Gary Radnich, the undisputed king of the Bay Area’s sports airwaves for three decades, presided over his final show on KNBR on Friday morning and disputed the notion that the radio station shoved him out the door.
“There was no way they were going to screw over, cheat, or do anything to a guy who built the station — a guy who was the face of the station,” he said. “What kind of people is that? Nobody would do that. Nobody would screw over a guy who built the station, who does not have any felonies and has been the face of the station for this many years.”
Last weekend, Radnich, 69, abruptly announced his “retirement” from KNBR with a cryptic tweet. It was an unexpected move from a guy who gave nearly a three-month notice last year when he retired from his TV anchor duties at San Francisco TV station KRON. His lengthy broadcast career includes an early stint at Fox40 in Sacramento.
In the days after his tweet, it became apparent that Cumulus Media, the corporate owner of KNBR, was cutting ties with both Radnich and Bob Fitzgerald as longtime Bay Area sportscaster Greg Papa prepared to join the station.
Earlier in the year, Papa, the longtime radio voice of the Raiders, was hired as the new play-by-play man for the 49ers. KNBR is the home station of the 49ers. Papa, who had been working at 95.7 The Game, and John Lund, are set to take over the mid-morning time slot formerly occupied by Radnich and Larry Krueger.
The new program is scheduled to launch on July 16.
Radnich said that, as soon as Papa was hired to be the 49ers broadcaster, it was obvious that there “had to be rearrangements” at the station.
“God, did I know they were going to do this much rearranging? No,” he said. “… With football starting, the 49ers wanted to get Papa in there. I’m not saying it was at my expense. But when you make what I make — what the hell — let’s get Papa in now.”
Radnich, who was flanked in the studio by his wife, Alicia, and 11-year-old son, Spencer, admitted that his original intention was to finish out his contract, which ran through the end of the year. He hinted that KNBR made him an offer to remain at the station in some capacity — “for a hell of a lot less money” — but he decided to walk away now.
“Nobody was caught off guard by this,” he said. “… I’m one step ahead of all these guys and I knew exactly what was going on. … Everything’s cool.”
Going into his three-hour farewell show, Radnich promised listeners “real talk, limited sappy tributes … and mostly laughs.” His guests included, among others, former 49ers president and CEO Carmen Policy, as well as several media co-workers over the years in both radio and TV: Tony Bruno, Kate Scott, Renel Brooks Moon, Raj Mathai and former KNBR station manager Tony Salvatore.
Radnich also invited a couple of his favorite callers — Johnny the Gout Man and James “Jimbo” Kincaid — to pitch in a few words.
Radnich occasionally became emotional during the program, breaking down during anecdotes about his late father and mother, and his basketball playing days at San Jose’s Branham High School.
But as he typically did throughout a career in which he preferred to keep things light-hearted, Radnich didn’t let the program get too poignant. When Kincaid read from a prepared tribute that cited “the greatest career in the history of Bay Area sports talk,” Radnich closed out his tenure by blurting “Nobody cares” and walking away.