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June 11, 2008
By Patrick McDonnell
Dan Gustin’s 33 years doing radio play-by-play of Nevada athletics have left him with memories of some wild moments, especially as part of the longtime football broadcast team at Mackay Stadium with veteran color analyst Bill Daniel and engineer/producer Don Marchand.
His vivid recollection of a 1990 Wolf Pack game, in just one example, creates a strong mental picture for him and for the countless Nevada fans who tuned in for more than three decades.
“Steve Bryant, who was a linebacker for the University of Nevada from Sparks, came running onto the field,” remembered Gustin, who wrapped up his radio play-by-play career with the Wolf Pack in May. “The team used to have a cannon near the field that they shot when they came on (from the locker room). They’ve since moved it to the north end, but it was on the southeast side of the stadium.
“As the team came running on, the fellow who was in charge of the cannon shot it. It shot the jersey off Steve’s back and, it was just Boom! He got a blast of gunpowder, and it blew his jersey up.”
Daniel played a pivotal role in another adventure in the booth, when a malapropism tripped him up, and left Gustin momentarily stunned.
He describes the situation that tackled his color man: “Nevada ran a trick play, it was a double reverse. I was calling the play, and then afterward in his commentary, Bill said, ‘Wow, they fell for that sink, line and hooker.’”
I kind of stalled for a second, and I said, ‘Did you say what I thought you said?’ And he said, ‘Never mind, let’s go on.’”
Having personally seen so many great players in baseball, basketball and football — spanning from shortstop and future Major League outfielder Curt Flood (who, like Gustin, played on the famed 1950s Bill Erwin Post American Legion teams in Oakland that produced All-Star talent like Flood, Frank Robinson and Vada Pinson) to 1970s Nevada basketball legend Edgar Jones and then prospective 2008 NBA lottery draft pick Javale McGee, and ranging from the Wolf Pack’s College Football Hall of Famer Frank Hawkins to irrepressible Nevada quarterback Chris Vargas — the 66-year-old Gustin has been like a kid looking into a kaleidoscope.
He’s been impressed by what he’s seen through the decades. But what really bedazzled the Voice of the Wolf Pack was the 6-foot-9-inch Jones, who starred in basketball for Nevada from 1975 to 1979 before playing in the NBA for the New Jersey Nets, Detroit Pistons, San Antonio Spurs and Cleveland Cavaliers.
The veteran broadcaster described how Jones led Nevada to an 89-81 overtime win at California’s Harmon Gym on Dec. 1, 1977, the Pack’s first win in Berkeley in more than half a century.
“Edgar got four fouls in the first half, and everybody thought this game has got to be over,” Gustin said. “He played the entire second half, didn’t commit a foul. Nevada ended up winning the game. His capper in that game was going from the left corner, driving baseline and then reverse slam-dunk layup. The place just exploded.
“And, then after the game, this was the kind of guy he was. He was so effervescent in everything he did. He came running up, and our broadcast location was not on the floor. It was at the top of the arena, the last row. Edgar came running up, giving everybody high fives, and he said, ‘We did it. We did it.’ And I got to interview him on the air. He was the best basketball player I saw in my 33 years.”
Wolf Pack head men’s basketball coach Mark Fox played under the guidance of Jones’ Nevada coach, Jim Carey, at Garden City (Kansas) Community College. He had heard many of the stories of Jones’ exploits at Reno’s Centennial Coliseum and elsewhere from Carey. Nevertheless, Fox said, Gustin’s ability to relate some of the great moments of Nevada athletic history still resonated for him.
“He really has a passion for the teams,” said Fox, entering his fifth season leading the Wolf Pack. “(I enjoy) being able to sit with him and talk with him. He’s a great historian.”
Gustin, in Mackay Stadium parlance, is from the ranks of B.C. That’s Before Chris, as in head football coach Chris Ault, who first led the Pack into a game as a coach in 1976.
Gustin’s first game doing Wolf Pack play-by-play was Sept. 13, 1975 at Portland’s Multnomah Stadium, a rare football doubleheader with Nevada and Portland State followed by San Diego State and Oregon State.
“He’s been part of the team ever since I was here,” said Ault, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame with Hawkins, his record-setting running back. “I would just treat him as one of the coaches.”
Ault believes the former Wolf Pack players who would regularly sit in the booth to comment on the action with Gustin, such as nose guard James Curry from the top-ranked Division I-AA 1978 team and the ever-popular Vargas who played from 1990-93, represented a critical link between the team and fans listening on the radio.
“I thought it was great,” Ault noted. “They could communicate the work ethic that the players had been through.”
Beyond the adventures with Gustin that Ault remembered with a laugh, like flying on a four-propeller Evergreen Airlines plane to many a far-flung road game as well as the Wolf Pack disassembling the Fremont Cannon trophy in 1978 after the dramatic 23-14 victory at UNLV and carrying the parts onto the aircraft for a joyous return to Reno, the longtime coach lauded the broadcaster for his continuing civic spirit.
“When I was athletics director (1986-2003), we did a lot of community things,” Ault said. “Dan and I set up hospital runs for little kids. We’d go every other week and just say ‘Hi’ to the kids. He’s a very unselfish person and very community oriented.”
Since November 2004, Gustin has served as a city councilman for Reno’s Ward 1. The 1964 Santa Clara University graduate and former Bronco baseball player is running for re-election this November. Since 1975 he has been the radio rights holder for Wolf Pack athletics through Gustin Sports Productions, and from 1983 has been president and chief executive officer of the Gustin & Associates advertising business.
Two new opportunities will keep Gustin busy behind the microphone. In April, the expansion NBA D-League basketball franchise in Reno announced that Gustin would be its play-by-play announcer for its inaugural season in 2008-09. On June 4, the University announced he would broadcast televised football games in 2008 and 2009 on the University of Nevada Sports Network. The latter duties include an assignment doing halftime features for televised Wolf Pack football, as well as men’s and women’s basketball.
“Dan has been such a big part of one institution,” Fox said. “He understands the history and has a real appreciation for the sports programs. That’s not always the case with broadcasters who don’t have that connection.”