Hot Rod's gotta love it: retirement

Published: Saturday, April 25 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

Jazz announcer Hot Rod Hundley broadcasts on the radio during the Jazz's first-round playoff game Thursday at EnergySolutions Arena.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

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He heads toward the rafters, zippered briefcase in hand.

In it is the handmade score sheet he personally fills out before each game, the format so old it has room to list only two referees — and the NBA began using three back in the late 1980s.

He's relied on it since he started broadcasting, and he even got ex-partner Chick Hearn — the late, legendary Los Angeles Lakers play-by-play man — to use one as well.

It's not old-fashioned paperwork, though, that's pushing him to part in a world of blogs and Twitter.

Rather, the long journey up is the bane of his existence — and the chief reason the 74-year-old Hot Rod Hundley will, after 35 years as broadcast voice of the then-New Orleans and now Utah Jazz, call it a career after this season.

"Radio," a rather melancholy Hundley said, "is not what I thought it would be."

So with the Jazz two games away from elimination in their ongoing first-round NBA playoff series with the Lakers, and Game 5 in the best-of-seven scheduled for Monday night in L.A., tonight's Game 4 at EnergySolutions Arena could very well be the last he ever calls in Utah.

If so, and whenever Hundley's calls soon end, the Salt Lake airwaves of KFNZ 1320-AM never will be the same.

"It will be sad," said Hundley, who got his NBA start playing 52 years ago for the Lakers — then the Minneapolis Lakers — after being drafted No. 1 overall.

"I'm kind of scared, too, I might add. 1957, I left West Virginia University. I went to the Lakers and got a paycheck the first week in October. I haven't missed one since. Now, I'll miss paychecks after September. I'm kind of nervous about it."

Then again, Hundley laughs at the joke, he probably hasn't picked up a check in 52 years, either.

Probably saved every per diem envelope he ever received, too.

"That," Hundley said, "is the only thing that got me (to) where I can pull this off — retirement."

Sad, too, is the realization for so many that a man welcomed for so long into their homes, cars and offices will no longer be heard.

"He's a fixture here in this community and all around the league," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said Friday.

"You can't be mad at yourself when you've done it that long. He's had, obviously, a tremendous career — especially when you count the Stockton-and-Malone era," Jazz veteran forward Matt Harpring said before breaking into a Hundley imitation. "You know: 'Stockton-to-Malone.' You're always gonna hear that."

Just not much more Williams-to-Boozer, the Jazz's current pick-and-roll pair.

"I know I don't have much time left (either)," said Sloan, who won't have to hold the Jazz's team bus for the occasionally late Hundley much longer. "(But) life goes on, and we wish him nothing but the best, because we've also been good friends."

The relationship goes all the way back to Sloan's college days at Evansville.

Hundley — his six-year career with two All-Star seasons having come to a close — was working at the time as a representative for the Converse sneaker company.

What Sloan didn't know was that he was doing some scouting on the side.

"Slick (Leonard) called him and said, 'Can this guy play?' " Sloan said with reference to Leonard, then an NBA head coach and Hundley's ex-Lakers teammate. "He said, 'He can do everything with the basketball except throw it in the ocean.' That was Hot Rod's recommendation."

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