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Kevin Calabro had hoped he would be back calling games for an NBA team again some day. His first preference was for that to happen in Seattle, where he served 21 years doing radio and television play by play for the SuperSonics before they fled for Oklahoma City in 2008.


The next-best — and next-closest — thing was Portland.

On Friday, the Trail Blazers made it happen, hiring Calabro as their new TV voice.

When the Sonics left Seattle, Calabro chose to stay behind due to family obligations, making a living through a variety of freelance gigs. For the first time in nine seasons, he’ll be behind the microphone of one NBA team next season.JEFF RANKLIN/GETTY IMAGES - CALABRO

“I’m excited to get into a situation where I’m working for a club again,” Calabro said from San Francisco, where he is preparing to call Sunday’s Game 7 of the NBA finals for ESPN Radio from Oracle Arena in Oakland. “I always thought it would be Seattle, but the clock is ticking on my shelf life.”

For the past few years, Calabro — who turns 60 on June 27 — has done NBA games for ESPN Radio and football and basketball for the Pac-12 Networks. In two of the past three seasons, he has called the NBA finals for ESPN Radio. Calabro said he hopes to continue to call games for ESPN Radio once — if — the Blazers are eliminated from the playoffs.

“I’ve been grinding,” Calabro said. “Last year, I did 75 football and basketball events, but only five in Seattle — one Husky football game and four Husky basketball games. Anything under a three-hour (plane) trip seemed almost like a home game. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in airports. Being a part of a team and a town is something I’m looking forward to.”

The timing for Calabro to become Mike Barrett’s replacement was ideal for him. Kevin and his wife of 34 years, Sue, have four children who are grown and out of the house. That wasn’t the case eight years ago.

“We’re empty-nesters now,” Calabro said. “Our kids all live in the Seattle area, and we have a second home on the side of a mountain overlooking Lake Chelan that we’d never part with. But what makes (the Blazers job) so attractive is the ease to go back and forth any time we want.”

Calabro said he is open to making Portland his permanent home.

“But I don’t know where I would live,” he said. “I’ve been there countless times over the years. I know the local golf courses, the best restaurants, the hotels, the arena, but I don’t know the neighborhoods.

“The plan is to get something temporary, get situated, and then figure out where to live. Sue and I will get out on foot and walk around the (Portland-area) cities and decide what works for us over the next several weeks.”

Calabro called games for the Blazers’ arch-rivals for 13 seasons, and he has his finger to the pulse of what’s happening in the NBA. He’ll still have to do some homework on his new club with the help of president/general manager Neil Olshey and coach Terry Stotts.

“I’m familiar with the tradition and history of the Blazers,” he said. “I can’t say I’m up to speed on what the vision is for Neil and Terry. I’ll sit down with them this summer and pick their brains, and talk to the players. Hopefully, I can get to (Las Vegas) summer league and hang out for a couple of days with them as well.”

Calabro is seasoned, polished and blessed with one of the great voices in broadcasting. He won’t need a lot of coaching from the powers-that-be in the Blazer organization about how to call a game.

“I’m not going to be a homer,” he said. “I don’t wave the pompoms. I do have an affinity for the guys I’m around and see work hard every day in practice. There’s such excitement in a game, and I want to reflect that.

You’re going to hear it in my voice. You see fans come out of their seats, and I’m going to be that way, also. If you’re not that way, go to the opera.

“But I’ve never tried to make a broadcast about me. You never want to get in the way of a broadcast. That’s what I’ve been taught — it’s not so much the words you use, but the way you use your voice. Fans are pretty sharp. They devour this stuff. I don’t presume to know more than the fans.”

Calabro said he didn’t pursue the Blazers job. He said he was approached during the Western Conference semifinals by Chris McGowan, Portland’s president and CEO.

“Chris mentioned that he was contemplating some changes, and asked if I would be interested in talking to him,” Calabro said. “And I was.

“Since the Sonics left (Seattle), I’ve had some solid offers from clubs, but all way out of town. I got to the altar on a couple of them, but could not say ‘I do,’ because my kids were still in school. It would have been very difficult on my wife and my family. I opted not to do it and watched that ship sail a couple of times.”

Calabro is aware of the backlash from Blazer fans over the loss of the three long-time broadcasters who were relieved of their duties on Wednesday — Mike Barrett, Mike Rice and Antonio Harvey. He has seen charges that he was out to replace Barrett.

“There’s a perception that I was pushing for this job,” Calabro said. “What I would like for everyone to know, I’ve been in Seattle since they left in ’08. I would not have waited eight years to get the Blazer job if that was my intent. This was purely a function as what happens in this league with management, players, coaches, broadcasters and so on. For whatever reason, folks want to make a change. When they want to make a change, it leaves a void, and it’s ‘next man up.’ That void is going to be filled.

“It’s unfortunate for the pros who were released. I’m sure they’ll land somewhere else. I’ve been in that situation before. When the Sonics left town, that’s as fired as you can get.”

Calabro has been told he’ll have input on the person who will work alongside him as analyst. He has extensive experience with two terrific candidates — P.J. Carlesimo and Mychal Thompson — but said he doesn’t have “the slightest idea” who will be hired.

“I do have some ideas in mind, and so does Chris,” Calabro said. “I’m sure we’ll get around the table and took a look at the resumes, draw up the criteria and go from there.”

For now, Calabro will concentrate on preparing for one of the biggest games in NBA history — Sunday’s Game 7 at Oracle.

“It’s historic,” Calabro said. “You have the Warriors sitting with a record 88 wins (including postseason), but without (Andrew Bogut), and (Andre) Iguodala is hurting. On the other side, you have LeBron (James) locked in. It’s a legacy game for him. All the naysayers — myself included, to a degree — will put him on a shelf with (Larry) Bird, Magic (Johnson) and Michael (Jordan) if he can bring the Cavaliers from a 1-3 deficit and win Game 7 on the road.”

keggers@portlandtribune.com

Twitter: @kerryeggers

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