Today’s interview brings us the words and wisdom of Chuck Cooperstein, the radio PBP voice of the Dallas Mavericks. Mr. Cooperstein is in his eighth season as the radio play-by-play voice of the Mavericks on ESPN 103.3 FM. Cooperstein has been a regular on the Dallas/Fort Worth sports scene since 1984 and has been an anchor on ESPN 103.3 FM since the station’s inception in 2001. He also co-hosts the “Coop and Nate” show with former Dallas Cowboys Pro Bowl guard Nate Newton on weekday afternoons.
How long have you been in broadcasting?
If you take it back to college at the University of Florida (where we had, and still have, a fully commercial radio operation) 34 years.
When did you know that it was what you wanted to do?
Pretty much from the time I was 15 and I knew I wasn’t going to grow to be 7 feet tall, and knew my golf skills were not going to make me the next Jack Nicklaus. But I loved sports and knew how to talk.
What is your favorite sport to call and why?
I love basketball because of its intimacy, even if now, in many NBA arenas, we’re no longer broadcasting from the floor. I’ve been exposed more to basketball than any other sport and thus feel more comfortable with it. But I love the challenge of football because you are so much farther away, there are so many more moving parts, and the game is longer so you need to keep your focus that much longer. I find I can do four basketball games in a day and not feel as wiped out as I do at the end of a football game.
How much time do you spend preparing for a broadcast?
It’s really hard to say because I feel like the prep never stops. Even after producing my game notes/spotting charts, You’re always reading, always looking for something that you can add into the broadcast.
What sports do you currently broadcast?
I broadcast the NBA as the voice of the Mavericks, and also work some NFL and College Football for Dial Global.
Who are/were the people you look/looked up to in broadcasting? Growing up in New York, I was a Marv Albert guy. Any one of us who is now in the business, of my age, who grew up listening to Marv will tell you that. His passion and emotion was what it was (and still is) all about. But I was a Jets fan and I loved Merle Harmon, and I was a Mets fan and loved Lindsey Nelson and Bob Murphy too. As far as today, I’m a huge Dick Enberg and Mike Emrick fan for their passion and the way they use the language. Dan Shulman is just so smooth, Brad Sham, the voice of the Cowboys (And the man who brought me to Dallas in 1984) taught me the art of preparation, and Kevin Calabro, and my TV counterpart with the Mavericks, Mark Followill have baritones that I would just KILL for.
Is there anyone you emulate, and if so in what way?
I would like to think that I take enough from everyone and make it my own style. But the bottom line for me is to bring passion, emotion, and enthusiasm to every game. If I’m not going to sound excited about the game then why would anyone take the time to listen to me? The biggest criticism I get is that I can get as excited about a play in the first two minutes of the game as I can about a game winning shot. But what if that play is simply otherworldly, and is the best play of the entire game? You don’t know what is going to follow, so you have to be in the moment.
You’ve gotten to call an NBA finals, what was that experience like?
It was the highlight of my career. I highly recommend it . Seriously, to watch someone like Dirk Nowitzki, who had been so unfairly criticized, rise to an even higher level than he had already achieved to win a championship was amazing. And really, for a bunch of guys, who had achieved a lot in their careers, to be able to cap all of it with a championship was wonderful. And then to be able to ride in the parade with 250,000 people lining the streets, and co-emcee the rally at the American Airlines Center with 20,000 people just delirious weigh joy. No, it does NOT get better than that.
What advice do you have for young broadcasters trying to make it in the industry?
1. Get out and meet as many people as you can. This is a “Who you know” business. You never know where your next opportunity will come from.
2. Be willing to be critical of yourself. People may tell you were great. Only you will really know if it’s true. Listen to yourself. Frankly, its something I hate to do because we never sound the way we think we sound but it’s something I HAVE to do. There are folks like Vin Scully, who may have had the perfect broadcast, that is something I have yet to achieve.
3. Be prepared to be disappointed. You can do the best job in the world, but it might not matter because your future is always in the hands of someone else. But that leads back to the first point. When one door closes, inevitably, if you’ve handled your business right, another door opens.
What is your favorite on air story you can share with us?
Too many to count, but recently, my favorite was when we had Delonte West on our post game show in Orlando. The broadcast location in their new building is the highest in the NBA, and the broadcast drop was on the floor. He put the headset on, but couldn’t find us. We were waving down to him and finally after about 45 seconds, after answering our first question, he spotted us, and as only he could do say “What the &$%$ are you doing up there?” Fortunately, there was a delay on the broadcast, so it never made it on the air, but suffice to say the rest of the interview was a total scream.