Published Monday, November 12, 2012
By ALEX MCRAE
For Newnan-Coweta Magazine
Steve Holman has spent almost half his life as the radio Voice of the Atlanta Hawks. He calls it a dream come true. And he says it didn’t happen by accident.
Holman has called Coweta home for seven years, but grew up in Lawrence, Mass., and remembers listening to radio legend Johnny Most rant, rave and prod his beloved Boston Celtics basketball team in a signature voice that was equal parts syrup and sandpaper.
After a particularly memorable growl by Most, Holman pointed at the radio and told his father, “I want to do that.”
Holman was only eight years old, but was soon broadcasting imaginary games from his home, using a pencil and piece of string as his equipment.
“I did it however I could,” he says.
In high school Holman talked his way into a bottom rung job at WCCM radio in Lawrence, owned at the time by Curt Gowdy, the longtime voice of the Boston Red Sox. At age 17, Gowdy promoted Holman to on-air disc jockey.
“He told me I could have $110 a week and all the records I could steal,” Holman says.
Better yet, the WCCM job entitled Holman to a press pass and a free seat at the Boston Garden next to his radio idol Most.
Holman didn’t make a dime and didn’t miss a game. After a few seasons beside the master, Holman knew exactly how to handle a Celtics radio broadcast. But he never expected to get the chance so soon.
It was November, 1976. Most had fought throat problems all night and near the end of the game, had to call it quits. Broadcasting live on a 50,000-watt radio signal that carried across New England, Most casually said, “Now I’m gonna turn it over to Steve Holman.”
Holman has an audio recording of that first performance. A listener wouldn’t know he hadn’t been doing it for years.
“I had prepared since I was eight years old,” Holman says. “I knew every tag line at the station and I did it. After it was over I was totally shaken, but I did it.”
Holman eventually took a job with the Boston CBS radio affiliate. In 1980 Holman’s Boston radio boss moved to Atlanta to start WGST radio. He asked Holman—who had never even been to Atlanta—to join the station’s morning news lineup and do radio broadcasts of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta Chiefs soccer team.
The promise of $800 in moving expenses convinced Steve and Mary Jane Holman to move south. During the 1985-86 season Holman added Atlanta Hawks color commentary to his schedule and on March 1, 1989, took over as the full-time Voice of the Hawks. He hasn’t missed a day of work since.
At the end of the 2011-2012 season, Holman had broadcast a staggering 1,962 consecutive regular season and playoff games. He plans to call his 2,000th consecutive game on Jan. 16, 2013 at Atlanta’s Philips Arena against the Brooklyn Nets.
Holman has come close to missing games because of illness, but says as long as the Hawks’ doctors kept his heart beating and his throat open he never considered sitting one out.
“My father taught me you go to work every day,” he says. “That’s what I did.”
Holman was named to the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame in 2011. He attributes his success to mentors Gowdy and Most as well as the Hawks players and fans.
“I work for the Hawks and Hawks fans,” he says. “I’m a homer and don’t apologize for it. Johnny Most used to always say it was the black hats against the white hats and that’s how I feel.”
Steve and Mary Jane are the parents of two sons, Steve Jr. and Scott. Grandson Connor joined the family last year.
As he starts his 28th season in the Hawks broadcast booth, Holman has seen the Hawks at their best and their worst. He admits a special fondness for players like Doc Rivers and Dominique Wilkins.
“We were about the same age and hung out together and really got to be close,” he says. “Those are special relationships.”
The 2012-13 edition of the Hawks features new players, a new attitude and new leadership. Holman can’t wait for the opening tipoff.
“I think our team is gonna be very good,” he says. “I think we’re gonna be exciting. But no matter how we’re doing, every time a game starts I tell myself our record is 0 and 0 and it’s like a whole new season. I just really enjoy what I do. No, I take that back … I love it.”
Going to work doesn’t get any better than that.
To read more stories from the November-December edition of Newnan-Coweta Magazine, visit http://newnancowetamag.com .