Chris Kelly has seen it all and pours her heart into a great broadcasting career
Last week I ran a story about Karl Koontz, a longtime broadcaster for Central MT Radio. This week is a feature on Chris Kelly, another longtime broadcaster and very successful athlete and coach in Montana. Here is her story as told to Randy in a recorded interview:
I was at Great Falls High from 1980 through 83, because back then they didn't have freshman. You started as a sophomore. And we went 72 wins in a row with three state championships, and we also had the state championships in track. And so that was fun. I got to be an All American in track, and I'm not a very good track runner. But successful years, great group of people. And I think that's what made us so successful is we got along well. There was no friction. I mean, it was just a real fun time, of course, all under Dick Klopple, who went on to coach again at CMR and had a pretty good career himself and just great memories and good things to look back on.
So then I was lucky enough to be offered the full ride scholarship to play for Carroll. Enjoyed that. College is a different atmosphere, and that's a job. So basically I was a math major. I was going to be a math teacher and kind of go that route. And I just thought, gosh, I think there's more out there. So I transferred to the University of Montana, and back then, you had to stand in line to register for classes. So I was standing in line to be an architect because I love math and I love that sort of thing. And I looked over and I and saw this sign for Athletic Training. And I went, well, that looks fun, and I switched lines. So I went on, got into their professional program of athletic training, and as I was finishing, they said, you want to do your master's work, your graduate work here. And I said, great. No problem. So, I mean, luck was just handing things to me left and right and the blessings of God, I'll tell you what. But after I finished my first year of graduate work, they had someone retire. So they said, do you want to be the athletic trainer? Sure. You're 22. You don't know any better. And so I walked right into that job at a young age and stayed at the University of Montana for years, had a fantastic experience, learned a ton under the tutelage of Dennis Murphy. I got an opportunity to watch athletics at a high level and to really learn a ton. My emphasis was with men's basketball and football, and that's what I did predominantly. But there was only two of us back then, so we had to cover absolutely every sport. So learned a load about a lot of different sports. It was active for myself all throughout.
Then got married and had a family and was really involved. Loved the teaching, loved to talk, loved to teach, have a captive audience. And so then I taught at the University of Montana for years along with the athletic training and then came back to Great Falls and joined the University of Great Falls. At that time It was College of Great Falls, but started teaching there and I've been teaching there for, this is my 25th year at the University of Providence. Now, throughout my children, I coached them for years in a variety of sports, but then expanded into the coaching realm and coached, I think, about everything, but my loves are basketball and football and those are the ones I really love to coach. I just adore coaching football, the technical aspects of it. And so I've done that for years.
And then got a call from Skip Walters and he said, Chris, you know, athletics, come and try this. I said I've never done it. Now, I have done a comedy show on public radio since 2005 and so for years I had been on radio and it was fun. I was familiar with everything and knew how to talk. So I show up to a game and I did a few color games and he says, well, have you done play by play. No- you can do it. So I jumped right into play by play. It was fun. I just described the game as its going and I love to be able to analyze it. And what's even best at the end, other than coaching, you get to close the kit and go home. You don't have to hold yourself accountable for everything that happened.
How does a coaching background help in broadcasting:
What I do and pros or cons, right or wrong, especially with Robin (McKnight), we love to talk about the analysis at half time, what we speculate the coaching staffs might do, what changes need to be made. We'll notice if there was a defensive adjustment or shift and why they did or did not change it, but the purpose behind. Are they trying to speed up the game, slow down the game, isolate on an individual athlete? I think coaching opens up your eyes to that aspect of the sport and you see it a ton in football and then you see it more from a team aspect in basketball.
Chris has called games with running clocks as well as triple OT thrillers. She compares them:
Certainly the blowout games, you get to delve into the entire game a little bit more thoroughly because you get to look at different aspects. All of a sudden, the kid lights it up from the three point line. That adds that excitement and something to build on. You still have to promote the fun of the game, even though it might be a blowout. So you got to find those little individual contributions. And this was a philosophy of mine that I had all throughout coaching, is I'll ask the parents, I'll say, what was your record in fifth grade basketball? Nobody remembers. But that kid will remember that three point shot, that free throw, he fouled out, whatever happened. So I try to emphasize that more in the blowout games. The tight games call themselves. You're just calling the action and seeing what's going on. Again, I like to talk a lot about why they did this, why they did that, or coach didn't want the kid to do that, those sorts of things. And you delve into that a little bit more thoroughly.
You've worked with a lot of different people, how do you handle the different styles:
I'm a talker, and so my biggest difficulty is keeping my mouth shut to allow the other person to experience it. And so physically, consciously, I have cues to myself to zip it, be quiet, and let the other person talk. Because I will tend to over talk. And so if I'm with another individual who is also a talker, we really have to look at each other and say, okay, my turn. Your turn. When are we going to be quiet? And you learn. It takes you a couple of times to figure out that rhythm. And there's other people that say, Go for it. I want you to talk. Skip was kind of like that. He said, you know the game, I want you to talk. I'll fill in when I can, okay? Whereas other people want to contribute more, and the sports play a difference. And you know that in basketball, you're going with the action and you're talking a lot. Color might not get a kick in very often. Football more of a 50/ 50. You call the play, color gets to comment. And so the sport plays a lot into how much you get to talk as well.
If you could recall one game that probably sticks in your memory and will forever, what would that be:
Oh, boy, there is a few of them. You talk about triple overtime. I was calling CMR, the guys, and they had a triple overtime and it happened to be a game I was calling by myself. So it was the excitement of that I thought was really fun. The tournament that is near and dear to my heart is that Northern C Divisional? I think that is a premier tournament. It is well run, and we usually get a lot of the state contenders in that tournament. I can think of a number of games. The Cutbank girl’s squad was so good and so fun to watch for a while. The state tournament with Manhattan Christian boys, wow, they were fun to watch. And that Fort Benton Girls State championship. That was a great game. And so you remember a lot of them. And I couldn't pick out one great one at the time. It's the greatest. But then you get a new one next week and of course, shout out to Flint Creek and their hosting of the Class C state football game. Flint Creek just had tremendous it was the first time they had hosted in like 47 years. They had fire pits out there, they had barbecues, they had a big screen TV. It was like going to the NCAA championships and just a fantastic job. The atmosphere was electric, even though I think the temperature was about ten degrees. Great atmosphere. But being able to call a team that we have followed really since these kids were freshmen to the state championship, is heartfelt, the parents were so excited. Like I said, it was just the overall atmosphere that was wonderful.
Be watching for an upcoming article on Augusta native and former Cascade Badgers coach Robin McKnight.
If you have a story idea or something you want to learn more about, give Randy a call at 406-788-3003 or send me an email at email@example.com