle, I've got the foul when a guy's going in.

"Now I've got to wait. I play off numbers more than faces up there because it's easier to see a number and to put it to the uniform."

The Jazz have two in-house candidates who could possibly replace Hundley.

David Locke, who hosts an afternoon show on 1320 AM, formerly worked as the Seattle SuperSonics radio broadcaster before returning to Utah.

Locke moved to Utah in 1976 and credited Hundley with some of his favorite memories growing up and following the Jazz.

"I just think that people trusted him to tell them what was going on with the team," Locke said, adding, "He always entertained. He was one of a kind, and that drove me in what I've done in my career."

Rigby also mentioned Steve Klauke, who calls Salt Lake Bees games on 1230 AM, as another possibility. Locke filled in in March when Hundley did not travel to Toronto for the Jazz's game against the Raptors.

"There will be a myriad of interested parties," Rigby said. "We've got a great stable, I think, of talented people who work for us in various capacities in broadcasting."

The Jazz have not made any decisions about whether they will replace Hundley with a single broadcaster or add the voice of an analyst.

"Economics are going to come into play," Rigby said. "We all realize that right now. I think the person and their style comes into play with it. So there's a lot of options."

Having collected his first paycheck as a player with the Minneapolis Lakers in 1957, Hundley said he was "kind of scared" to face life without basketball. The first paycheck he misses come September, he added, will be his first in 52 years.

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'Hot' Rod Hundley

Thirty-five years as Jazz broadcaster, 31 on simulcasts and last four on radio alone.

Celebrated 3,000th Jazz broadcast with Jan. 7 game against New Orleans.

Honored with Basketball Hall of Fame's Curt Gowdy Media award in 2003.

Only remaining member of original New Orleans Jazz staff dating to franchise's founding.

Second player after Jerry West to have his number retired by West Virginia.

First pick in the NBA Draft in 1957 by the Cincinnati Royals, who immediately traded him to the Minneapolis Lakers.

Played for the Lakers in Minneapolis and Los Angeles from 1957 to 1963.