Chuck Swirsky tells his story — and many others — in his book, ‘Always a Pleasure’
“I wanted a foundation so people could understand my background,” the Bulls’ radio voice said. “It opened the door for people to realize how valuable sports is to someone placed in an environment that’s challenging.”
As an NBA play-by-play announcer, Chuck Swirsky doesn’t have the time to share much about himself with his listeners.
“The 24-second shot clock kind of dictates where you’re at,” he said.
So after keeping a journal through four-plus decades, the Bulls’ radio voice on The Score is coming out with a book, “Always a Pleasure,” which is available for preorder and will be released Wednesday.
Swirsky, 68, had turned down several opportunities to write a book over the last few years but decided the timing was right. He’s beginning his 25th year as an NBA broadcaster and 15th with the Bulls. Swirsky has no plans to retire, but he took up publisher Eckhartz Press’ offer and wrote a 200-page memoir.
“I wanted a foundation so people could understand a little bit about my background, the way I grew up and how sports was important in my life,” Swirsky said. “It opened the door for people to realize just how valuable sports is to someone placed in a personal environment that’s challenging.”
Swirsky’s father died when Swirsky was in sixth grade. He was a decorated U.S. naval officer who loved working on cars and projects around the house, but he didn’t love sports the way his son did.
“The reason why I mentioned this in the book, there are a lot of kids who maybe have a disconnect with a parent,” Swirsky said, “and while my connection was very strong because I know my dad loved me unconditionally, as my mom did, I don’t think he ever got why I loved sports so much.
“He really struggled when he wanted me to hang out with him while he tinkered with a car or when he gave me an Erector set for the holidays. It really shaped me and allowed me to meet my own children where they’re at in their life instead of trying to mold them with how I want them to be.”
After his father died, Swirsky immersed himself in sports, which led to an illustrious broadcasting career. He arrived in Chicago in 1979 at WCFL, hosting the city’s first nightly sports talk show. His profile grew when he called DePaul men’s basketball and Sting indoor and outdoor soccer. That might not sound impressive to those who weren’t there, but in the early 1980s, they were the best teams in town.
“Before Michael Jordan arrived, it was DePaul and the Sting,” Swirsky said. “The Sting were selling out the outdoor game at Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park. They beat the Cosmos for the title in ’81. DePaul had it going. The Horizon was sold out every game.”
Swirsky moved on from WCFL to WLUP, where he worked morning and afternoon drive. He then got a call from Bulls public-relations director Brian McIntyre, who asked if Swirsky would audition to be the team’s public-address announcer after Tommy Edwards had left for another job (he’d return soon after). So Swirsky, McIntyre and general manager Rod Thorn met one afternoon at Chicago Stadium.
“They had me read a few liners and they had me do public address for the starting lineup, and they said, It’s yours,” Swirsky said.
Swirsky had the gig for only a couple of years because WGN general manager Dan Fabian didn’t want him missing DePaul games. He pressed Swirsky to choose the Bulls or Demons.
“This was the year before Jordan arrived,” Swirsky said. “As it turns out, I made the right decision because without the DePaul job, I don’t get the University of Michigan [basketball broadcasting job], and without the University of Michigan, I don’t get the Raptors job, and without the Raptors job, I don’t get the Bulls. But there were moments when I was seeing what Jordan was doing and saying, Hmm, I wonder if I made the right decision.”
Indeed, he did. Barring anything unforeseen, Swirsky will call his 2,000th NBA game Jan. 13, when the Bulls host the Thunder. Ironically, Swirsky rooted for the Thunder’s predecessor, the Seattle SuperSonics, as a kid growing up in Bellevue, Washington.
In the meantime, Swirsky will bring his perpetual positivity and energy to Bulls broadcasts, where his calls are descriptive and his information is thorough. His voice is unmistakable and synonymous with basketball. But Swirsky wants to make an impact away from the microphone, too.
“I always say there are four P’s that have really enveloped my life, and that’s positivity, passion, purpose and perseverance,” Swirsky said. “My book is a combination of all four because life is not a straight line. I wanted to let people know, here’s who I am, here’s my thought process and here’s how my world evolved.”
- Mike Monaco will call the Bulls’ home opener Saturday for NBC Sports Chicago alongside Stacey King. Adam Amin (NFL) and Jason Benetti (college football) will be on assignment for Fox. Monaco, who has ably filled in on Blackhawks, Bulls and White Sox broadcasts, also has the Bulls’ game Oct. 29, when the same conflicts occur.
- NFL games airing Sunday in the Chicago market: Lions at Cowboys, noon, Ch. 2 (Jim Nantz, Tony Romo); Packers at Commanders, noon, Fox-32 (Adam Amin, Daryl Johnston); Chiefs at 49ers, 3:25 p.m., Fox-32 (Kevin Burkhardt, Greg Olsen).
- The IHSA football playoff pairings will be revealed at 8 p.m. Saturday on The U, WCIU-Ch. 26.2. Hosts Matt Rodewald and Dave Bernhard will announce the first-round matchups of the 256-team field across eight classes.