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Hoyas Basketball Is His Life's Calling

Chvotkin's Style Remains Unique After 31 Seasons and More Than 900 Games

By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 25, 2005; Page D06

This has not been a good week for Rich Chvotkin.

The Georgetown men's basketball team lost at St. John's on Sunday afternoon -- to make matters worse, it didn't look very good while doing so -- and that has caused Chvotkin, the Hoyas' longtime radio play-by-play announcer, to fall into a bit of a funk.


"He really is a throwback and old-school," WTEM-980's Tod Castleberry says of Rich Chvotkin, above, who works Georgetown games alone. (Ricky Carioti -- The Washington Post)

_____Memories From the Mike_____

Rich Chvotkin has broadcast more than 900 games during his 31-year career as Georgetown's play-by-play announcer. Here are the games he considers to be the most memorable:

1. March 29, 1982: North Carolina 63, Georgetown 62 (NCAA championship).

"Michael Jordan's shot and Freddy Brown's pass. That was a headliner, great talent on the floor."

2. April 2, 1984: Georgetown 84, Houston 75 (NCAA championship).

"Great defense from Georgetown. That whole tournament, they shut down teams."

3. April 1, 1985: Villanova 66, Georgetown 64 (NCAA championship).

"Heartbreak. Villanova was near perfect. If they played nobody, they couldn't have done any better."

4. March 16, 1980: Iowa 81, Georgetown 80 (Iowa makes 17 of its final 21 shots and wins on Steve Waite's three-point play in the NCAA East Region final).

"One of the best college games ever, pound for pound. Every possession was a war."

5. March 15, 2001: Georgetown 63, Arkansas 61 (Nat Burton's layup at the buzzer gives the Hoyas the win in the NCAA West Region first round).

"Nat Burton's great drive. You could watch him wait until the last second to drive."

6. March 18, 1988: Georgetown 66, LSU 63 (Charles Smith hits a buzzer-beater in the NCAA East Region first round).

"Great last second shot from Smith, like a 30-footer that he banked in to win."

7. Feb. 12, 1980: Georgetown 52, Syracuse 50 (Hoyas end Syracuse's 57-game home winning streak).

"As John Thompson declared, 'Manley Field House is officially closed.' "

8. March 19, 1995: Georgetown 53, Weber State 51 (Don Reid's follow of an Allen Iverson miss helps the Hoyas avoid an upset in the NCAA Southeast Region second round).

"Iverson pushed the ball the length of the floor and missed the shot, but great timing by Reid. Great reaction to catch it and put it back."

9. Feb. 27, 1985: Georgetown 85, St. John's 69 (No. 2 Georgetown tops No. 1 St. John's in Madison Square Garden).

"The sweater game. An absolute war. The atmosphere was incredible; it was the toughest ticket in town."

10. March 18, 1975: Georgetown 62, West Virginia 61 (Derrick Jackson's 18-footer with two seconds left wins the ECAC South final).

"Derrick Jackson's 'shot heard round the world.' It put Thompson in the NCAA tournament for the first time."

_____Men's Basketball_____
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Men's College Basketball Section

"He's been moping ever since he got back," said Chvotkin's son, Evan. "He watched the Oklahoma-Kansas game the other night, but said it wasn't the same. He just wants his Hoyas to win."

Luckily for Chvotkin, the Hoyas have won more games than they have lost this season. Georgetown, which will host No. 23 Villanova on Sunday, has been one of the biggest surprises in the Big East. Yet fewer than half of Georgetown's regular season games are being televised this year, which means that for many fans, the only way to follow the Hoyas' resurgence is through Chvotkin, who has been broadcasting for the past 31 seasons in his own inimitable way.

It is basketball as stream-of-consciousness, delivered nonstop in a breathless staccato, peppered with quirky sayings. In Chvotkin's game, the "liftoff half" is followed by the "vesper half." The ball is thrown inside to a player in the "muscle tussle," and a basket that breaks a scoring drought "cleans the dust out of the nets." A player who makes a shot while being fouled gets "the hoop and the harm."

Sideline left goes Ashanti Cook, Cook looking in deep, looking for Bowman as they post him down low along with Hibbert. On the right wing is Jeff Green. 16:26 to go here in the first half, Georgetown down, 7-3. Right side, Bowman for three; around, out, no; they fight for the rebound; Forth yanks it down for the white-clad Orange. Here comes Syracuse, left to right across your dial, McNamara streaks front court toward the hoop . . .

Chvotkin, who will turn 60 in November, is a rarity in the Big East. Broadcasting is not his full-time job (since 1975, he has worked on the treatment staff of the Psychiatric Institute of Washington), and he has worked without a color commentator since 1986.

"He really is a throwback and old-school," said Tod Castleberry, the director of operations for WTEM-980, which carries the Georgetown games. "It's one man and one mic for two and a half hours. That's not easy to do at all."

Chvotkin began going to Georgetown games in 1972, shortly after he moved to Washington to take a job at Walter Reed, and was intrigued by the Hoyas' new coach, a local guy who had played for the Boston Celtics. He was surprised to find that the games weren't being carried on the radio and figured that he could do it; he had done some basketball play-by-play as an undergraduate at the University of Scranton.

The following season, Chvotkin sat on press row during games and talked into a tape recorder, and he presented the tapes and his ideas for broadcasts to then-coach John Thompson Jr. He got on the air for the 1974-75 season.

Thirty-one years later, Chvotkin has described virtually every important moment in modern Georgetown basketball history. He saw the Hoyas play in three national championship games and watched the young coach he admired so grow into a Hall of Fame icon.

"I don't think anybody envisioned this. You knew that [Thompson Jr.] was on the rise, that they were going to improve. You knew his program was on the rise," Chvotkin said. "What great times. What heartbreak, too."

By his count, Chvotkin has called 939 games and traveled to 46 states. He has broadcast games from Hawaii, Alaska, Toronto and Puerto Rico, and from nearly every temple of college basketball, from the Palestra to Rupp Arena to Pauley Pavilion. He's seen 57 games against Syracuse and 15 against Saint Leo.

So much has changed. The 8-year-old boy who tagged along with his father to a postgame interview in 1974 is now the coach of the Hoyas, and Chvotkin interviews John Thompson III before every game.


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