Broadcaster Roye enjoys rare air: calling victories

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» Thu Apr 21, 2005 2:06 pm
By Mark Purdy
Mercury News

The Warriors concluded their season Wednesday night in quite the rare situation: Their fans actually didn't want the season to end.

Perhaps you are one of those fans. Perhaps you are happy for Jason Richardson, who has become a dunking highlight fixture on ESPN. Perhaps you are happy for Coach Mike Montgomery, who now looks like a man able to keep down a meal. Or perhaps you are happy for point guard Baron Davis, who has demonstrated his ability to yank the team's steering wheel into a U-turn toward respectability.

Not me. The guy I am happy for is none of the above. I am happy for the guy who has not only had to witness every minute of this last miserable Warriors decade, but also has been forced to describe it to the listening public.

That, of course, would be Tim Roye. The Warriors' play-by-play radio man completed his 10th season with the team Wednesday.

And how can I say this nicely? It has been a little bit like describing 10 years of ``Fear Factor'' shows where the worms eat the people, instead of vice versa. My professional admiration for the man is boundless.

``I've never really gotten despondent about things,'' Roye said before Wednesday's game. ``Because it's still a great job. I have a lot of people who say to me, `Man, this has got to be hard for you.' And I tell them, `No, it's not.' The team treats me well. I get to do the NBA. We stay in great hotels. I never forget that my first job was in the 108th-largest market in America -- in Utica, N.Y., doing minor league hockey.''

There must have been times, though, when those minor league hockey years loomed as fond memories for Roye. Such is the lot of a home-team broadcaster, whose fate in terms of ability to depict great action is linked completely to the action the home team provides.

In the Warriors' case, the action has been consistently some of the NBA's least compelling.

``It does make you dig deep,'' Roye said.

In fact, by my unofficial tally, Roye has the worst win-loss record of any home-team broadcaster in the NBA over the past 16 seasons. It's kind of a tricky statistic. Roye didn't start doing Warriors games until 1995. But before that, he was a member of the Sacramento Kings' broadcast team for six seasons, during that franchise's darkest hours.

If you combine all of those seasons, Roye has an even worse record over that time (441-839) than the longtime voice of the woeful Los Angeles Clippers, Ralph Lawler (459-821). The men are kindred spirits. More than once when the teams have played each other, Lawler has strolled past Roye's broadcast post and told him: ``I feel your pain.''

Not these past six weeks, however. Although Roye is paid by the team, he has sincerely been heartened by the Golden State of resurgence. Wednesday's 106-89 victory over Utah allowed the Warriors to finish 34-48.

Although this team has fooled us before -- don't forget, there were 38 victories two seasons ago -- Roye wants to believe the best. He has never done a playoff game.

``I think for the first time, without question, you can say the team has some legitimate expectations in regard to success,'' Roye said.

A few minutes later, he mused: ``I never thought I would say on the air that the Warriors are up 40 points on the Lakers.''

That happened a few nights ago. And it was certainly a different feeling for Roye.

``One night in Seattle -- I think it must have been the 1996-97 season -- the Warriors were down by 70-37 at halftime,'' he said. ``I remember turning to someone and saying, `We're going to have to really work hard in the second half to make this interesting.' ''

Somehow, he managed. He always tries to picture an 8-year-old at home beneath the covers in his bedroom, listening to his first NBA game. Roye figures he owes that kid his best effort -- assuming the kid can indeed pick up the broadcast. In 1997 when a Giants game pushed the Warriors broadcast off KNBR and onto a small R&B station, a technical foul-up knocked out the Warriors' feed to the station. The man at the control board had no idea how to fix the problem and simply threw some music onto the air.

Roye kept talking into thin air, unaware. After enough listeners called to complain, the station repaired the glitch just in time for the game's last minute. But the previous 11 minutes of the fourth quarter? Nobody heard it.

``Of course,'' Roye said, ``I always maintain it was one of the best quarters I've ever done.''

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