AROUND THE HORNS: SISISKY, REMEMBERED
VOICE STILL RINGS LOUD AND CLEAR AT VCU
By Chris Kowalczyk
Terry Sisisky signed off as the "Voice of the VCU Rams" two years ago, but the air never seemed as quiet as it does today. Sisisky was laid to rest on Sunday after a brief battle with cancer.
To those of us that knew Terry and worked with him, his passing Friday at the age of 58 was shocking. I ran into Terry at the Siegel Center in March, while he was broadcasting the VHSL State Basketball Championships. Frankly, he looked as spry as ever. In typical fashion, he strode up to me with his customary toothy, megawatt grin and machine-gun jaw in tow. He showed no signs of illness. If anything, he seemed fresh, energetic. Terry always maintained an incredibly busy schedule, and I wondered if his two seasons away from the rigors of VCU Basketball had added some spring to his step.
Terry was in great form those days, rapid-firing his customary one-liners and catchphrases. "That's cold!", he'd respond to a playful jab, or "Smokin'!", he'd exclaim before he broke into laughter. I had planned on many of these exchanges over the next few years, but I was wrong. I never saw Terry again, and his loss left an immense hole in the hearts of those who knew him, mine included.
From 1980-2008, Terry called VCU Basketball games, 840 in all. Up until a few years ago, VCU rarely appeared on television, which meant that if they weren't in the arena, Terry Sisisky was the primary method of delivering Rams Basketball to VCU fans. He was in their cars and living rooms, and it always felt like an old friend dropping by for an evening.
Terry's appeal laid in his everyman appearance and delivery. His tone rose and fell with the state of VCU Basketball. If he sounded like he was so excited during a broadcast that his hair might catch on fire, it's because he was. Sisisky loved bringing every dunk, rebound, win, loss, championship, heartbreak and triumph to the fans, and you could hear it in every broadcast, crackling voice and all.
At first glance, Terry looked like a cross between Christopher Lloyd's Doc Brown character from "Back to the Future" and Rainn Wilson. His white hair was often out of place, his clothes didn't always fit and his equipment appeared to be beaten into submission.
However, what he lacked in polish, he made up for in preparation and passion. During the 2007-08 season, Terry and I traveled to a number of road games together. I always enjoyed his company, but it came with one caveat: Terry needed to be at the arena almost four hours prior to tip-off. He checked and rechecked equipment incessantly and unpacked volumes of notes. His handwriting was completely illegible, and his workspace looked like the byproduct of a collision between a water buffalo, a 16-wheeler and an Office Depot, but nobody was more prepared or professional.
He loved players, coaches and fans, and they loved him back. After games, whether it was at home or on the road, a group of fans would often gather around Terry's courtside seat to listen to the postgame show. Terry disliked traveling, especially towards the end of his VCU career. Ultimately, it was one of the main reasons he stepped down after 28 seasons. Instead of driving to road games himself, Terry would often hitch a ride with VCU fans or staffers with whom he was always welcome.
I met Terry in 2005, but worked most closely with him during the 2007-08 season, when I was the men's basketball sports information director. College basketball seasons can be a long, slow grind, and it's important to have friends who will lend a kind ear when there are bumps in the road. I was glad Terry was there to listen to me, and I'm happy I could do the same for him. When we weren't chatting about work, Terry could be heard gushing about or – depending on the day – bemoaning his beloved St. Louis Cardinals. He also spoke often of his wife, Sandra, and daughter, Samantha, who he adored.
Following that season, Terry must've thanked me 50 times for my help. He was beyond gracious. I told him that I was just doing my job, but he thanked me 10 more times anyway. In the end, I wish I had thanked him. I think we all should. He gave me, and the VCU Family, for that matter, more than I could have ever given him. He delivered a lifetime of memories for Rams fans, and he showed me humility, generosity, the benefit of an unrelenting work ethic and the value of family. I hope we can all learn from his example. Thank you, Terry.
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