Bill Schonely Obituary, Death – On January 21, 93-year-old NBA broadcaster Bill Schonely died. He was known as “The Schonz” and called Portland Trail Blazers games from 1970 through 1998. He worked in radio in Louisiana and Seattle before moving to Portland, Oregon, from Pennsylvania. He has broadcast Major League Baseball, minor league baseball, collegiate sports, NHL games, and junior ice hockey in addition to the Blazers. Schonely went to Seattle in 1956 and joined KOMO radio, later KOMO-TV, where he worked with future ABC Sports broadcaster Keith Jackson.
Schonely wrestled again, but not professionally. Schonely called KTNT-TV roller derby bouts. Schonely advised Keith Allen, then player-coach of the Seattle Totems of the Western Hockey League, to televise and call their games in 1957. Allen agreed if Schonely found sponsors. Schonely’s friends—a funeral home director, optician, and restaurateur—sponsored and KOMO-TV broadcast Totems games on Sunday nights. Schonely called Totems games for 11 years on TV and radio, making the team prominent in Seattle. An obnoxious supporter hit a siren every time the San Francisco Seals made a good play at Cow Palace, eventually holding it to Schonely’s ear.
“By the time I go back on the air, this man is going to have a knuckle sandwich,” Schonely said before a commercial. Schonely dropped his headphone, whirled around, and punched him. Schonely said, “He got his knuckle sandwich, folks.” Schonely took the Totems to KAYO in 1959. Schonely left when the station went country & western. Schonely was Longacres Race Track’s public relations director before returning to broadcasting as KVI’s sports director. Schonely called Huskies and Angels games for the station. The PCL extended from Hawaii to Little Rock, therefore the station could not cover all games. Instead, Schonely would teletype updates from a game reporter, play crowd noise effects, and call the game as if he were there. Schonely covered West Coast NHL for CBS in 1967.
Before Milwaukee, Schonely called Seattle Pilots games. Schonely almost voiced the NBA-expanded Seattle SuperSonics in 1967. Schonely, a non-NBA fan was hired by Dick Vertlieb, the team’s first general manager. Schonely agreed, but Union Oil of California, a major sponsor, preferred Bob Blackburn, the Sonics’ radio voice until the early 1990s. Harry Glickman, Blazer’s co-founder, and Portland Buckaroos founder, approached Schonely in April 1970. Schonely was the sixth employee. Glickman said in 2008: “The interview barely lasted a few minutes; he opened his mouth and I knew I had the correct guy.”
Schonely joined Portland on July 1, 1970. Schonely started a radio network with Portland’s KOIN as the flagship, and Blazer games were broadcast on six stations the first year. Schonely had to attend every practice early on to learn basketball. Schonely aired 2,522 Blazers games, from Portland’s first preseason game (September 24, 1970) to the 1998 NBA Playoffs (April 30, 1998). Schonely missed the first 25 games of the 1982–83 season after heart bypass surgery. Schonely returned to the team in 2003 to host charity and community events and appear on radio and TV. The Trail Blazers’ new administration rehired Schonely in 2003 to win back supporters disillusioned by previous management and players’ off-court issues.
Schonely hosted pre-game segments, “Memorable Moments,” “Blazers Flashback,” and community activities. Team president Steve Patterson termed the move “good business” to respect the team’s past. General manager Bob Whitsitt resigned in May. Schonely said, “Probably not,” when asked if he would have answered a Whitsitt call. Schonely, 80, called the second half of a “throwback” exhibition game at Portland’s Memorial Coliseum, where the Blazers played from 1970 to 1995, on October 14, 2009. Radio announcer Brian Wheeler gave Schonely the rest of the game after a one-quarter homage. Schonely’s Trail Blazers card says”Ambassador.”
May he rest in peace. Schonely’s Wikipedia site cited this page.