For years names with West Virginia connections have dotted the NBA.
From great players like Jerry West and Hal Greer to current Phoenix Sun Jevon Carter. There have been coaches from Fred Schaus to current Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni. There have been executives like, well, West – even son Jonnie – to Chris Wallace and Mike Gansey.
Overlooked to a degree, though, is a man with which NBA followers are quite familiar. He’s known for his professional play-by-play.
Yet he’s also versatile. He’s the radio voice of the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals – alongside former Mountaineer Ron Wolfley. He calls college football and other sports. He’s called the WNBA.
Oh, and he’s known within the college ranks for deftly handling eccentric color man and hoops legend Bill Walton.
Of course, I write of ESPN’s Dave Pasch.
And, yes, his career started in West “By God” Virginia.
A Wisconsin native, Pasch made his way first to Syracuse University and then to the West Virginia Radio Corporation in Morgantown, where he worked for 10 months.
But what an impactful 10 months it was.
“I loved it,” Pasch said on Thursday. “It’s crazy it was only a 10-month stint because I’ve continued friendships and relationships with so many people I met there. You and I, Tony (Caridi), Bill Nevin, Jeff (Jenkins)… So many people.
“And I met my wife in Morgantown. We’ve been married 23 years. It’s pretty crazy how much became of that short period of time.”
Indeed, it’s said if you live in West Virginia, the Mountain State never leaves you. Ladies and gentlemen, if it pleases the court, I present Exhibit 1: Dave Pasch.
“When I graduated from Syracuse in 1994, I thought I knew what I was doing as a broadcaster,” Pasch said. “I found I didn’t. I found I need to be pushed and challenged. Tony and all the people at the radio station did that… They pushed me to be better, to work on how to use my voice, how to write. Things you don’t think about coming out of college.
“I tell people all the time the best thing you can do is be somewhere you can be mentored, where someone can teach you.”
Pasch called high school football and basketball games around the Morgantown area. But he was pushed to broaden his scope.
“I remember doing some news stuff and having to cover some city council meetings,” Pasch said. “I remember thinking, ‘Maybe this isn’t for me. Maybe I need to do something else.’”
Of course, thankfully, Pasch stuck to it. He’s worked games alongside names like Andre Ware, Bob Griese, Urban Meyer, Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson, Hubie Brown, Doug Collins (a favorite), Jay Bilas, Bill Raftery, Doris Burke and, yes, Dick Vitale.
His favorite partner, though, was met during that Morgantown stint.
“The one moment that stands out is meeting my wife,” Pasch said. “I left Syracuse thinking I would be one of those guys that does this forever. A guy that never gets married and is on the road all the time. Well, I met her the first day (at WVRC).
“She was dating someone else at the time. At the time, I had floppy hair and was wearing sandals and shorts. I didn’t look professional at all. I imagine Tony thought, ‘Who is this guy and what’s wrong with him?’
“Anyway, I walked upstairs and told Tony, ‘Man, I just met the hottest girl I’ve ever seen: Heidi.’ Tony looked at me like I was nuts. Turns out there was a woman in the building named Heidi who was like 75. The girl I was talking about was Hallie.”
Indeed, his future wife worked in the building in sales. She eventually helped him put together audition tapes.
“I got a job in Detroit – and asked her if she wanted to come with me,” Pasch said. “She said yes. We got engaged shortly thereafter and married a year later. Now we have a 21-year old, an 18-year old and an almost-14 year old. It’s pretty crazy.”
Professionally, it’s also been pretty crazy – like his personal life, in a good way – as well.
“I’ll never forget doing the Cardinals’ 2009 Super Bowl – and how it ended, losing to the Steelers,” Pasch said. “I remember telling my long-time radio partner and former WVU fullback Ron Wolfley to take in all of it. You never know if you’ll get back. I sat behind (QB) Kurt Warner on the bus over. I remember Kurt stopping me afterward and having a conversation.
“I remember doing the Big East basketball tournament and doing some of the Kemba Walker games, including when he (and Connecticut) went off against Pitt. In college football, I remember doing the first Penn State game after Joe Paterno was fired. The Nebraska game and being on campus.”
He saw it recreated in the movie “Paterno.”
“It was pretty weird to see that,” Pasch said.
And the word “weird” leads us straight to William Theodore Walton III, who has more trouble staying focused than a child on Christmas morning.
“I get asked a lot about Bill,” Pasch said. “We were at Oregon last week. I usually don’t get recognized. I’m the play-by-play guy. But that’s the one thing I get recognized for. I was walking to the truck and someone yelled, ‘It’s Dave, right?’ That’s what Bill always says, ‘It’s Dave, right?’ or ‘What’s your name again?’”
Viewers, of course, either love or hate Walton. But all marvel at how well Pasch handles the challenge.
“I don’t know if that will be my legacy, but that’s what most people remember,” Pasch said.
Actually, Pasch is thankful.
“I think one thing it did was bring out my personality,” he said. “I went to Syracuse and trained a certain way. But what you have to remember is people want to be entertained. People want an escape. You can be a great play-by-play announcer and tell stories and be descriptive, but there has to be entertainment too. You have to let your personality come out. I think working with Bill did that for me. I’m very appreciative of that.”
There are, however, maddening moments.
“There’s a balancing act,” Pasch laughed. “You have to give him leeway because he’s one of the most eclectic Hall of Famers in any sport. It’s not just some guy with a fun personality on TV. He’s one of the greatest college basketball players of all-time and one of the top 50 NBA players. Who knows what his career would have been like without the injuries? And then there’s the personal side with the Grateful Dead connection, his son Luke, just so much. He’s good at TV. He gets it. Sometimes you have to reel him back in and document the game, but you have to let him be him.”
Pasch, likewise, gets it. He’s made quite a career in the world of broadcasting. He’s worked with personalities from Chris Spielman to Bobby Knight.
And it all started right here in West “By God.”
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