|Voices of the game: Announcer Goss a winner, even if Dukes have rarely followed suit|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 09 February 2008 13:15|
No college sports announcer knows more about losing than Goss, Duquesne University's basketball play-by-play voice for 40 years. Only seven announcers in history have worked longer for a school than Goss, who has described only 10 winning teams since moving behind the Dukes' microphone in 1968.
Exactly half of those 10 winners came in his first five seasons, meaning Goss has had only five winners in 35 years.
What stands out to Duquesne's relatively small but loyal fan base is how good Goss is, even though he has spent nearly a lifetime describing bad teams. He is polished, poised and professional - CBS once auditioned him for an NBA job - even during the worst of times and the worst of games.
At Duquesne, best known nationally as Pittsburgh's ``other'' school, there have been plenty of bad times since a long string of very good teams in the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s segued into a grim and seemingly endless stretch of losing.
``Maybe I'm getting older or more mature, but the losses don't bother me as much any more,'' said Goss, a native of Carnegie, Pa., best known as the hometown of baseball Hall of Famer Honus Wagner. ``I hope we win but I'm there to do a job. I try to create a word picture, as accurately as possible.''
Most announcers are frequently asked by fans to choose the best team they watched. With Goss, it's the reverse: he is asked which Duquesne team is the worst. There are plenty of candidates, with records such as 3-24, 5-23, 7-22, 8-22, 9-21, 9-20, 10-18 and 11-21 in the last quarter-century.
``That 3-24 team we had two years ago, I'd drive down to the game and think, `We don't even have a chance,''' Goss said. ``That's why this is really exciting right now.''
Dukes coach Ron Everhart has transformed what was one of the worst programs in Division I into a winner.
The Dukes, two years removed from that worse-than-awful 3-24 record, went into the weekend with a 14-7 record - two victories away from assuring themselves of only their third winning season since 1981.
No wonder the 71-year-old Goss sounds like a kid again as he calls games on Pittsburgh's KQV radio. Or maybe it's because he still calls high school games, as he has been doing since the 1960s.
``I do them to keep sharp,'' Goss said.
Everhart doesn't get to hear Goss' playcalling, but he knew of Goss long before Goss knew of him. Everhart always enjoyed Goss' congenial and never over-the-top style, one that meshed well with longtime color announcer Nellie King.
King, a former Pirates announcer and Duquesne sports information director, announced Dukes games with Goss for 26 seasons.
``I remember fiddling with the dial when I was growing up in Fairmont (W.Va.) so I could listen to Duquesne on KDKA radio,'' Everhart said. ``It's a thrill for me he's doing our games. Ray is one of the best in the business.''
Another Goss fan is Bill Hillgrove, Pitt's broadcaster for 39 seasons. Each ranks in the top 10 for college basketball announcing tenures, with Goss in eighth place and Hillgrove tied for ninth. The record is 60 seasons by former Kansas announcer Max Falkenstien.
ed and very graphic and descriptive and does a heck of a job,'' said Hillgrove, who is also the Steelers' radio announcer. ``We respect each other and like each other.''
Between them, Goss and Hillgrove have seen Duquesne and Pitt go from being independents to conference rivals in the Eastern Eight (the forerunner of today's Atlantic 10) in the mid 1970s, to being separatists again as Pitt's program took off after joining the Big East in 1982.
Goss isn't jealous of Pitt's success and is convinced that, with Everhart as coach, Duquesne is getting much closer to Pitt talent-wise than it has been in years.
``I've always said, if Duquesne just hired the right coach ...'' Goss said. ``I really like this guy and, wow, does he have connections. And he's very good with people.''
Another Goss fan is former CBS and ABC publicist Beano Cook, a Pittsburgh resident and a veteran ESPN college football analyst. During the mid-70s, he lobbied CBS to hire Goss as one of its NBA regional play-by-play voices.
But after drawing poor ratings for the NBA finals, CBS backed off its plan to do games regionally and instead hired a lone primary announcer: Brent Musburger.
``I got done with my audition and thought, `Well, I can't do it any better than that,''' said Goss, who missed his only Dukes game of the 2,168 they've played since 1968 to do that audition. ``They called me after that and said I'd be getting a contract, but then they junked the whole idea.''
Goss once thought the Duquesne job would be a pathway to the NBA or the TV networks, but the father of seven doesn't mind now that he missed all that travel. He is a longtime radio station executive and station co-owner, and calling games for Duquesne and Indiana (Pa.) University kept him close to home.
Goss twice had close calls in which he nearly lost his job; once when KDKA wanted to use its own voice, Bill Currie, and again when a then-new Duquesne athletic director, Brian Colleary, wanted to bring in his own announcer. Goss' popularity won out each time.
``Now I'm in the Hall of Fame here and I've been doing this for 40 years, so unless I really mess something up, I don't think they're going to change,'' Goss said, laughing.
Goss has written a book of recollections about his career that is scheduled for publication this summer. This title is appropriate: ``Misadventures in Basketball.''
``But, you know what, I've enjoyed every minute of it,'' Goss said.
Maybe that's why Duquesne has lost numerous games since the 1960s, but it has never lost its voice.