There was a time when Robb Coffey’s voice wasn’t as deep, powerful or pleasant on the microphone.
The night Coffey walked into a convenience store and walked out with his first public-address gig, he was nervous and his signature baritone was monotone and flat. Since his first outing on the loudspeakers, Coffey’s unique sound has become the soundtrack for Denton athletics over the last 32 years.
This weekend at the University Interscholastic League girls basketball state tournaments, Coffey will settle into Austin’s Frank Erwin Center and be one of the voices calling the action.
Before Coffey called the Sun Belt Conference basketball tournament, he would travel to Austin to enjoy the state tournament. Coffey said he’s excited to return.
“I’ve attended it many, many years,” Coffey said. “I was there as a fan, and now I can be there calling the shots. And, as fate would have it, my first game is going to be with a local team.”
Coffey will announce the Class 3A semifinal between Argyle (35-1) and Geronimo Navarro (33-7) at 1:30 p.m. Thursday. He will call the ensuing 3A semifinal between Waco La Vega (33-0) and Abilene Wylie (30-5), along with both 2A semifinals on Friday and the 2A and 4A state championship games Saturday.
Coffey called Argyle’s playoff opener against Sanger. Like he does when necessary, Coffey leaned over the scorer’s table at Denton High to double-check the pronunciation of a substitute player before his voice boomed over the speakers.
In addition to announcing events at Ryan and Denton, Coffey is the public-address announcer at North Texas and TWU. Coffey is the announcer for UNT women’s basketball games at the Super Pit, where he watched games as a college student.
“I remember telling my friends, ‘Before I leave here, I want to be doing that myself,’” Coffey said.
Coffey’s first game was an Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women basketball game between the Stephen F. Austin Ladyjacks and the Wayland Baptist Flying Queens.
Since then, Coffey has served as the voice for contests around the area and region.
The Omaha, Texas, native announced at the Sun Belt tournament for four years before UNT moved to Conference USA, and he will announce the Lone Star Conference basketball tournament this year.
When he got started, Coffey enjoyed the way that Dave Zinkoff introduced Julius Erving and the Philadelphia 76ers. He watched games, listened carefully and studied those he liked as he developed a unique voice that can be identified without a glance at the scorer’s table.
Hank Dickenson, the UNT deputy athletic director and a member of the Mean Green Radio Network, said Coffey always has been an excellent historian of Denton-area sports and has made the most of his baritone voice. Dickenson commended Coffey’s ability to announce a game and stay out of the way of the action.
“He has a very pleasant voice to listen to,” Dickenson said, “but unlike other folks nowadays that tend to dominate what’s going on, he gives you the useful information and then stays out of the way, which I think is a really good approach to doing public address.”
Over at TWU, Coffey announces that basketball coach Beth Jillson is the judge presiding over the court at Kitty Magee Arena, and after the contest has been deliberated, Coffey announces the final verdict to the crowd.
“You can tell through his enthusiasm and his voice he’s very passionate about what he does,” Jillson said. “I think he’s done a good job, too, of getting to know our players. He really does add to the gameday atmosphere and creates a great gameday environment for our fans and our players.”
This weekend in Austin, Coffey will take a break from his desk job at Verizon, settle into his spot at the arena, jot down stats and do what he has done so well in Denton for many years.
After that first monotone outing, Coffey has been not only immersed in every game he’s announced but immersed in the local sports scene.
“If I’m doing it, I want to be totally in it,” Coffey said. “I want to be totally engaged in it. What I may say, I want it to have some substance.”
BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @Ben_Baby.