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KERRY EGGERS ON SPORTS/Legendary broadcaster's future with Trail Blazers could have turned in 1976-77

TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: ADAM WICKHAM - Trail Blazers broadcaster Bill Schonely speaks at a reunion of the 1976-77 Portland NBA championship team.It's a story I'd not heard before — and heck, I wrote the man's autobiography.

So I was surprised to read in the new biography of former Mariners broadcaster Dave Niehaus ("My Oh My — The Dave Niehaus Story") that Bill Schonely initially was offered the job before Niehaus was hired as play-by-play man with the club's inception in 1977.

At the time, Schonely was entrenched as radio voice of the Trail Blazers. But in the 1960s, he had worked in Seattle, calling PCL baseball and WHL hockey. He also was on the broadcasting team for the one season of the ill-fated Seattle Pilots, who played in 1969 in the American League before moving to Milwaukee.

In late 1976, as plans were being drawn for the Mariner franchise, club president Dick Vertlieb contacted Schonely and offered him the Mariners' play-by-play job.

"Dick said, 'You're our guy, but don't say anything right now,'" says Schonely, 88, now founding broadcaster/ambassador for the Blazers and a member of the Naismith Basketball of Fame. "I was going to take it. I'd done baseball for a long time. I thought, 'Wow, I'm going to be back in baseball.' But I never said anything about it to anybody. I just went about my business with the Trail Blazers."

But the Mariners' majority owner, entertainer Danny Kaye, had known Niehaus during the broadcaster's time calling games for the Angels in Los Angeles. A few months later, midway through the Blazers' 1976-77 season, Vertlieb called Schonely.

"He said, 'Schonz, I hate to tell you this, but Danny Kaye got involved, and it's going to be Niehaus,'" Schonely says. "I was disappointed, of course, but I still had my job in Portland."

And that job got very interesting, and rewarding, later that season when the Blazers won their only NBA title.

"I lucked out," Schonely says now. "I would have missed the championship. When I look back on it, things worked out the right way."

• Jay Locey's imprint on Lewis & Clark football is beginning to take shape.

After back-to-back 0-9 seasons his first two seasons at the coaching helm, the Pioneers were 2-2 after their loss last week at Puget Sound.

On Sept. 30, freshman Obed Ariza's 33-yard field goal on the final play provided a 24-21 victory over Willamette at Griswold Stadium on Palatine Hill. The week before, the Pioneers won 40-29 at Pomona-Pitzer.

For an L&C program that, since 1991, has had more winless seasons (five) than winning years (two), that's big.

"Those two games, the kids finished, played to win. They've taken ownership (of their situation) and risen in tough times," Locey says. "They've done a great job of learning how to win and compete."

This Saturday, the Pioneers must face nationally ranked Linfield (1 p.m. at L&C). Their homecoming is Oct. 21 against Pacific, and the other home game in 2017 is against Whitworth on Nov. 4.

The Pioneers are starting eight freshmen, including 6-0, 195-pound quarterback Sawyer May of Arroyo Grande, California.

"We're still a young group," Locey says.

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