Thunder radio announcer Matt Pinto makes calling a game sound easy
BY BILL HAISTEN World Sports Writer
Thursday, February 14, 2013
2/14/13 at 7:10 AM
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When people do something really well, they usually make it look easy.
Matt Pinto, in his 23rd season of NBA play-by-play and his fifth season as the Oklahoma City Thunder's radio voice, makes it sound easy.
It's not easy.
Consider this: For the great majority of OKC's 82 regular-season games and playoff contests, Pinto works alone. If you sample a Thunder broadcast (carried in the Tulsa area by KYAL fm97.1), you'll notice that there's virtually no dead air during a typical 2 1/2-hour presentation. He gets a break during halftime. Otherwise, Pinto speaks almost constantly.
As the Thunder routed Phoenix in Oklahoma City last Friday, the Tulsa World recorded and transcribed Pinto's call during the third quarter. There were 4,259 words.
Over the course of an entire game, Pinto's play-by-play description amounts to more than 17,000 words. Over the course of an 82-game season - about 1.4 million words.
His signature phrase can be heard after most OKC 3-point baskets: "Cha-ching! A Thunder money ball!"
"It's a pretty constant flow," Pinto said by telephone from Salt Lake City, where the Thunder was beaten on Tuesday by Utah. "That's the thing about radio - you don't get much of a chance to sit back and story-tell. The action keeps chugging, and especially when the Thunder really has it going."
In 23 NBA seasons, Pinto has missed "no more than five (games)," he said, "and that includes the two I missed when my son was born in 2008."
Pinto's next assignment - Thursday's Miami-Thunder showdown, with the Heat visiting Oklahoma City's Chesapeake Energy Arena for the first time since Game 2 of the 2012 NBA Finals.
Before a broadcast involving an opponent facing OKC for the first time in a season, Pinto does about eight hours of research and game preparation. If he is familiar with the opponent, game prep is a three-hour project.
If Pinto's preparation seems excessive, it is. He estimates that only about 10 percent of his information will be imparted to the listeners.
"Part of my job is to be over-prepared," Pinto said. "What is relevant, what is pertinent, what will accentuate the broadcast - I have it available and try to deliver it the best I can. But, yeah, a lot of the information that I get in my research never gets used."
Pinto, who turns 51 in a few days, is a Boston native and the father of two older children and two little ones - a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old (both of whom were born in Oklahoma City). When Pinto has free time while being on the road with the Thunder, he gets workouts in hotel fitness centers and has a daily Bible study.
"I'm Christian, so I devote time to my faith," he explained. "Otherwise, I like to enjoy what a city has to offer. Seeing the sights. I mean this sincerely - I'm incredibly blessed. I'm getting to do exactly what I want to do. Every aspect of it is an incredible opportunity."
To keep his vocal cords fresh during broadcasts, Pinto says he keeps a piece of chewing gum wedged in his mouth and drinks "tons of water."
"My voice has been strengthened over the years, just based on the volume of work," he said. "When I first started in the business, I was 18 years old. If I had known how Mickey Mouse I sounded, I probably would have walked away with my tail between my legs. I stayed with it and took voice lessons. I devoted myself to the craft and things turned."
While attending high school, Pinto played basketball and baseball.
"After I decided to pursue broadcasting as a career, I really believed I would become a baseball broadcaster," he said. "I was in Hawaii for eight years - during a formative time in my development - and while I was there, they had the NBA pre-draft camps. I got acquainted with a lot of NBA people.
"I did a ton of college basketball play-by-play when I was in Hawaii. A lot of upper-rung college programs would be playing in Hawaii at the same time that their (radio personnel) were busy with football bowl games, so I was hired on a free-lance basis to do a lot of college basketball games during the holiday tournaments. I'd do around 50 games a year - the University of Hawaii games, plus the other ones. I fell in love with basketball and learned more of the sport. I decided to stay in Hawaii until I got an opportunity to work in the NBA, and that break came with the Charlotte Hornets (in 1990). That was the start of it all."
As a kid, Pinto was riveted to the radio calls of legendary Boston Celtics play-by-play man Johnny Most. As a young broadcaster in southern California, he "got a heavy dose" of the play-by-play work of Most's West Coast counterpart - Los Angeles Lakers voice Chick Hearn.
"From Johnny Most, I learned that entertainment has to be a part of the broadcast," Pinto says. "Chick Hearn was just the opposite - very descriptive. Outstanding in terms of being a picture-painter. Those two guys - both Hall of Famers - very much influenced me."
Pinto's career path
A look at Thunder play-by-play voice Matt Pinto's NBA broadcast career:
1990-97: Charlotte Hornets (radio)
1997-2005: Dallas Mavericks (radio and television)
2005-07: Los Angeles Clippers (radio)
2007-08: Seattle SuperSonics (radio)
2008-13: Oklahoma City Thunder (radio)
Original Print Headline: Announcer makes it sound easy
Bill Haisten 918-581-8397