Gary Gerould is in his 32nd season broadcasting Kings games, and even for a man whom TV analyst Jerry Reynolds calls “the ultimate professional,” that’s a long time to maintain the kind of unflappable polish Kings fans have come to know over the radio.
“People ask me if I’ve ever seen Gary in an unusual circumstance,” Reynolds says. “I saw his hair out of place one time.”
As Reynolds tells it, the Kings had just played a game in Detroit at the old, airy Pontiac Silverdome, which the Pistons called home for much of the ’80s.
“It was like a vacuum,” Reynolds said of the dome. “And Gary, I mean, he’s immaculate. You never see him anything other than just totally immaculate. And his hair just blew all over his head. I felt ashamed of myself – I couldn’t help but laugh.
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“That’s the first and only time I saw him when he wasn’t perfect.”
From Arco Arena 1 to Golden 1 Center, for as long as the Kings have played games in Sacramento, Gerould has been behind a microphone describing the action. When the Kings host Utah on Sunday, the team said, the “G-Man,” as he is affectionately known, will call his 2,500th game.
People ask me if I’ve ever seen Gary in an unusual circumstance. I saw his hair out of place one time.
Kings TV analyst Jerry Reynolds
Gerould’s response to the impending milestone fits with his smooth, unassuming style of play-by-play. He questions, with a chuckle, its significance to “anyone other than me.”
“I think it signifies that, a) he’s really, really good,” said Tim Roye, a longtime radio play-by-play man for the Golden State Warriors. “If you’re not outstanding, you don’t get to do 2,500 for one team.
“And I think it also shows that he’s consistent. When you think of the Kings, you think of G-Man. He’s been the constant there since the beginning.”
The beginning was Oct. 25, 1985. Prompted, Gerould can still conjure images of that night – the men who showed up in tuxedos for the first home game in Sacramento, the “postage stamp-sized” locker rooms at Arco, the trainer taping ankles in the hallway.
Until about a year ago, Gerould, 76, balanced his Kings duties with a network TV career that focused largely on motor sports. But radio was his first love. Gerould, who grew up as an only child in small-town Michigan, said his father died when he was young and his mother was often ill.
“Consequently I was really on my own a lot at a very young age, and the radio station in (Midland, Mich.) was a mile from my house,” Gerould said. “I was there virtually every day, every night after school. I loved it. I lived there.”
Sports and music were the station’s driving forces, and Gerould gravitated to the former. Even now, he said, he likes the challenge of calling a game on radio, talking to fans who for the most part don’t see what he’s seeing.
“When you’re in television, you’re a passenger on the bus,” Gerould said. “When you’re in radio, you’re driving the bus. You’ve got to create a visual image if you can. Try to be informative, try to be entertaining, try to paint a mental picture, if you will.”
It isn’t as simple as describing the scene. Part of Gerould’s preparation for games is to make charts full of profile notes and stats on players and coaches for quick reference. Compiling one can take six hours the first time he sees a team during a season.
Doug Christie, the former Kings guard, got his first glimpse of those notes while doing postgame courtside interviews with Gerould as a player. As Christie transitioned into a broadcasting role with the Kings after retirement, he held onto the image.
“I didn’t know where to start,” Christie said. “So I went and got a piece of paper and just started writing it down, and the best way that I could think about doing it was exactly the way the G-Man did it. Finally, I got myself a little notebook and started writing in it.”
At one of his first games as an analyst, Christie recalled, he pulled out the notebook and was told his notes looked exactly like Gerould’s.
When you’re in television, you’re a passenger on the bus. When you’re in radio, you’re driving the bus. You’ve got to create a visual image if you can. Try to be informative, try to be entertaining, try to paint a mental picture, if you will.
Longtime Kings radio announcer Gary Gerould
“G-Man comes, puts down his notes,” Christie said. “And as he set them down, I looked at them and started laughing to myself.”
Kings teams of Christie’s era were among the best Gerould has covered. Of Gerould’s 31 full seasons, the Kings have had losing records in 23 and are on their way to another. He admits the losses weren’t always easy to take. In one mid-December game during their inaugural season, the Kings were thumped by 58 points in Milwaukee. They flew home – and held the team Christmas party the next day.
“Joe Axelson, who was the general manager, kind of took me aside, because I was really down,” Gerould said. “And he said there are going to be nights like that in the NBA; you just have to get used to it and find a way to deal with it.”
Gerould found a way. And it made an impression on Brian Wheeler. Before becoming the radio voice of the Portland Trail Blazers, Wheeler spent a few years in the mid-’90s on the Kings’ radio team, where he observed Gerould’s “even-keel” manner during games.
“He kind of showed me that even if you’re disappointed, you’ve still got to find a way to keep people listening,” Wheeler said. “You can’t be so discouraged that people say, ‘Gosh, I can’t listen to this guy anymore.’ Even if you feel that, you have to find a way to still paint as good a picture, or at least keep things as entertaining as possible.”
The Kings appear in the midst of another reboot, their last playoff appearance 11 years ago a receding memory. Still, as they take the floor Sunday afternoon, Gerould will again take up the brush.
“I’m 76 years of age now, and you have to think about those types of things,” Gerould said. “But I love the fact that I’ve had some longevity, that I continue to have an opportunity. I hope that opportunity continues to exist for a long time. And as long as I’m healthy, and as long as I’m wanted, man, I love being able to do the job.”