NBA radio announcer Kevin Calabro: Talks a good game and plays one too

Updated: July 2, 2013

You might not know the face, but if you are a sports fan you no doubt know the voice and the familiar sayings. There’s “Good Golly Miss Molly.” Or how about “Get on up for the down stroke.” And then this gem “Nobody can do that voodoo like you do.”

Enough hints? If you guessed Kevin Calabro, the former radio and television announcer for the Seattle SuperSonics, go right to the head of the class. Calabro readily admits he might have a face for radio, but he has a voice that is world class. He announced the Seattle SuperSonics for years on radio and television before the team left for Oklahoma City a few years ago. Since then he has taken the national stage with announcing gig on ESPN national radio and the Pac-12 Network for both football and basketball.

And in between it all, he still tries to get out and play as much golf as he can. If nothing else, with his voice, he can talk a good game. No pun intended. Calabro actually does have a good game. He is long off the tee with new his Taylor Made driver and has a decent short game. He will readily admit his irons need some work and the putting sometimes lets him down. But he takes his golf seriously and plays whenever he can. In fact, when he’s on the road for the NBA games for ESPN or even for the Pac-12 football and basketball games, the clubs will usually go along for the ride.

Even when he was first doing the Seattle SuperSonics job, Calabro would take his sticks on the team charter. He would find a way to get a round of golf in with a coach or front office person or even one of the players like Ray Allen or Brent Barry. And when the team made the playoffs and spent extra time in a city, like Phoenix or Houston, it meant more time for golf.

“Even if there was no one to play with, I was going to get out and play,” said the 56-year-old Calabro. “We were hitting too many nice cities with great courses not to play on the road.”

Calabro got the golf bug early in life with his two brothers Ron and Dave. Their mother bought them hickory shafted clubs at a garage sale and they played all the time. After junior high, Calabro decided to do other sports and left golf on the shelf for the time being.

When he moved to Seattle in 1987 and took the SuperSonics job, he started to get invited to celebrity golf tournaments. He would show up in tennis shoes, carry a bag of old beat up golf balls and look for the nearest rental set he could get his hands on. He was so unprepared for golf, that during an event his back seized up, he got in his car and parked it at the Sea-Tac Mall where he fell asleep because of the pain.

Now, Calabro is a complete golfer. No more tennis shoes, no more bags of old beat up golf balls and no more rental clubs.

“I figured if I was going to get invited to these events, I better know how to play a little,” said Calabro. “I worked with my former broadcast partner Rick Carlisle who was a scratch golfer, he gave me some clubs and helped me.”

Calabro spent from 1987 through 2007 with the SuperSonics, calling games on both radio and television. There were some great times. And there were some not so great times.

And about those nicknames. Was he the one to come up with “The Glove” for Gary Payton and “Reign Man” for Shawn Kemp? Sure seemed like it at the time, but Calabro is quick to give credit where credit is due. He got “The Glove” nickname from a cousin of Payton’s and the “Reign Man” name came from a poster that the Costacos Brothers did for Kemp.

calabro in storyCalabro didn’t believe the Sonics would move when Howard Schultz sold the team. He thought the Oklahoma City group would find a way to make it go in Seattle. He was a believer until the day he saw the moving trucks leave.

“I thought there was no way the NBA would let a team leave Seattle,” said Calabro. “I was right there until the end. I really never thought it would happen.”

Despite being offered an announcing job, Calabro had no interest in moving to Oklahoma City. He had his wife Sue and kids Joey, Anthony, Lauren and Nick all in school. Turns out, Calabro made the right move.

He is likely to be named ESPN radio’s top player-by-play announcer for next year and he will keep his job with the Pac-12 Network for football and basketball. He misses the NBA in Seattle, but these jobs help.

Calabro got his hopes up again when Seattle seemingly had a deal for an NBA arena and team from Sacramento heading north, but that fell through at the last minute.

“I thought it might happen,” said Calabro. “But everything fell right for Sacramento at the last minute and they kept the team.”

So, until Seattle gets another NBA team, Calabro will settle back behind the mic for ESPN and the Pac-12 Networks and will keep working on his golf game – a game he admits needs some work. During a round at Twin Lakes Golf and Country Club in Federal Way, Calabro showed why he is a 10 handicap and why he needs work to get lower. His drives were long and consistent, the irons missed greens and the short game deserted him at times.

As he stood on the 18th tee box and flared a shot into the nearby neighborhood, Calabro muttered “I’m just falling apart – maybe one of these days I will figure out how to finish.”

On this day he finished with an 85, including missing birdie putts on the first two holes. He finished by making double bogeys on 17 and 18. And is not to be too flustered after the double-double finish, he drove down the wrong way of a one-way cart path.

But that’s anything unlike Calabro -whose career is on the upswing with national radio gigs and whose golf game seems to be going the same way. “I’ll just keep trying and see what I can do,” said Calabro. “It’s a tough game.”