Jan. 26, 2006
By Jason Cohn
The Santa Clara
In the last 11 years, several events have transpired in Santa Clara basketball history. Players have come and gone, buildings have been torn down and erected, tournaments have been won, upsets have thrilled, and through everything, one man has been there to announce it all -- radio personality Dave Lewis.
Whether the Broncos are at home or on the road, Lewis has been the voice of Santa Clara basketball since the 1995-1996 season, calling the game play-by-play on KNTS 1220 AM.
Listen to "A Minute With D-Lew" on Broncos All-Access!
Announcing every game, Lewis' passion for Bronco hoops doesn't end on the radio. For the greater part of this decade, his weekly column entitled "View From Behind the Mike" has run on santaclarabroncos.com. Through this platform, Lewis conveys his passion for the program in articles that often dig deep into what is happening behind the scenes.
"For me, it's not just about basketball," Lewis said. "I enjoy traveling with the team and getting to know the players, coaches and their families."
With this intimacy, Lewis is able to give his work a personal touch that not only comes from his passion for the game, but also an admiration for the coaches and players.
Lewis' radio career began in the 1980s when he worked at KGGI FM in Riverside, Calif. After bouncing around Southern California for a few years, Lewis got his big break after being hired as an evening radio personality on KWSS San Jose.
Lewis bounced around for the next few years between stations in San Francisco and San Jose, but remained a strong personality on the air in the Bay Area. Lewis cites his career highlight as being able to broadcast to people in need during the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989.
Through the early '90s, Lewis made a living doing Top 40 radio, but with stations constantly changing their images and a lack of job security for disc jockeys in his line of work, Lewis decided to approach Santa Clara about broadcasting their basketball games after meeting men's basketball head coach Dick Davey and former athletic director Carroll Williams at a charity banquet.
Lewis had called a few San Jose State games while at KWSS and had some experience as far as announcing went. He gave the athletic administration a tape of his work and Santa Clara's interest piqued.
The school told Lewis that he could do it if he could find a radio station to carry all the games and if he could raise the money to buy the equipment and pay for airtime. While the school did not think this was at all possible, Lewis committed himself to taking on the challenge.
For Lewis, this meant raising $30,000 a month from sponsors or losing his job. It was a task that had him working day and night during his first season as an announcer.
"I remember when the first guy bought advertising, I literally wept," Lewis said. "I had been turned down so many times and to have a Santa Clara alumni tell me on the phone that he wanted to contribute, it was an overwhelming feeling."
After Lewis' first successful year calling basketball games (and Steve Nash's final season at Santa Clara), the university picked up the financial burdens of the game broadcasts and Lewis was able to settle into his current role as a commentator.
"At first, I had big dreams of going on and doing Pac-10 and NBA games, but after two years, I became enamored with the school and Dick Davey, and I fell in love with the program -- these people are my friends," Lewis said.
As he is constantly traveling with the team on all of their road trips, Lewis often develops close relationships to the players that extend beyond their years at Santa Clara.
In his most recent "Behind the Mike" column, Lewis tracks the progress of former Bronco Doron Perkins, who is putting up impressive numbers in Japan, leading his league in both assists and steals.
"I love this job because I get to visit places I never would otherwise," Lewis said. "Duke, Syracuse, Kansas, Indiana, North Carolina -- these are all legendary basketball places, and being able to go and be a part of these games is really special."
While the traveling is his favorite part of the job, Lewis admits at times that it is also the hardest. Lewis says having to leave his wife, his 14-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son for up to four days at a time can be extremely daunting and tiring.
Yet, Lewis still finds the time to attend his daughter's varsity soccer games and coach his son's team in a youth basketball league. Lewis says both of his kids are huge Bronco fans.
While Lewis has seen a lot of teams come and go through the years since he's been at Santa Clara, he says that this year's team is unique in many ways.
"I've never come across a team with this little experience, yet so much talent," Lewis said. "For the first time in awhile, we have all the right pieces. Now it's a matter of gaining experience and getting better."
Lewis said he has especially enjoyed watching senior forward Travis Niesen, who has become one of his top-three all-time favorite players while calling games for the school.
"Travis competes harder than anyone out there. He wants to win and he doesn't care how much he scores. All he cares about is doing whatever it takes to help his team win the game."
For Lewis, this type of passion is probably something familiar to him. It's the same passion you can hear in his voice when he talks Santa Clara basketball, on or off the air. It's what makes him an institution at this university.