Men's Basketball 50th Anniversary: A Sitdown with Dave Cohen
This is the second of a five-part series journeying through 50 seasons of GSU hoops.Dave Cohen, the Voice of the Panthers sits down to talk about witnessing more than 60-perecent of the history of the program at the Division I level. Cohen is in his 31st year calling games for GSU, having announced more than 900 games. Be sure to come back on Wednesday as Cohen ranks his top 10 games in program history.
GeorgiaStateSports.com: First off, thank you for taking a few minutes to join us as we look at 50 years of men’s basketball at the Division I level. It has been a wild ride and you have seen more than anyone by far when it comes to Panther basketball. To start off, how did this wild 31-year adventure start for you?
Dave Cohen: I remember listening to a Georgia State basketball game on WRAS while I was still in high school. I went to Walton High School in Marietta, not too far from here. A cousin of mine who lives in Massachusetts and who now owns a radio station had a radio show at the time, so I had an interest in radio and obviously I had an interest in sports. Coming out of high school, like most kids, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. After graduation, I enrolled at Georgia State. When I first made it on campus, WRAS was one of my first stops. I got involved in the broadcast and met Brent Weber who was calling the games at the time. Now, 31 years later, here we are.
|Men's Basketball 50th Anniversary Series|
|Monday: History 50 Years in the Making|
|Tuesday: A Sitdown with Dave Cohen|
|Wednesday: Dave Cohen's Top-10 Games|
|Thursday: Dave Cohen's Top-10 Players|
|Friday: Dave Cohen's Top-10 Moments|
GSS.com: What was Georgia State basketball like in the early days of your tenure calling games?
DC: It was very much a slimmed down version of the program that you see today. We are talking both about the program and the arena. The arena takes a lot of criticism, but folks need to remember that the GSU Sports Arena was not built to house a Division I basketball team. It was built in the early 1970s to be a recreation building and that is what it was through many of those early years of the program. I can still remember our broadcast position being up on the fourth floor looking down on to the court. The building really had no bells and whistles. You had just one scoreboard, one little press table. The program operated on a shoe-string budget compared to what you see today. We still flew to road games and played at places like Oklahoma and SMU and Iowa.
The budget was not near what it is today and the program at that time had only one winning season until Bob Reinhart got here shortly after I did. We were an independent program when I first got here and then joined the Trans America Athletic Conference. To be honest, there were not a lot of wins, not a lot of fans and not a lot of interest. The program just “was” and that is really all that there is to say about it.
The hiring of Bob Reinhart was really the first significant hire by the university to show that there was some interest in making the basketball program a viable product. That was the first time the university tried to attract a coach with a name and some credibility. It made people take notice that the university was serious about the program.
GSS.com: You have called more than 900 games and counting. Over the next three days, we are going to talk about the top players, games and moments that you have seen. Besides those areas, is there something that you have seen or been a part of that you still think about to this day?
DC: When I got started, I was 19 or 20 years old. For me, it was so exciting to be traveling with a Division I basketball team whether we were winning or losing. I was excited to go from not being in the radio business at all to being the voice of a Division I team. We played some great programs like Oklahoma and Tennessee. For me, every road trip was like a new eye-opening experience because I was doing what I wanted to do. As I got older and being a Georgia State alum, it has become more than a job to me as I feel like I have a vested interest in the program. I started to get frustrated when we lost. In the early days, I wouldn’t get mad as much as I was just excited to be doing it. The wins and losses didn’t take on as much of a significance back then as they do today.
GSS.com: You have been to a lot of places, both large and small. What are some of the towns and arenas that stick out the most to you?
DC: Obviously the first trip to Hawaii was really cool as I had never been there before. The fact that we were in Hawaii was really exciting as it was a “Lefty” Driesell team. I thought that was a really cool trip. “Lefty” also played at The Pit in New Mexico which was neat. Going to some of the bigger arenas is fun, but I also enjoy going to places that I would never have gone to. I guess Hawaii would be one of them as I have never been there other than the two times with Georgia State. One year during Bob Reinhart’s time here we went to Wyoming. We played in a tournament in Missoula, Montana where it was us, UALR, Montana and Northeastern, which was coached by Jim Calhoun and had Reggie Lewis playing for them. I had never been in the state of Montana before and I haven’t been in the state of Montana since. The same can be said about Wyoming. To me the places that you get to go that you never would get to visit are the best. They don’t have to be big cities or arenas, but places that you have never been are the most memorable. New Mexico would be the same as I have not been back since.
