Getting to know new Zag Voice Greg Heister

Getting to know new Zag Voice Greg Heister

From his boyhood in upstate New York to the Iditarod in Alaska, Greg Heister has seen and reported plenty of wild events. Add Gonzaga University basketball games to the list as he becomes the new Voice of the Bulldogs.

ZH: Where were you born and raised? Did you play any sports in High School?

GH: I was born in Olean, New York and raised about 7 miles down the road in Portville, New York. They are both towns about 80 miles south of Buffalo in the Allegheny Mountains. And at one time or another I played many sports, including basketball, football, baseball, golf, swimming and I even wrestled for a few years in Junior High.

ZH: When did you decide that a career in sports broadcast journalism was for you?

GH: This happened my junior year in High School. After preparing to become an architect I did a presidential debate in front of the entire school in which I represented Walter Mondale. Although I lost horribly in a very pro-Reagan part of the state, I did catch the performance bug.

ZH: You used to do play-by-play at your college. Were you solo or did you have a color commentator with you?

GH: I was the play-by-play voice of Ashland (College)University for 3 years. I called both football and basketball games on television and radio. Like the present situation with Gonzaga, I had a color guy for T.V. and was solo on radio.

ZH: What was your most memorable moment while broadcasting a game?

GH: There were many in my days at Ashland. And it's going back quite a while now but both football and basketball programs were ranked in the top 10 in Division II most of the time. So they had superior athletes and the games created great drama, it was fun.

ZH: Every broadcaster has had bloopers. Tell us about your funniest gaffe.

GH: The worst was during my time in Alaska. While working for KIMO-TV, I covered the Iditarod sled-dog race 6 times from start to finish. One of the first years I was in the village of McGrath after riding a snow-machine nearly 400 miles without any sleep. I had also become very ill, 102 degree temperature, but it's the Iditarod and even the journalists have to keep going. One night I had a live-shot to do in McGrath and as you can imagine available satellites in this state are slim. So the higher-ups decided to give us the "bird" (satelite) used by the Rural Television Network. This network is the only link the villages of the state have to the outside world. So at 5 o'clock, without informing me they pulled Dan Rather down and put me in every house in the bush while I prepare for my live-hit at about 5:20. I am very ill and fluids are dripping out of me and so for the next 20 minutes I stand in front of the camera and hack and spit and farmer blow my nose. This became front page news in both Anchorage and Fairbanks. I now had reporters trying to hunt me down along the trail to get my reaction to how bush Alaska had been cheated out of Dan Rather and were left with a farmer nose-blowing reporter. Needless to say, this story still follows me today and for years after I would go to the bush and people would walk down the street and blow their nose and laugh with great veracity.


ZH: When did you come to Spokane and what brought you here?

GH: I first came to Spokane in June of 1997. I came here because KHQ-TV made an offer that was hard to refuse. I had worked in Anchorage for many years and although it was one of the toughest decisions I ever made, (leaving Alaska), I was to the point in my career when I needed a new challenge. And the fishing here is quite good so that made it possible.

ZH: When did you know that you were being considered as the new voice of the Zags?

GH: The day that the announcement was made that GU, Citadel Communications, Brett Sports and KHQ had come to this agreement is when I found out I would be doing the games on TV. That day I made it known that I would be interested in doing the games on radio if a deal couldn't be done with Dennis Patchin. That situation took several weeks to work out and then I was asked to do it and I'm honored.

ZH: You've called some State "B" games recently. Will calling the Zags come to you easily, like riding a bike, or will it take a while to find your groove?

GH: I wish it were as easy as riding a bike, but it's not. So it will definitely take some time for me to find that groove and I hope the GU fans will cut me some slack. (chuckle)

ZH: Do you have any trademark sayings or phrases like Dave Neihaus' famous "Fly, fly away" for a Mariners homerun?

GH: That's hard to say. I think the great broadcasters are those that just let words flow freely. At times things seem premeditated to me with these famous phrases. I will let the games happen and if something comes out during a game that I like, I may end up keeping it. I'm not really sure on this one, time will tell.

ZH: You come across as a pretty low-key kind of guy. Do you think there will be times when you'll be animated, or do you like to be a more calming voice during fast, furious action?

GH: I don't think energy will be an issue for me. There are avenues in my life that I get very excited about: a trout sipping a fly or a steelhead hammering the swing are two. Sports is definitely another avenue and I get very excited when something amazing happens on the court.

ZH: While growing up, what radio or TV play-by-play announcers did you idolize? What guys do you admire the most nowadays?

GH: This is the easiest question. My favorite of all time is Curt Gowdy. I loved him as a kid both because of his play-by-play skills and because of the program, "The American Sportsman." I have tried to mold my career to be similar to his. I used to set a cassette recorder in front of the TV to record his games and I still have them. My favorite was Super Bowl 13 in which Pittsburgh beat Dallas 35-31. In my opinion, it's still the greatest Super Bowl ever. I like others: Brent Musburger, Don Criqui, John Miller and Gary Thorne. I think Thorne is the most under used personality today. I love listening to him.

ZH: There are a lot of radio announcers who are not objective and root on-air for their team. What are your thoughts on this?

GH: I am a Gonzaga fan and I hope they make it to the Final 4 this year. I think it will be impossible not to allow some of that to come out. But there is certainly a fine line here and one I plan to avoid.

ZH: If Gonzaga is playing poorly, or a GU player gets a favorable call that is wrong, will you speak your mind and call it the way you see it?

GH: [chuckles] Yes.

ZH: Are you learning the roster, meeting the Zags and getting ready for Game #1?

GH: Yes, I think being prepared is the absolute key to all of this. I have to sound like I know what I'm talking about or it won't matter how excited I'm am or how well I call the game. I have already called the two exhibition games on tape and so the process of being prepared is well underway.

ZH: Tell us what you enjoy doing in your off-time, your hobbies, interests, etc.

GH: I am someone who has to be outside. The worst weekends for me are those in which I sit on my can. I am an avid fly-fisherman and will spend most free moments on a river throwing a fly. I also like to mountaineer and did a lot of this when I lived in Alaska. My father is an outdoorsman and taught me to do the same.

ZH: Introduce your family to the Gonzaga students, alums and fans who will be listening to you, Greg.

GH: I should start with my wife Laura. We have been married for a year in October and it's been great. You will see her from time to time on KREM-TV; she grew up in Alaska. My Mom and Dad still live in western New York and I have two brothers: Joe in Cincinnati and Mark in Olean; both are very successful.

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