Utah native Holly Rowe has a new assignment at ESPN — she’ll be behind the mic calling a WNBA game, even as she continues to battle cancer.
It’s certainly not the first time the University of Utah grad has covered the league. She was the color commentator for the Utah Starzz (since moved to San Antonio) back in 1997. But since she joined ESPN in 1998, she’s been working the sidelines of everything from college football and basketball to gymnastics, swimming, the Little League World Series and the Women’s World Cup. And, of course, the WNBA.
In an interview with The Athletic, Rowe said the opportunity arose because ESPN’s regular voice of the WNBA, Ryan Ruocco, has a scheduling conflict this weekend. Rowe volunteered for the job, citing her longtime association with and knowledge of the league.
It’s not that she feels constricted by her sideline role. On the contrary, Rowe told The Athletic she believes she has “a true talent on the sidelines because it is so impromptu and you have to figure out where to fit in the broadcast. I think it suits my creative talents better. But I would love to do more play-by-play if my schedule permits.”
She’ll call a rematch of the past two WNBA Finals — Minnesota Lynx vs. Los Angeles Sparks — 3 p.m. Sunday on ESPN2. And it will be an all-woman team calling a women’s league game, with Rebecca Lobo and LaChina Robinson working as analysts.
This latest addition to her already-busy schedule comes as Rowe, 51, continues to battle melanoma, which spread throughout her body. Two years ago, she underwent surgery to remove multiple tumors and 29 lymph nodes, but she’s still dealing with a cancerous tumor in her lung.
Rowe, who attended Brigham Young University, transferred to and graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Utah and still calls Salt Lake City home, is participating in a two-year immunotherapy trial that appears to be helping. However, the cancer and the treatments leave her feeling exhausted — although you’d never know that by watching her on ESPN.
“When I’m working, I don’t think about that I don’t feel well,” she told The Athletic. “I don’t think about that my body is in pain. The more I sit around, the worse I feel.”
And in an interview with The Tribune a year ago, Rowe said her job and sports “saved my life.”
“I’m not saying that as a joke or lightly,” she said. “It’s given me things to look forward to.... I’m so grateful to have distractions.”