Longtime KGY play-by-play broadcaster Dick Nichols turns off his mic

RADIO: Dick Nichols, voice of high school, college sports in South Sound, retiring after 50 years in broadcasting

mwochnick@theolympian.comJuly 8, 2012 

OLYMPIA – After 50 years on radio and being the accustomed voice of area high school and college sports in South Sound, Dick Nichols has called his final game for Olympia’s KGY 1240-AM.

Nichols, 76, said a culmination of factors including the daily grind, the business of AM radio, and the fact it was time to move on helped ease his decision to step away from the microphone following a career with KGY that began in the mid-1960s.

“Fifty years is a long time,” said Nichols, 76. “I don’t feel any different in the act of broadcasting a game now than I did the first time I did it. I still have the same love for it. It’s hard to explain how I feel about broadcasting.”

The news of Nichols’ departure was a surprise and disappointment for several area high school coaches, including Capital girls basketball coach Colleen Wells, who called Nichols “a pillar” of the high school sports scene.

“He has been everywhere,” Wells said. “I can’t imagine never hearing him broadcast a game. I truly thought he would go longer than I would. I never pictured him retiring from broadcasting before I (retired from coaching).”

Similar words were echoed by longtime friend and Tumwater High School football coach Sid Otton, who has known Nichols since his first season coaching the Thunderbirds in 1974. Nichols was there to broadcast Otton’s first game at Tumwater in September of that year.

“He’s one of a kind,” Otton said. “People don’t realize that he’s not only a good announcer, he’s a good evaluator of personnel. He knows and remembers things really well.”

After brief stints at the University of Washington’s KUOW as a student, and KSEM in Moses Lake and KELA in Centralia-Chehalis, Nichols made KGY his home for 45 of his 50 years of broadcasting. Thirty-nine of those years were consecutive, from 1969 to 2008. He had a one-year stint at Olympia’s KGTK before returning to KGY in the fall of 2009. He was The Olympian’s sports editor from 1962-’64, then spent three years (1964-’66) at KGY before returning in ’69.

Nichols, a longtime Tumwater resident who grew up in Shelton, said he has covered more than 3,000 games, spanning high school football, basketball, baseball, fastpitch, track and field and volleyball, He was also the voice of Saint Martin’s men’s and women’s basketball for more than two decades. He broadcast all five of Otton’s state championship football games at Tumwater, the most recent in 2010.

The first state championship game Nichols covered was in 1960 while at KELA, when W.F. West High of Chehalis defeated Sumner, 70-56, for the Class A boys basketball state title. He has broadcast every area state championship football and basketball game, except for one – when the River Ridge girls basketball team won the Class 2A state title in 2010 in Yakima.

While Nichols says he is now retired, he also noted he may broadcast games on another station or network (i.e. during state basketball tournaments) on a freelance basis, but sparingly.

With the exit of Nichols from KGY, that means the 34-year on-air tandem of him and longtime friend and color commentator Larry McMillan likely will come to end. McMillan said he hasn’t been approached by any station, including KGY, to continue doing radio, but noted “it would be difficult to work without (Nichols).”

“I’m not closing any doors, but nobody has been beating my door down either,” said McMillan, 68.

Even though they’re separated by only eight years in age, Nichols was there to broadcast a football game McMillan played in as a senior at Elma High School in the fall of 1960 when W.F. West beat Elma, 12-0, at Davis Field. Nineteen years later, McMillan and Nichols broadcast their first game together in the fall of 1979. Their final game was the 2A boys basketball regional between River Ridge and Anacortes on Feb. 24, 2012.

“We have respect for each other and what the other one does and can do,” McMillan said. “I have the greatest amount of respect and admiration for what he does. To be along side of him for so many years has been a thrill.”

Added Nichols: “I learned a lot about football from him, and his comments made me better. The best part about all of this is working with Larry.”

Nichols’ departure isn’t the only change happening at KGY. Kevin Huffer, the station’s program director, said it is currently seeking an on-air replacement, and also noted a likely shuffle in the station’s high school sports coverage. KGY has previously covered the Olympia’s area’s seven largest high schools – Black Hills, Capital, Olympia, North Thurston, River Ridge, Timberline and Tumwater – but Huffer said there’s a chance the coverage will be cut down to “one or two high schools.”

A final decision will be made later this month.

“We’re looking at how the future really holds,” Huffer said.

The Dick Nichols File

Age: 76.

Resides in: Tumwater.

High School: Shelton (graduated in 1954).

College: University of Washington (graduated in 1958; bachelor’s degree in communications with TV/radio emphasis).

Family: Wife Carolee (married since 1997); first wife Joyce (deceased; married 39 years); daughters Kelli, 53 and Kerri, 49.

Broadcast history: Spent one year at KSEM in Moses Lake and two years at KELA in Centralia-Chehalis as news and sports director. First came to KGY in 1964, and was there until 1966 before arriving back in 1969. Spent next 42 years at KGY with exception of 2008-09 at KGTK.

Awards: Earned Lifetime Achievement awards from the Washington State Athletic Directors Association, Washington High School Football Coaches Association, West Central District Activities Association, Saint Martin’s University, Tumwater High School, Olympia High School, South Sound YMCA, and West Olympia Rotary. He’s a member of the hall of fame at Saint Martin’s and Olympia and Timberline high schools.

Miscellaneous: Named Thurston County’s Citizen of the Year in 1978. … Was Tumwater city councilman from 1969-78 and a Thurston County commissioner from 1992-98.

mwochnick@theolympian.com 360-754-5473 mwocknick@theolympian.com

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