Devlin has paid his dues

MIKE GANTER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:46 AM ET

Don't expect to hear Matt Devlin bringing the house down with a "Kaboom" or an "Onions baby, onions" like his predecessor.

It's just not his style.

Devlin, the new voice of the Raptors, is nothing like Chuck Swirsky, Toronto's former play-by-play man. While the two announcers are friends with complete respect for what the other does, they couldn't be more different behind the microphone.

If Swirsky is all pomp and pageantry, then Devlin is meat and potatoes and he makes no apologies for it.

"(Chuck's) a good friend and a great announcer, and I completely respect the relationship he had with the fans here," Devlin said yesterday while attending the 2008 NBA broadcast meetings in New Jersey. "I know there will be a transition time and period and hopefully, fans will accept me. This is a place where I want to be for a long, long period of time."

Swirsky returned to Chicago following last season for family reasons. Devlin, meanwhile, got caught in the middle of an upper management change in Charlotte, where he had been the voice of the Bobcats for the past three seasons.

As for his particular style, Devlin has a definite philosophy when it comes to doing play by play.

"I feel like I have a straight-forward approach," Devlin said. "To me it's about the players on the floor and the analysts. I'm there to inform and then entertain. My style is different. I respect everyone else's approach to the game. I look at it like Jack (Armstrong) and Leo (Rautins) are the guys."

Devlin might deflect the spotlight to his broadcast partners, but when it comes to workload he always has carried more than his share.

His career path makes him a poster boy of sorts for the guy who has paid his dues to get where he is today.

His stops are too many to list here but an incident while doing play by play for the New Haven Ravens, then Colorado's double-A affiliate, speaks volumes. Already handling baseball play-by-play duties, he wanted to add some basketball to his resume so he created his own job at Sacred Heart University. The school did not have a radio package for their games, so Devlin convinced a local station to loan him the equipment and then offered to do all 28 of their games for $100 a game. Initially the school's athletic director was all for the idea but two games into the agreement explained to Devlin that he didn't have the funds to pay him.

UNFORGETTABLE

"I'll never forget it," Devlin said. "My (Erin) wife is there, it's 28 games, and I'm wondering what I'm going to do. She says to me, 'What is the point of that job? Is the point the $100 or getting some tape to get to the next spot?' "

Devlin saw the wisdom in his wife's advice and continued to do every game that was within driving distance of his home. "A lot of my success has been based on getting exactly that kind of advice," Devlin said.

Turns out that tape helped Devlin land his first professional gig doing play by play for the WNBA's New York Liberty on the MSG network. He hasn't looked back since.

He has done NFL and Major League Baseball games for Fox, worked two Olympic Games (Athens and Beijing) for NBC and a three-year stint as the play-by-play voice of the Memphis Grizzlies.

Now he's ready to settle down in Toronto.


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