GSS.com: Is there one place that you have not had a chance to call a game that you would love to before your career ends?
DC: The one place I would have liked to call a game is the old Boston Garden. Now granted, it was mostly an NBA facility, but they did play some college games there. For me, that would have been cool to have done a game there. From a baseball perspective, I would love to call a game at Fenway Park. I have been fortunate to call a lot of games in a lot of great places. The one game I wish I had gone to and called was during my first season at Georgia State. The game was at North Carolina and we faced a very good Michael Jordan led team. That would have been a great game to be a part of.
GSS.com: Although you can’t change the course of history (as far as we know), is there maybe one game you wish you could change the result of over the last 31 years?
DC: In recent years there are two games that I would love to have changed the outcomes. During “Lefty’s” tenure, the 2002-03 team that went to the Postseason NIT would be one. We lost to Florida Atlantic in the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament final 76-75. Lamont McIntosh missed a shot in the lane as time expired that would have sent the Panthers to their second straight NCAA tournament. That was a really good team.
The second one I would change was from Mike Perry’s 2003-04 season. We had a horrible loss to Troy, 63-62, in the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament semifinals. We had something like 27 turnovers. We were up about nine with 90 seconds to play and couldn’t even get the ball inbounds. I really think if we won that game and played well, we would have had a pretty good shot against UCF in the final which would have sent us to the NCAA tournament for the third time in four years, assuming we change my other game as well. That would have really solidified “Lefty’s” name with us, which to me it already was, and it would have given Mike one. I can still close my eyes and see Mike’s face walking across the floor to do the postgame radio show with us after that loss.
Let me add, there are many losses that I would like to change over the years.
GSS.com: During the last 31 years, we know you have only missed a couple of handfuls of games. What were the games that you missed?
DC: Four of the games that I have missed over the years were for the birth of my children. One was a Jacksonville-Stetson trip and I think the other was FAU-FIU, so both were while we were in the TAAC/A-Sun. One game was when I had just started a job with Voice Information Services and we were playing Gonzaga. It was literally my first week on the job. Former SID Martin Harmon and Barry Neuberger did those two games. I also missed two games in Louisiana that former GSU cross country runner and then sports information director Rob Preiditsch covered. That was really all that I had missed until Georgia State added football. I missed coach Hunter’s first three games in Washington, then I missed the Duke game and finally the FIU trip this year while calling football games. It is basically 12 or 13 games in 31 years.
GSS.com: Do you remain in touch with a lot of the former players and coaches who have graced the sideline for the Panthers?
DC: I do remain in touch, whether through e-mail or Facebook. Half of the reason is that I make an effort to keep up with them and since we have started to do the Alumni Game a few years ago, I have helped (men’s basketball director of operations) Nate Summers get in touch with some of the players to invite them. I try to stay in touch with them, but the ones who want to stay in touch with the program look on the athletic directory and the only names left that they see and know are mine and Awilda Ragland (from the business office). Sometimes I end up hearing from players just because I am the only one they know.
I keep in touch with “Lefty” on a regular basis and I get to see coach Reinhart as he is scouting now for the Miami Heat. He attends a handful of GSU games every year. Some of our former assistants are now head coaches like Bobby Champagne at North Alabama, Dave Pilopovich who was one of Carter Wilson’s assistants is at Air Force. Carter’s son plays baseball here so I see Carter from time to time. The guys who are really cool to stay in touch with are the ones who were here when I first got here. There are still some of those guys I speak to a few times a year and still come to some games, guys like Chavelo Holmes, Eric Ervin and Reggie Chennault.
Thanks again and we look forward to hearing many more games called by the Voice of the Panthers.
Come back on Wednesday to see the third part in the five-part series as Cohen looks at the top-10 games in Georgia State history.