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    Sacramentan Bryan Oliver, who said he has been a Kings fan since 2000, watches Wednesday's game as he holds out hope that the team will stay put.

  • "It's not just sobering, it's devastating as far as I'm concerned."

    Gary Gerould (Kings radio announcer, on the possibility of the team moving to Seattle)

Habits and hope endure almost three decades of Kings

Published: Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Thursday, Apr. 4, 2013 - 12:36 pm

Gary Gerould cut a well-worn path through Sleep Train Arena early Wednesday evening – to his courtside station to deposit his things, to the office of coach Keith Smart for a pregame chat, back to his black headset as tipoff neared between the Kings and Phoenix Suns.

The familiar, poised radio voice of the Kings, Gerould donned the headset once again amid uncertainty over whether he will still be making these rounds next year.

Wednesday marked the Kings' first home game since the team's co-owners, the Maloofs, reached an agreement to sell the franchise to a Seattle group that would move the team to the Pacific Northwest, a process that requires league approval.

Meanwhile, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has said he's in discussions with potential suitors that would make a counteroffer to buy the Kings and keep them in Sacramento.

Not knowing what the future holds, Gerould said, is "a huge challenge." In his 28th season calling Kings games, the "G-Man" is as much a part of the team's identity as anyone.

"But it's not just my own personality," Gerould said. "It's the fact that we've got a generation now of Kings fans, people who've grown up knowing the NBA in Sacramento and knowing that it's the only game in town in terms of a major league opportunity.

"And to think about that coming to an end, it's not just sobering, it's devastating as far as I'm concerned. And I'm not saying that it is the end.

"But the odds are certainly long."

It's a somewhat familiar feeling. Gerould said he was "absolutely convinced" two years ago he had called his final game for the Sacramento Kings, when it appeared the team was moving to Anaheim. When the move fell through, he was "absolutely euphoric."

"What an emotional roller coaster," Gerould said, acknowledging the term could apply to the majority of the past two years.

Johnson, who occupied a courtside seat at Wednesday night's game, has said he'll give a pitch to the NBA in April that includes an ownership group and arena plan.

"There is a ray of hope, and I cling to that," Gerould said. "I hope that somehow, some way, the parties that are involved in all this can find a way to maintain a presence here in Sacramento."

That seemed a pervading feeling before the game among a handful of the announced 12,741 fans in attendance. Linda Curtis, 50, of Orangevale, stood courtside during warmups wearing a license plate draped around her neck that read: "#1 Kings Fan."

"I'm very encouraged by the announcements that I've heard so far," Curtis said. "I'm not giving up hope until the day that I see them pack up this arena and move.

"Fat lady might be warming up, but she's not singing yet."

David Richwine, 83, of Citrus Heights, said he believes the NBA's board of governors, to whom Johnson will make his pitch, "will give us a chance because of the fan loyalty."

But, Richwine added, referencing the deep-pocketed investors Johnson has said to be courting: "We need the whale. If we don't find a whale, we're done, so, so be it."

Gerould didn't say what he'd do if the team moves, but he considers Sacramento home. Much of his concern lies with team employees who are younger than his 72 years, with young families. And personally, he feels he's still going strong on the microphone.

"I'm not naïve, that can change at any moment," Gerould said. "But I think that I still can do a very creditable job, and I want to have that opportunity."

When he learned two years ago that the Kings were staying put, Gerould said he began picturing the Kings' future here.

"Thinking about, hoping, that however many years it would take before we get the new building, that somehow I would still be in a position that I could enjoy opening night in a new building in Sacramento."

Still holding onto that hope?

"Hanging by my fingernails," he said, chuckling. "Yep, absolutely hoping."

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Read more articles by Matt Kawahara

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