As he retires, the 'Cliz' leaves lasting radio legacy at Purdue
Larry Clisby’s voice will no longer literally be inside Mackey Arena.
But it will still echo.
The man who became synonymous with Purdue basketball over the last 40 years puts down his microphone this season, handing off to longtime partner Rob Blackman permanently. The two had switched roles last season, starting this transition when Clisby’s ailing health — he’s been battling brain and lung cancer for a couple years — sapped him of the power to deliver his usual energic broadcast. But he could still hit us with his signature “Bullseye!” following a Boilermakers 3-pointer. Man, those calls were sweet, a perfect exclamation point to end the quiet pause after a shot attempt.
And now that will be missed. Purdue Tuesday announced that Blackman would take over the play-by-play duties on the radio network, with former Boilermaker Bobby Riddell moving into an analysis role, joining holdover Ralph Taylor, who stays on for home games.
Growing up in West Lafayette, as I did after my family moved to town when I was a 6-year-old in 1985, Clisby was a staple for sports fans. I can still remember it as if yesterday: My dad and I heading out to the garage to listen to Cliz on the car radio after our power had gone out in the house. It was an Indiana game, probably sometime in the early 90s, when Glenn Robinson was battling Damon Bailey and the rest of those pesky Hoosiers. We couldn’t miss a moment.
And with Cliz on the mic, he brought you to the game. Every moment was a rollercoaster of emotion. There are various styles in which a broadcaster can deliver a game, a detail-oriented point-by-point explanation of the action on the court, and that works. Or delivery from a fan’s perspective, living and dying with every dribble, every shot, every foul, every referees’ call. And across the spectrum, none are incorrect. For Cliz, he fell into the latter category, and did so gloriously. Within seconds of turning on a broadcast, you knew where the Boilermakers stood. Were they winning? Losing? How were the officials doing?
If things were going well, you could hear Cliz gripping his seat, nearly leaping out of it and into the action. Going badly? He was sunk down in his chair, sometimes exasperated, hoping for a play that would turn it around. He was like Gene Keady the broadcaster, and you knew why the two — and then later Matt Painter — were so close.
As an aspiring broadcaster in those formative years — at my high school graduation party, I put on a Jock Jams CD and loudly announced the Pacers’ starting lineup. In hindsight, it seems so silly — I’d latch on to what I liked or didn’t with Cliz or Joe McConnell, Tim Newton or Doc Emrick or Pat Hughes.
In broadcasting Purdue baseball the last 15-plus years, I’d like to think I pulled in a little bit of Clisby’s style. There’s no “Bullseye” calls on a walk-off homer, but I’ve been known to crank up the volume on a big Purdue hit or strikeout. And umpires can tend to grind my gears, and I might let you know about it.
Few around West Lafayette weren’t impacted in the last near half century, whether his time at WLFI TV-18 or his morning show on WAZY or on football and basketball broadcasts.
What a career, what a legend.