Hot Rod Hundley to broadcast 6 games for Lakers

Just when Hot Rod Hundley thought he was out of basketball

broadcasting, the Los Angeles Lakers pulled him back in – for a few

games, anyway.

Hundley, the venerated voice of the Utah Jazz, has joined the

Lakers’ television broadcast team for six games, starting last

Friday against Minnesota.

Jazz fans who have missed Hundley’s rat-a-tat voice and unusual

aphorisms since his retirement last spring will get a chance to see

their longtime play-by-play man in Salt Lake City on Saturday night

when the Lakers visit.

The 75-year-old Hall of Fame honoree is filling in for

television commentator Stu Lantz, who’s taking a break to be with

his wife while she recovers from surgery.

Although Hot Rod appeared cool and relaxed about 90 minutes

before his return at Staples Center, the loquacious former Lakers

guard acknowledged a case of nerves.

“But this is fun, and I love coming back here,” Hundley said.

“It’s my favorite city. … I just said, ‘I can do it.’ I’ve got

nothing else to do. I was on the golf course when they

called.”

The temporary arrangement reunites Hundley with the franchise he

joined as a flashy ball-handler from West Virginia 52 years ago,

sticking with the Minneapolis Lakers through their move to Los

Angeles until 1963. Hundley, the No. 1 pick in the 1957 draft,

started his broadcast career with Chick Hearn for the Lakers from

1967-69.

“I learned more from him in two years than I would have if I’d

went to school,” Hundley said of Hearn, who died in 2002.

Rejoining the Lakers led Hundley to reflect on that brief stint

with Hearn, as well as a meeting with him after Hundley joined the

Jazz in 1974. Hundley had adopted several of Hearn’s unique phrases

in his broadcasts, including the practice of putting victories “in

the refrigerator.”

“Chick told me, ‘I heard you’ve been stealing some of my

lines,”’ Hundley said. “(I said) ‘Not some of them, Chick. All of

them.”’

Hundley moved with the Jazz from New Orleans to their tough

early seasons in Utah. He was there for their initial success with

coach Frank Layden and stars Adrian Dantley and Darrell Griffith in

the 1980s, followed by their ascent to consecutive Western

Conference titles with Karl Malone and John Stockton in the

1990s.

Through it all, Hundley was the voice of owner Larry H. Miller’s

small-market franchise. He was responsible for both the television

and radio broadcasts of Utah games until 2005, many years after

most teams hired separate radio and television broadcasters.

Hundley preferred the better seats and schedules of the TV job,

and a few years on radio persuaded him to retire with a year left

on his contract. His final game for the Jazz was at Staples Center

when the Lakers eliminated Utah from the playoffs’ first round, and

the warm reception he received from the Los Angeles crowd and Kobe

Bryant was on his mind when the Lakers called for help.

Hundley has spent his retirement largely at his warm-weather

home in Peoria, Ariz., although he still keeps a home in Salt Lake

City – and that’s where he’s headed on Saturday night when the

Lakers touch down on the first stop of a lengthy, cold-weather road

trip where Hundley will spend the rest of his stint. He plans to

swing by his house “to pick up three more ties.”

“I got tired of the traveling, and here I am,” he said with a

laugh.

The Lakers had a second substitute broadcaster on Friday night,

with injured forward Luke Walton filling in for radio color

commentator Mychal Thompson, who will miss two games because of a

death in his family.