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"The Soundtrack to History": An interview with Warriors broadcaster Bob Fitzgerald

I got the chance to interview Bob Fitzgerald, the longtime Warriors play-by-play broadcaster and a Bay Area native, who has had a lengthy and prominent career in sports.

Bob Fitzgerald is one of the most recognizable Bay Area sports personalities.
Bob Fitzgerald is one of the most recognizable Bay Area sports personalities.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Since his childhood, Bob Fitzgerald has always had a passion for sports. He graduated from Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo, which has produced sports legends Lynn Swann, Barry Bonds, and Tom Brady (and is the high school at which this author is currently a senior).

Fitzgerald then attended the University of Notre Dame and next earned a Masters Degree in Sport Management from The Ohio State University. He cycled through jobs at Price Waterhouse, the Continental Basketball Association, the San Jose Sharks, and the NFL, finally landing back in California, broadcasting and achieving great success for the Golden State Warriors. Now, Fitzgerald is the host of a KNBR 680 show, Fitz and Brooks; a national radio broadcaster of both NCAA football and the NFL; and most famously an Emmy-Award winning play-by-play broadcaster for the Warriors on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

Mr. Fitzgerald was gracious enough to answer questions about why he wanted to work as a broadcaster, his career in sports, and some of his favorite moments as a Warriors broadcaster. This interview has been edited for clarity.

Golden State of Mind: How has Serra High School influenced your life?

Fitzgerald: Serra High School provided me a tremendous education and really was some of the best years of my life.  I've made lifelong friends with people that are still incredibly important to me decades later.  The school taught me to strive for excellence in all things: academics, athletics, community service and commitment to faith.  To win the Serra Alumni Award of Merit was probably the greatest honor I have received, much more than Emmys or other professional recognition.  It meant a great deal to me, particularly with my two sons currently attending the school.  A very special day I will never forget."

Why did you want to become a sports broadcaster?

My father was an electrician at Comiskey Park in Chicago and I grew up a White Sox fan.  Harry Caray was the White Sox play by play broadcaster.  When we moved to the Bay Area, Bill King was calling Warriors games and Hank Greenwald was hosting Sportsphone 68 on KNBR.  I wanted to be just like those three men -- watching and talking about sports for a living, calling games and hosting a show.  Truly a dream since I was 9 years old.

After getting a degree in accounting from Notre Dame, what changed for you vis-a-vis your career path?

I worked for Price Waterhouse in San Francisco and had a very good job.  I chose to pursue a Masters in Sports Management from The Ohio State University and called CBA basketball games for the Columbus Horizon as I received my graduate degree.  I wanted to work in sports and utilize my passion for broadcasting as well as my business acumen.

What is it like to broadcast with Jim Barnett?

Jim is a tremendous friend and someone that I’ve spent 20 years alongside.  He has the experience of my Dad and the enthusiasm of my sons.  His basketball knowledge is tremendous and we are one of the longest tenured tandems in the NBA currently.  We have a great time and really do our absolute best to put on a great broadcast.

After suffering through years of broadcasting terrible Warriors teams, what is it like to watch this Warriors championship squad?

This Warriors team is amazing and plays the game beautifully.  Passing, shooting, tremendous skill, teamwork, relentless defense, unselfishness, professionalism.  [Last season's team was] the best team in the world and really one of the greatest teams in NBA history.  I just know if they play to their best level, no team can beat them 4 times in a 7 games series.

How did you get the chance to broadcast four Olympic Games, watching and commentating on the greatest athletes in the world? Which has been your favorite Olympics and why?

I have been so fortunate to be one of the few broadcasters to call the NBA, NFL and have my own talk show for over two decades.  You get noticed for your work on a national basis and while that has never been my goal, calling 4 Olympic games has been a rare privilege.  I loved doing Water Polo in Beijing for NBC as both the USA Men and Women played for the gold medal completely unexpectedly.

For me, calling all the Men’s and Women’s Basketball in London and watching Team USA win the gold medal in both was just tremendous.  It’s a very different feeling having tens of millions of people watching all over the world.  You are the soundtrack to history.  It doesn’t get any better.

What was the most important moment in your career? The best moment?

The 2012 gold medal game in London for Men’s Basketball working with Doug Collins and Craig Sager was probably the most important moment of my career.  Also, my first show on KNBR; my first NFL game nationally for NBC; my first Warriors TV game; doing the national TV on Steph Curry’s MVP award broadcast; calling the We Believe play-off upset of Dallas are all amazing moments that would all qualify as "best" moments.

How did you get your start with the Warriors, and what has been the high point of your broadcasting career with the team?

I did the Warriors postgame shows on KNBR and having called games for Notre Dame and CBA basketball I [was] given some radio fill in games in 1993 and have been with the Warriors ever since.  The high point has been the past 3 years, culminating with last year's incredible season and the championship. Certainly the We Believe year [2007] and the 48 win season a year later.  And this current Warriors run will last for several more years. The greatness may just keep on coming.

You were one of the first Sharks employees; what was it like to be part of a fledgling sports organization?

I loved every second of it.  We named the team, picked out the logo, sold tickets, did the pre-game and in-between period TV, just saw something grow from the very beginning.  From the Cow Palace to the San Jose Arena.  Very few people get to be with a team when it is just beginning.

You have had many different experiences in sports. What are some tips that you would give for people wanting to start out in the sports industry?

Read extensively, learn the language.  Go out and speak to people.  Find something you are passionate about and reach out to the very best in that profession and learn from them.  Appreciate great accomplishments instead of constantly being negative about failings.  Sports is entertainment and supposed to be fun.  It is the very best of our society coming together to enjoy something as a large group.  It’s unlike any other experience in life.  Make those great memories with family and friends, and if you are lucky enough for it to become your profession, never lose that joy you had as a younger person.  Realize how fortunate you are to be involved in this business.

Follow @samsorkin23 on Twitter.

Full disclosure: This interview was originally published last year in Volume 66, Edition 6 of Serra High School's student-run newspaper, the Serra Friar, of which the author of this piece is also the Editor-in-Chief.

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