For the first time in the franchise's 35-year history, the Jazz will play a season without having every on-the-court move described by the colorful character who turned "the ole cowhide globe hits home" and "Stockton-to-Malone!" into Utah household phrases.
The new era of Jazz broadcasting officially begins tonight at Denver.
You gotta love it, baby?
David Locke won't say it quite like that, but he sure hopes that's the case.
If you tune in, however, prepare to be a little weirded out.
Even the charismatic and confident Locke, who's taking over as the radio voice of the Jazz, expects it to be a bit bizarre on everybody's eardrums now that the retired Hot Rod Hundley has exchanged the play-by-play airwaves for warmer winter air in Arizona.
"I'm really aware," Locke said, "that it's going to be strange for people and hard for them."
Count the sports-talk-show host/broadcaster among those who will have to acquire a taste to the new sound accompanying Jerry Sloan's squad. Even with his Bay Area roots and a near-decade stay in Seattle, Locke has been listening to Hundley and rooting for the Jazz since his childhood — just like many Utahns.
For nostalgic people who will think, "I really miss Hot Rod," at some point this season, Locke has a simple message: "I do, too. I grew up a Jazz fan and that's the guy I'm used to. So, I miss him, too."
Locke credited his 1320 KFAN co-worker, Ben Bagley, for aptly capturing the feel of the switch-over situation with a comment made after he filled in for Hundley during a broadcast of the Utah-at-Toronto game last March.
"You're really good," Bagley told Locke afterward. "But, boy, was it weird."
To borrow something Locke might excitedly declare during a call, "Aaaah! That's it!"
"That sums it up. It's really weird," Locke admitted. "Nobody's ever heard anything other than this very distinctive, terrific announcer. It's very strange for people, so it will take some time."
Tell Craig Bolerjack about it.
If anyone can empathize, it's the Jazz's other voice (and face). In his TV career, Bolerjack has partially replaced two local broadcasting mammoths, including Hundley as the team's lead TV personality when the simulcast was split up four years ago and former Ch. 5 sportscaster/BYU voice Paul James upon his semi-retirement.
"My only advice, and I've talked to (Locke) about it," Bolerjack said, "is just go do the game, be yourself."
Bolerjack knows Hundley was "an icon," so he warns Locke to ignore the catcalls and use it as motivation to work harder — a formula that's worked for him. The following, he believes, will come.
"You can't take (criticism) personally. You just have to keep pushing through," he said. " ... I think he has to be patient and understand that Hot Rod's a Hall of Famer and it takes time to achieve those heights."
Because of his opinionated personality, Locke knows some will doubt and diss him, but he's trying to distance himself from non-productive negativity.
"Hopefully over 12, 24, 36 months," he said, "these people will understand the great announcer retired and the new guy is trying to do the best he can ..."
For what it's worth — and to Locke it's worth a whole lot — Hundley has given the replacement his blessing.
Locke has full support of his bosses at the Jazz, too, especially through the admittedly awkward-by-default transition.
"(Hot Rod) was truly one of the greats," said Chris Baum, the Jazz's senior vice president of broadcasting. "We don't expect David to step in and fill those shoes. David is going to bring his own style and strengths to that position."
One thing is certain: the vernacular and voice of the Jazz will be vastly different.
Say goodbye to the fun and familiar "belt-high dribble" and "hippity-hop" yakety-yak from the Chick Hearn-inspired Hundley.
Adjust your ears for what Baum says will be "the new world of broadcasting."
Expect signature calls like "he buys one and gets one free" (for old-fashioned three-point plays) and "Holy Toledo!" (a tribute to San Francisco announcing legend Bill King), a variety of visceral sound effects (such as growls for powerful Paul Millsap rebounds), analysis backed by statistics, research and NBA-expert guests (twice-a-game visits by Pace Mannion and Thurl Bailey), "added-value listening" ticket giveaways, a dinging bell to signify 30-point scorers around the league, and a radio broadcast enhanced with TV-like features (replays and in-game interview soundbytes) and social-media interaction a la Twitter, facebook and live blogs.
If that sounds like a lot packed into one paragraph — and it is — just wait until you hear it interspersed throughout an energetic broadcast.
"There's going to be a real rock-and-roll NBA-arena feel to it," Locke said. "I feel like the NBA game is like a show ... there's a vibe to it, a heartbeat, a passion. Hopefully, our production sounds like it also."
It will, at times, be out of the norm for longtime Jazz fans.
Locke understands that.
It will, at times, also be "out-of-the-box."
Locke, who spends at least eight-10 hours to prepare for each game along with his crack staff, is crossing his fingers that he'll win over listeners with the groundbreaking approach.
"Hopefully," he said, "every time they get that we're doing stuff that nobody else in the country is doing and they like it."
It was hard for Locke to envision actually getting this gig, mostly because Hot Rod has been a pillar of play-by-play for so long. But the 39-year-old has been prepping for an opportunity like this almost his whole life.
He announced moves while playing sports games like Strat-o-matic when he was as young as 5. Over the years, he tweaked his talent even when nobody else was listening. He sat in venues — for high school baseball, the Jazz and even Seattle Seahawks games — and said it like he saw it. Yes, out loud.
Meanwhile, he also called live action for actual audiences. Three years ago, he was the voice of the Sonics. He's twice been the broadcaster for WNBA teams (one year for the Utah Starzz, seven for the Seattle Storm). He called University of Washington football and basketball games on TV for a year with Fox Sports Northwest. Not to leave out times he subbed for a few Ogden Raptors and Salt Lake Buzz games when he was in Utah in the 1990s.
Ironically, it was getting let go by the Sonics in 2007 that paved the way for his return to Utah — first as a drive-time, sports-talk host and now with the additional moonlighting broadcasting position with the Jazz.
Locke is excited to have both jobs, which he believes will work cohesively together. He'll get extra insight traveling with the Jazz and be able to share it with his audience, both over the air and online.
That's part of the reason why he's so stoked things worked out like they did.
Plus, he's glad to be back in the Beehive State, a place he grew to love as a kid when he traveled here while his dad did business in Utah and where he broke into the sports radio biz after graduating from Occidental College in 1992. Locke's wife joked that she could tell he still had one foot in Utah since the day they were married.
It almost seemed to Locke like a puppeteer seized control of his life for about a year in Seattle, pulling the rest of his body back to Utah, where he built a home in Park City for his family of four.
"I really appreciate that puppeteer," he said. "... This is where I feel most comfortable. It feels like home to me."
It will be odd for Sloan to not have Hundley around, but the coach's wallet might get fatter because of it.
"I'll save some money ... Hot Rod's not a big spender," laughed the Jazz coach, who apparently picked up the dinner tab a time or two hundred on the road over the years.
"We loved Hot Rod. He was great to work with and certainly will miss him a lot."
Sloan, entering his 22nd season as Utah's bench boss, doesn't have that same rapport with Locke yet. They'll continue the tradition of doing a pregame Q&A, though.
And it might be a while before Sloan even gets a chance to treat his team's new announcer to a meal.63 comments on this story
Locke laughs about how he's trying to figure out how to work eating meals into his jam-packed daily routine on the road. His mid-day meals have consisted of grabbing apples from the hotel lobby while hustling to hail a cab and get to the arena.
"It's just a sharp reminder," Locke said, "of, 'Wow!' I really don't have any idea how I'm doing this yet."
Whether or not he gets lunch today, you can bet his first regular-season broadcast as the voice of the Jazz will be filled with excitement and emotion — two traits his calls will undoubtedly share in common with Hot Rod's.
Nothing weird about that.