After forty years of doing the radio play-by-play for football and basketball, Woody Durham is retiring, in a press conference scheduled for 10 this morning. Durham, of course, has been the only voice of the program multiple generations of fans have ever known, and had called such games as Walter Davis's win against Duke from 35 feet away and the 1993 championship game. As well as the 1982, 2005, and 2009 championship games of course, but it's the 1993 one I remember him calling the most, with his screams of "Technical Foul!" as Chris Webber doomed his team to infamy. R. L. Bynum has clips of Durham's greatest calls, and I agree with both him and others on the internet that his former partner Mick Mixon is the obvious replacement.
It's strange, despite having listened to Woody for my entire life then, that I gained a new perspective on him this tournament season, when travel forced me to catch a lot of college radio broadcast teams as i shuffled up and down the east coast. You rarely listen to other school's radio folks call games, and it was amazing how poorly they stood up, either through blatant homerism or just poor skills in describing the play. With Woody you always new which team he wanted to win, but it never colored his analysis of the game, and the action on the court came through crystal clear. He had a talent that few could hope to achieve, and used it superbly.
Everyone's got their favorite Woody Durham moment, whether through personal encounter or just hearing his voice on the airwaves. We shared a barber and a fraternity affiliation, and in the couple of times we crossed paths, he never failed to be friendly and full of good cheer, always with a story to regale you with. My favorite Woody Durham story comes from an encounter with a friend, and borders on the ribald. When Gene Corrigan retired as ACC commissioner in 1997, a ceremony was held over the summer in Greensboro Coliseum to honor him, and all nine schools sent their mascots to take part. My friend stepped in to play the part of Rameses; he was in the locker room getting into costume with, I believe, the guy playing Mr. Wuf, when he hears the shower in the next room cut off. Out steps Woody Durham, towel in hand, getting dressed for his own role in the days festivities.
"Hey, it's Rameses!" Durham said. "Good to see you!"
And then he walked off to get ready for the day's work. He was genuinely happy to see that UNC had sent their mascot down for the celebration, as he always was when coming across a sign of his alma mater no matter where he found himself. He is a true Tar Heel to the core, and I can't imagine anyone's voice but his calling Tar Heel games. Happy Retirement, Woody.