The Starting Lineup
Behind-the-scenes, alumni help Bulls succeedGo
Interview by Lauren Harrell, BSJ ’11
For many loyal Chicago fans, Chuck Swirsky, BSC ’76, has become a recognizable voice on the radio. Commentating Bulls basketball games, Swirsky’s signature catchphrases have made him well known in Chicago, where he has been working for the past year. Few people know, however, that Swirsky found his passion and his voice working at a college radio station called WOUB.
Talking as enthusiastically as if he were commentating a game, Swirsky answered questions about his time at Ohio University, working with other alumni and how he feels about the school now.
As play-by-play commentator for the Chicago Bulls, and previously, the Toronto Raptors, you have what many sports fans would describe as a dream job. What is your favorite part of the job?
Without question, the people who work for the Bulls organization. I love the games, and I love the excitement of NBA basketball, but to see so many men and women with a common goal — to achieve success for the organization — which extends to our fan base, is the best feeling in the world.
Has basketball always been your favorite sport?
Oh, yes. The great thing about the sport is that you have five people on the floor, and the commonality is that you’re going to have to be very unselfish. You can’t take plays off. You have to have a purpose and unity, and that is to be as selfless as you possibly can to achieve success. I think that kind of mirrors what I try to instill within the framework of my family and also with other employees. It’s not about me. It’s about the common goal of “us.”
What do you consider to be the highlight of your career?
Well, the highlight of my career — other than my graduation from Ohio U — is probably the ability to reach a goal that I set when I was 5 years old, and that was to become an NBA announcer. I wanted to do that since I was a little boy. I wanted to do that in elementary school, junior high and high school. At Ohio U that was my goal. The Toronto Raptors gave me that chance, and, of course, the Bulls — that’s the icing on the cake.
Do you have any favorite memories of your time at Ohio University?
I do. I loved working at WOUB. I was up there 24/7 because I loved broadcasting. I remember doing the play-by-play for Athens High and going to all the sporting events at Peden Stadium and what is now Wren Stadium.
Have you had a chance to visit Athens since graduation?
I broadcasted there in 1983 at a DePaul game when I was broadcasting for DePaul. Then, I came back in 2003 to speak at Communication Week [an annual event at the College of Communication], and that was a huge thrill — to see the enthusiasm of the students and what they wanted to do with their lives.
How has campus changed since you were a student?
It’s still beautiful. Buildings change but, you know, the architecture is wonderful. The location, the feeling that one gets there — if you can’t get excited when you step foot on campus, you seriously need to get your pulsed checked. I still get chills when I think about the campus. For a place to have that kind of energy in Southeast Ohio is fantastic.
What is it like working at the Bulls with fellow alumni?
Well, I just completed my first year here; I was with the Raptors for 10 years before that. I didn’t know I would be working with so many people from Ohio U. They read my bio and figured it out. Robyn came up to me and said, “I went to Ohio U.” And then Pam came up and said, “I went to Ohio U,” and so on. It’s fantastic having that connection of pride, dedication and teamwork that we learned at Ohio U.
What is the significance of being an alum?
It’s great. I’ve had a chance to mentor not only other Ohio U students but also high school students who are thinking about the school. I can share my experiences with them and what they’ll learn, not only from an academic but a social standpoint, as well. It’s been very productive.
By Lauren Harrell, BSJ ’11
At United Center, home of the Chicago Bulls, you can expect to see plenty of red, white and black banners. Pictures of the legendary Michael Jordan, the iconic Bulls mascot and Chicago pride are commonplace. Slightly unexpected, however, is the green-and-white sign hanging in the front office, which expresses pride for a different place: Ohio University.
When Chuck Swirsky, BSC ’76, joined the front office staff of the Chicago Bulls as a radio play-by-play announcer, he was not the lone Bobcat. In fact, Swirsky joined three staff members — in an office of some 55 employees — who had once called Athens, Ohio, home.
Pamela Greenfield Sher, BSJ ’98; Jon Shoemaker, BSJ ’99 and BSVC '99; and Robyn Staurovsky, BSS ’02, all work in the team’s front office, where they share not only the varied duties of promoting the Bulls, but also fond memories of their years as undergrads.
Making the connection
It was the Ohio connection that led to a reunion between Sher and Shoemaker. Sher, who has worked with the Bulls 11 years, learned of a position opening in the creative services department that fit Shoemaker’s qualifications and encouraged him to pursue the job. The two roomed together at Ohio during Sher’s senior year.
“We always joke that Pam prepared for this job by picking up my dirty socks,” Shoemaker says. Having grown up in the small town of Washington Court House, Ohio, he experienced culture shock when he first moved to Chicago. However, his friendship with Sher helped him adjust.
“We shared the best years of our lives together,” he says. “Now, we had a chance to transition together into the real world.”
A few years after Shoemaker was hired, Staurovsky joined the staff. Working together in such close proximity, the alums quickly realized their common bond. “When I found out Robyn went to OU, it was great,” Sher says. “She went from being someone I had just met, to someone that I already had so much in common with.
“We exchanged memories about the Junction, the C.I. … Oh, and about college, too,” she jokes.
Swirsky was the last alumnus to join the crew, moving to Chicago from Toronto last year.
Behind-the-scenes with the Bulls
Although they work in the front office, their jobs cover a wide spectrum. Staurovsky, who is in her fourth season with the Bulls, is the broadcast coordinator. On a regular basis, she deals with the on-air talent, including Swirsky, and coordinates air content for the team.
Sher is now the senior manager of ticket operations. In this position, she regularly meets with players to handle their day-to-day game needs regarding tickets. She’s no longer star struck, she says, except for rare occasions, such as when she ran into Shaq when the Suns came to play. He noticed her 1-year-old son and offered a word of advice: “Little guy, if you keep eating your oatmeal, you’ll grow as big as me.”
“It really meant a lot,” Sher says. “He’s always been so nice when I’ve met him.”
In his seventh season with the Bulls, Shoemaker is the director of creative services. He deals with the design for all print and promotional content. Everything from the game programs to the magazine to hats and T-shirts falls under his jurisdiction.
“It’s something different every day,” he says. “You don’t get bogged down.”
An Ohio team spirit
The path that led each person from Athens, Ohio, to Chicago has been very different.
While Swirsky hails from Chicago, the other three Bobcats-turned-Bulls moved to Chicago after graduation. They all agree that Chicago is a wonderful city — with some obvious differences. “In the small town of Athens everybody knew you and where you were going to be,” Sher says.
The four also agree that what they learned at Ohio University shaped them immensely. “If I could just say one thing about the people who work for the Bulls from Ohio U, (it is) they are extremely professional,” Swirsky says. “It was the Ohio U education that propelled them forward into decision-making positions for the Bulls.”
Working as part of the Bulls team came easily, Staurovsky says.“(In my program at Ohio), there was team effort in the classroom,” she says. “During the learning experience together, we all had to work together. I would have to say that now, it’s the same thing: We all have to work together.”
Reconnect with the Bobcat Network
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