NBA Playoffs

Two who turn 90 this year, ESPN’s Hubie Brown and retiring Suns’ Al McCoy were celebrated last night

My wife and I were on a flight from Miami to Denver last night with American Airlines. It was tricky to find the game on the flight, yet did. The Nuggets have advanced and will play either the Lakers or Warriors, in the Western Finals. Los Angeles leads its series 3-2.

Hubie Brown worked with Dave Pasch on ESPN. Brown is still as sharp as they come. He’ll be remembered as a coach and as a cogent teacher of the game on television. He won an ABA championship in the 1970s, coaching the old Kentucky Colonels. Hubie was a mentor in the NBA to assistants, Rick Pitino, Mike Fratello and others. He’s cut down significantly on his own TV schedule and remains a wonderful teacher and coach. He uses a stylized staccato which is recognized immediately among hoops fans.

Imagine, two men, Brown, who turns 90 on September 25th and Al McCoy, already 90, were behind the mic. Al’s call was his last, leaving the Suns after 51 seasons. McCoy never made a big deal of himself. Most of his Suns’ seasons since starting in 1972, were a simulcast, heard on both radio and TV. The last couple of decades was on radio only when the men on audio were stuffed in the rafters. Imagine having to elbow your way to the top of the building. When you get deep into your 80s and have to squeeze yourself, way upstairs, it’s quite a challenge. So the last few years, he hardly traveled. Al was given the Curt Gowdy Award from the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Both men become nonagenarians in 2023. Brown coached Atlanta, New York and Memphis. He’s one of the most determined men I’ve ever met. He is absolute unafraid of any challenge. A New Jersey kid, he played at Niagara and was friendly with Larry  Costello, two years his senior. When Costello coached Lew Alcindor (not Kareem yet) in Milwaukee, he brought Hubie in as his assistant.

It was an historic night, two, 90 year old voices, still great pros at their crafts. McCoy now retired and Hubie still engaged but in a reduced capacity. Some preside brilliantly forever and others labor. These two, Al and Hubie just kept flourishing. Vin Scully exited the Dodgers’ booth at age 88 in 2016. Bob Uecker is at it at 89 and still doing Brewers home games on radio.

Brown worked for CBS and Turner in the 1980s and 90s with partner Dick Stockton. In recent years, he’s had a mixed group of partners with ESPN. If you love the game, Brown’s words seem tutorial.

As for McCoy, he’s the most versatile voice ever in Phoenix. Think the Western Hockey League, Arizona State Football and basketball and the Phoenix Giants of AAA baseball. Al is cordial with all. A banner for him hangs in the arena’s rafters.

When Vin retired, he was asked how he’d use his time. He paused, smiled and looked toward the heavens, inferring that it’s up to God. He was then aging and passed last August 2nd at 94.

Al McCoy, the melodic voice of the Suns once told me in definitive tone, “Marty Glickman helped popularize the NBA in the East in the 1950’s and Chick Hearn did so out West in the 1960s.”

Below (l-r) are Hubie, Al and ESPN’s Dave Pasch.

 

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David J. Halberstam

David is a 40-year + industry veteran who served as play-by-play announcer for St. John's University basketball in New York and as radio play-by-play voice of the Miami Heat in South Florida. He is the author of Sports on New York Radio: A Play-by-Play History and The Fundamentals of Sports Media and Sponsorship Sales: Developing New Accounts.

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Michael Green
9 months ago

Having made 58 revolutions around the sun, I am a little more aware of age than I used to be but always opposed ageism. It’s great that the Suns and ESPN have recognized that though they got older, they still had it. I want to be careful: When Vin retired, I tried to joke on one site that Felo Ramirez was still at it for the Marlins and he was in his nineties, so Vin was a slacker; not everyone got the joke, unfortunately. But Uke still has it at 89, and those who still can do it well and… Read more »