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Remembering 9NEWS sportscaster Mike Nolan

"It was always about relationships, and stories, with Mike."

DENVER — Editor's note: Longtime 9NEWS sportscaster Mike Nolan died in Santa Fe, New Mexico Thursday after a brief illness. He was 85. 9NEWS anchor Tom Green shared this remembrance of him.

I met Mike Nolan on my first day in Colorado. I came here from ESPN in January 1982, and when I arrived I went straight to my new workplace at 1089 Bannock Street. At that point I knew one person at KBTV Channel 9: the man who had hired me, Tom Kirby. 

Kirby was my boss at WTNH-TV in New Haven, before I moved north a few miles to work at the fledgling operation in Bristol, Connecticut. On my first day in Denver I went to Kirby’s office to check in, and after we talked, he took me over to meet the guys in the Sports Department. 

The Sports Department was a small room with a few desks, a small TV -- and four men who probably were wondering why Kirby had hired someone who looked like he might be 15 years old. Lucky for me, those four guys were willing to help me grow in many ways. 

Mike Nolan, Gary Cruz, Corey McPherrin and Producer Bob Mizke were already really good at the profession. I was the one who had so much to learn.

I worked with Mike for a long time at Channel 9, and we also worked together at Channel 7. Mike would be the one that I had the longest and closest relationship with, covering 40 years until his passing.

Credit: Tom Green

It was always about relationships, and stories, with Mike. Relationships ranging from his divorces and ex-wives, to college buddies, his family, coworkers and the many coaches and players he’d gotten to know over the years. Most of them we’d never get to actually meet, so they lived only in our imaginations. He’d tell us about his “sister the sister." Yes, his sister Phyllis was actually a nun. Others, like “The Cocky Owl,” “The Good Doctor” and “The Kingpin” were probably best left for us to sketch out in our minds. The stories of his days stationed in Thule, Greenland while in the Air Force would only be matched by the years he was stationed in Glendale – at The Colorado Mine Company.

He would always tell great tales of legends like Spartan football coach Duffy Daugherty and (NHL) Colorado Rockies coach Don Cherry. When Cherry was hired by the Rockies, Mike flew to shoot an interview with him, but they kept getting interrupted by some banging on the roof. Finally, Cherry went outside and yelled “Schmautzie! Cut it out! We’re trying to do some TV down here!” Yep, Don Cherry had his old Bruin RW, Bobby Schmautz, up on the roof doing some repairs.

Mike loved doing football play-by-play. Along with his years doing the Falcon games on radio, he also did the CSU Rams, Wyoming Cowboys and the Denver Gold. Those weekends and road trips always led to great memories -- and more stories -- of car rides with Fum McGraw, the many Saturdays with Ben Martin, and the crazy days of Ron Blanding, Doug Spedding and the USFL.

Some of his stories from his prior jobs seemed too amazing to be true -- like the Buffalo TV weatherman he worked with who robbed a bank, and got his on-air job back!

Mike didn’t need much: a Diet Coke, a cigar to chomp on, a Cadillac convertible and the occasional trip to check up on the “Maui Bureau."

He was wonderful, and I was so lucky to have known him.


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