It’s been almost exactly one year since the news was made official that NBC Sports Washington would be replacing Steve Buckhantz as the Wizards’ play-by-play announcer. I’m a sucker for nostalgia so that was a hard one for me to get past.
My favorite Wizards teams will always be the one’s from the mid-2000’s and my favorite broadcast duo will always be Buckhantz and Phil Chenier. I obviously can’t speak for the whole fanbase but I know a large percentage of people were equally fond of them.
Given the timing, we thought this was a great opportunity to hear from Buckhantz on how he’s doing and what he’s up to these days. Because he is one of the classiest people in the business, he was nice enough to join us on the latest episode of the Bleav in Wizards podcast. We covered a range of topics including his favorite Wizards’ moments, the players he had the best connections with, what he’s up to now, and how it felt to not have his contract renewed.
Always the consummate professional, Buckhantz wouldn’t say anything disparaging about the Wizards’ organization or its Governor, Ted Leonsis. I would like to use this opportunity and platform to criticize their decision on his behalf. This franchise has made so many mind-boggling choices during my lifetime that’s almost hard to single out the worst.
Letting go of a fan-favorite broadcaster who is a lifelong fan and has spent over 30 years covering the team in some capacity is pretty bad in a vacuum. Letting that person go without the opportunity to properly say farewell to the fans he has connected with over his 22 years calling games is simply classless.
Instead of Buckhantz delivering a final “Dagger!” during a broadcast, NBC Sports and Leonsis delivered their own dagger by denying him a proper send-off. Even if you want to make the argument that it was time for a change, why not show a little respect for someone who represented this organization so well?
Buckhantz is the ultimate Washington professional basketball fan. He’s from Washington, D.C. and he grew up rooting this franchise. Because of that, he feels lucky to have gotten to do his dream job for so long. And he did it well. When the team was bad, which was the case more often than any of us would like, he did his best to try to create some excitement and put a positive twist on things. When the team experienced moments of success, he wasn’t always able to fully contain his excitement.
We talked to him about how tough it can be to remain objective when you have personal relationships with certain players and you badly want them and the team to do well. The closest thing I’ve heard to criticism about Buckhantz was that at times maybe he was “a bit of a homer.” To me, that was always okay, because he was one of us. Personally, I want the voice of the Wizards to convey that sense of pride in the team and to be as invested as I am.
So far, I haven’t felt that from Justin Kutcher. I don’t mean that to be overly critical because that type of dynamic takes time to develop. He’s very professional and he could certainly build that connection with the team and the city over time.
But with Buckhantz, you always knew where he stood. He lived the ups and the downs with all of us – like all of us. It just seemed to me that whenever we finally experience some level of success again, it would have been that much sweeter to have someone who has been on this crazy ride the whole time making the calls.
Buckhantz seemed genuinely grateful for the reaction and reception he stills gets from fans. Hopefully, that dulls the sting of not receiving so much as a sincere “thank you” from the Wizards.
He’s also not holding a grudge or wallowing over what happened. Buckhantz said he would definitely consider an opportunity to be involved with the Wizards again in some capacity or perhaps cover a certain local NFL team that recently had a play-by-play position open up.
He has recently started reliving some of the good ol’ days on a new podcast he has started with Chenier. On the Road with Buck and Phil is a comforting trip down memory lane. Without basketball broadcasts to listen to, hearing the two of them reunited and telling stories has been a welcome distraction. I would encourage any longtime fan to check it out!
A year later, I would love to get a sense for how other fans feel about the decision to move on from the veteran crew and to get your thoughts on the new tandem of Kutcher and Drew Gooden (with the occasional pop-in from Caron Butler). So let’s hear your thoughts in the comments!
For more of the conversation with Steve Buckhantz on his time broadcasting Washington Wizards games, make sure to download the last episode of Bleav in Wizards on iTunes or Spotify.