Don King a Sports Broadcasting Mainstay

By TERRELL LESTER
Editor at Large

WELL-KNOWN VOICE: Area sports broadcaster Don King, stands in front of a Jenks High School trophy case. King has been on the air, via radio or television, for 13 of Jenks’ 16 football championships, providing the play-by-play coverage of the Trojans’ climb to the top of Oklahoma’s high-school football mountain.

TERRELL LESTER for GTR Newspapers


Don King’s voice has been synonymous with high school athletics for so long that it is difficult to remember a time without it.
A decade ago? Two decades? Three?

Don King has been broadcasting Tulsa-area prep sporting events for 41 years.

He first addressed a microphone in a high school football stadium in 1975.

Gerald Ford was president.

Tiger Woods was born on the next-to-last day of the year.

There was not a single gold football in the Jenks High School trophy case.

Since King made his on-air debut in Ponca City as a 21-year-old neophyte, six more presidents have been elected, Tiger Woods has soared to the top of the golf world and begun a similarly rapid descent, and Jenks has had to build a new facility to showcase its 16 football state championship trophies.

As much as the cultural landscape has changed over the last four decades, Don King has become a familiar and dependable constant.

King has been on the air, via radio or television, for 13 of Jenks’ 16 football championships.

If Alan Trimble is the heartbeat of Jenks football, Don King is, indeed, its voice.

For the Jenks radio fan base, Don King has provided the nonpareil play-by-play coverage, enhanced and enriched with his precise statistics, human-interest anecdotes and top-drawer professionalism, of the Trojans’ climb to the top of Oklahoma’s high-school football mountain.

The 62-year-old King, with a penchant for research and a focus on detail, is the fountainhead, the wellspring of Jenks’ fertile football history.

Tony Dillingham is director of athletics for Jenks Public Schools and knows King and King’s work better than most observers.

“I have not cut Don to see if he bleeds maroon, but I think that is the overwhelming perception from a Jenks football perspective,” Dillingham said.

Yet King commands so much respect for his professionalism and preparation, he can step away from the Jenks scene and into other broadcast roles with the ease and fluidity of the Renaissance man that he is.

From football to softball, from basketball to baseball, from high schools to the pros, King knows his sports and is a master of his craft.

He has been the play-by-play voice of the Tulsa Shock of the and the Tulsa 66ers of the Development League. He has been television studio host, radio talk-show host, and go-to guy for state-wide high-school playoff coverage.

During the March prep basketball state tournament, King provided the Cox Cable television play-by-play call for 14 games, including eight in one day, over a 60-hour marathon from the Mabee Center.

His sincerity, his smooth delivery, his unflappable comportment set him apart. His on-air persona is comfortable and conversational.

And then there is his work ethic. King’s commitment to preparation approaches fanatical.

“I can think of no one who is more prepared for doing a game than Don King,” said J.V. Haney, King’s longtime sidekick.

“He comes prepared with folders of stats, clippings, notes.

“I thought I was prepared. But Don King is far and away more prepared. There’s always something coming up that I didn’t have that he had right there at hand,” Haney said.

King recognized early and quickly the need for being prepared.

In that first season of high-school football play-by-play, King was covering a Ponca City team struggling to finish 1-9.

“That was a valuable lesson,” he said with a smile. “You better come prepared with a lot of stuff because you’re going to have a lot of time to fill when you go 1-9.”

That awareness, that ability to size up the situation during a 10-game season despite his youthfulness surely was the result of King’s educational process.

Reared in the Creek Country oilfield community of Drumright, King left prior to his sophomore year in high school to attend Kemper Military School in Boonville, Missouri.

After graduating high school in 1972, King remained at Kemper as a scholarship basketball player on the junior-college squad.

By that time, he was growing homesick and with the Kemper enrollment declining annually, King returned home and enrolled at Oklahoma State University.

At Kemper, which closed in 2002 after more than a century of being heralded as the West Point of the West, King said he matured quickly.

“The discipline, the structure of the military,” fueled his maturation, King said.
“You learn to think on your feet. The leadership classes proved invaluable later as I became a producer and program director.”

Armed with his portfolio of experiences at Ponca City, Kemper and Oklahoma State, King made his move in 1980 to Tulsa, landing at Tulsa Cable television.

One of his first alliances was with Bill Land. Already a familiar figure in local broadcasting, Land became a mentor to King.

“I owe a lot to Bill,” King said. “He hired me three times (as a producer).
“Bill was a guy that demanded perfection, and expected it.”

King and Land worked together on cable television on the SportScene program and on two AM radio stations, 1430 and 1300.

Along the way, King began to emerge as a play-by-play voice while still selling advertising for his radio employers.

In 1988, as Tulsa Cable was entering in its twilight years just before the emergence of Cox Cable, King teamed up with Haney for the launch of landmark high-school television coverage.

Preps had long relied on newspapers for the dissemination of game results and information.

King and Haney, through Tulsa Cable and Cox Cable, took that coverage to a higher-profile level.

It helped, too, that King and Haney were a natural tandem.

King had the broadcast experience. Haney was a veteran high-school coach with a state-wide reputation for fairness and honesty.

For the next 16 years, they were as recognizable as a team as Palmer and golf, Ali and boxing, peanut butter and jelly.

King and Haney were synonymous with the high-school coverage. Football and basketball. Baseball, too. And softball. They combined on weekly game coverage and mid-week talk shows.

“We were joined at the hip,” King said. “And there could not be a better person to be joined at the hip with than J.V., especially with regard to high-school athletics.

“I learned so much from him, and met so many people through him. He was a huge reason Tulsa Cable was as successful as it was, doing all those high-school games all those years.”

Putting aside his own experience, King pointed with pride to Haney’s ability to enlighten and educate a broadcast professional.

“I learned at a very early time that if somebody makes a bad play on the field or on the court, you should not criticize the guy that made the bad play,” King said.

“That’s one of the great things that I learned from J.V.

“There always will be somebody that probably made the good play on the other end that you can compliment.

“And I’ve always gone by that,” King said.

King’s complimentary, non-threatening style, his easy-going repartee and his keen insights have helped elevate his professional standing.

A telling reminder of that respect and presence unfolded in March when the rights for Jenks football broadcasts went up for bid.

For almost two decades, Jenks football had been the sole property of AM 1430, The Buzz.

When King left the parent company of The Buzz, iHeartMedia Inc., in December after 25 years, he joined Tyler Media company and its sports radio station The Franchise, FM 107.9 and AM 1270, for some on-air work but an emphasis on marketing.

With his long-standing connection to Jenks as its play-by-voice on The Buzz, King sought the football rights for his new employer.

Jenks agreed.

“Don’s commitment to this football program was a major influence with our football booster club as they looked at their options of radio stations,” Dillingham said.

“Don definitely swayed the scale in their thought process, in my opinion.”
It is understandable.

Over the years, the decades Don King, indeed, has swayed the scale of influence in high-school sports.

Updated 05-23-2016

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