When I first moved to Phoenix way back in the heyday of MTV featuring videos from Dire Straits to Depeche Mode, the Phoenix Suns were the only professional game in town. So that’s the team I imprinted upon as a young sports fan.
Each morning, the Arizona Republic would dedicate several stories about the Suns from previews of last night’s game to recaps of the one the night before that.
Oh yeah, some of you don’t remember cut off times for articles to make the next day’s edition. The final score of last night’s game was almost always too late mention, let alone recap with quotes and notes.
So we had to watch or listen to the game itself to keep up, and the intense yet sultry voice of Al McCoy calling a Suns game has filled many thousands of living rooms for the better part of the last 50 years. He has always been on radio, and for several years the local cable service would simulcast Al’s game call with the video of the game itself.
For fans of the team back to pre-Nash days, you can’t imagine the Phoenix Suns without hearing Al’s voice call the play that comes into your mind. The 1976 Finals. The 1993 Finals. The half dozen other Western Conference Finals appearances. Twenty-nine years of playoff calls.
Cherish it while you can, Suns fans, because the little guy with the big voice won’t be around forever.
Wish a huge 87th Happy Birthday to the one and only Al McCoy.
- 48 years calling Suns games (of the 51 the team has existed)
- longest tenured announcer with a single team in NBA history
- Suns Ring of Honor (2016)
- Arizona Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame (2004)
- Curt Gowdy Media Award from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (2007)
- Suns Media Center named after him
Every year now, we sweat out whether Al will return to the booth for another year. He lost his wife in 2012, and has been slowing down bit by bit. This past season, Al finally cut back on his broadcast schedule, covering only 9 of the 30 road games, and may cut road trip out entirely in the coming years. Jon Bloom fills in admirably when Al is out, but we all know that Al’s shoes are extremely hard to fill.
These days, only Slick Leonard (Pacers) and Hubie Brown (ESPN) are older than Al, though there are many many within striking distance — 22 over 80, and another 94 who are over 70.
Oldest 3 sportscasters today - Slick Leonard - Pacers 87, Hubie Brown, ESPN, 87 and Al McCoy, 86, Phoenix Suns radio---see all 22 who are 80 or over- and 94 who are 70-79— David J. Halberstam (@voicesofsports) December 17, 2019
When Al decided to cut out some road games this past season, he gave a typically “Al” response. No way would he cite health or age in the decision. He simply said he’d has enough of being stuck in bad seats.
“Some of these places where the broadcast location is so ridiculous you can’t see the floor, you can’t see who’s shooting 3-pointers, you can’t pinpoint everything,” McCoy said to Scott Bordow of the Republic last year. “That’s the reason, to be honest with you. I don’t need the aggravation anymore.”
When Al sits out a game or several, it’s veteran broadcaster and friend of the blog and Solar Panel podcast, Jon Bloom. Bloom has worked closely with Al for many years, and shares some thoughts with us here.
Bloom: Even though I became a Suns fan back in 1988 growing up in Northern California, it was almost a decade later that I started learning about the broadcaster who had been calling their games since before I was born. You see the only time I got to see the Suns play was when they were on National TV, and I wasn’t lucky enough to hear a Suns game on the radio until moving to AZ in 2003. I do, however, remember hearing a call from Al McCoy while on the radio in Detroit in the late 90’s and immediately wanting to hear more.
Once I got here, I quickly figured out just how big of a deal Mr. McCoy was in the Valley. I had just started hosting a Saturday morning radio show on 620AM and Al was nice enough to join me one morning for a phone interview. The reaction I received from the folks at the station told me all I needed to know. This man is the closest thing we have to royalty in America, and should be treated as such moving forward. Only Al wasn’t born into this, that royal treatment was earned through his skill, dedication, and passion for Phoenix Suns basketball.
I’ll obviously never forget my Suns play by play debut came when he had to leave early in the 2nd quarter to get ready for his halftime induction to the Ring of Honor in 2017. Having had the great fortune of working for the team the last 13 seasons, I have savored every opportunity I’ve had to work with the man who I can now call both a good friend and mentor.
Al McCoy also has a great admirer in Greg Esposito, my co-host on the Solar Panel podcast and Suns employee for several years in the early 2010s.
Espo: Before my time with the team and before I knew Al, I wrote a magazine feature on him when his book The Real McCoy came out. He was gracious enough to talk to me for 30 minutes and I assumed I wouldn’t hear anything after that. About three days after the piece was published, Mr. McCoy— he’ll always get that respect from me — left me a long heartfelt voicemail thanking me for writing it. I still have that message to this day. He is a true gentleman, a class act and the best to ever don a headset.
Another former Suns employee, Casey Taggatz, reminds us that great pianist, playing and listening to jazz music is one of his favorite hobbies. You can often find Al at a local jazz club. And speaking to his loyalty and pride in his background, Al still maintains great relationships with many in his tiny hometown of Williams, Iowa, as well as his alma mater, Drake University.
If you ever happen upon Al at a Suns game, be sure to stop and say hi to him. There isn’t a nicer man in the building.