TAMPA, Fla. — As you’re watching the game Saturday, listen as well: There’s a very distinctive voice behind the Tampa Bay Times Forum’s public address microphone.
Gene Honda may be announcing his first Frozen Four, but he’s no stranger to the stage. The Chicago native is the regular PA personality for the Chicago Blackhawks, White Sox and the DePaul Blue Demons men’s basketball team. He’s also served the role at 10 consecutive Final Four men’s basketball tourneys, including last week’s soiree in New Orleans.
The baritone was “discovered,” as they say, by NCAA associate director of media coordination and championships Mark Bedics at a mutual friend’s wedding in Iowa 11 years ago. The friend sheepishly asked Honda if he would announce the arrival of the bridal party, and Honda agreed. Bedics approached Honda at the reception’s bar later that evening, and asked — matter-of-factly — if Honda would be interested in doing the Final Four.
“How many have you had?” Honda replied incredulously.
And the rest is history. Honda encourages anyone and everyone to attend the Final Four and Frozen Four, “even if your team isn’t in it.”
“You can feel the passion, which is often lacking” in pro events, he said.
Honda’s favorite name in the tournament?
“[Boston College defenseman Brian] Dumoulin,” he said. “Mostly because BC’s sports info guy [Tim Clark] came up to me, and said, ‘You have no idea how many people get that wrong.'”
Most challenging name he’s ever faced?
“Hipólito Pichardo,” he said, referring to a former Kansas City Royals pitcher. “Everyone wanted to pronounce it ‘hippo-LEE-toe,’ but it’s actually ‘hip-POLE-itto,'” he said.
And, of course, his favorite all-time name?
“Frank Thomas,” he mused. “It’s just so simple.”
For more on Honda – including samples of his prestigious pipes – check him out on the Google machine.