SAN ANTONIO – For two NBA seasons, Bill Schoening was in a most unfamiliar place, in front of a television screen in San Antonio, providing play-by-play radio for Spurs NBA games, including those scheduled for hundreds or thousands of kilometers.
It was one of the side effects of a pandemic that reshaped the sport. Even for a seasoned broadcaster, with so little warning, there was no real way to prepare for such an abrupt change.
“It was a challenge,” Schoening said.
There was no way to fully capture the arena environment, no way to see or hear everything fans, players, and even announcers are experiencing at a live event in the moment.
Like almost everyone, Schoening knew these were unprecedented times. Limiting travel and mitigating the spread of Covid-19 was also a priority for teams, leagues and the media.
But when the games resumed after a long hiatus in 2020, so did Schoening’s work – from an unknown perspective. Suddenly he no longer had one of the best seats in the house and he had to learn new skills.
“I still have a passion to call the game. It made it easier to fight, to teach that old dog new tricks,” he said. “I learned to lean on about my engineers, my producers, the people behind the scenes.”
Schoening was the voice of Longhorns athletics when the late Andrew Ashwood, who operated a pair of Clear Channel Communications radio properties in San Antonio – WOAI AM and Ticket 760 AM – recruited him to be part of the revamped sports lineup of the company.
This led to Spurs making a move on the pitch, handing over their play-by-play radio job to Schoening. He succeeded Jay Howard, who had held the position since the late 1980s.
The Spurs were two seasons away from their first NBA championship, with a packed roster including David Robinson, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker. It was an offer Schoening could not pass up.
“I never looked back,” he said, now preparing for a 22nd season with the Silver and Black. “It was an incredible race.”
Editor’s Note: This story was published through a Partnership between KSAT and the San Antonio Business Journal.
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