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Finding his voice: Panormios consistent presence at Duquesne

Alex Panormios has spent 22 seasons covering Duquesne football and 21 with Duquesne women’s basketball. Photo credit: Duquesne Athletics

Pittsburgh, PA — Alex Panormios is a man of many words, but it was one word in 1995 from former Duquesne athletic director Brian Colleary which started his broadcasting career at the university.

Yes.

“At the time, there was nothing on the air except for men’s basketball, so I went up to him (Colleary) and asked if he wanted games on air and he said yes,” Panormios recalled. “So I went out, sold it, bought the air time, everything.”

Now 22 years later, Panormios has been a fixture in the Rooney Field press box for football contests and his 21 years as the voice of Duquesne women’s basketball is tied for 13th longest tenure in NCAA Division I and the longest tenure in the Atlantic 10.

“I think it started with a passion for broadcasting because I started with a few radio stations,” said Panormios. “When I worked my first station at Cannonsburg it was WWCS, it was WARO at the time. The guy that was there started broadcasting high school football. I was fascinated so I went along and kept stats and broadcast equipment. After I saw him do the games, I thought it was fun so a couple years later I started buying time off WPIT and I did North Hills Football for 20-some years and I just loved it. Brian said yes in 1995 and we started a year later.”

The Broadcaster

The early years of broadcasting at Duquesne were labors of love for Panormios, in fact the profession has never been a full-time gig instead Panormios has handled anywhere from one to four jobs at the same time, though it is certainly hard to tell.

“It’s a passion thing,” he said. “I had to do high school football on Friday nights, jump in the car to New York for football on a Saturday, right after the game jump in a car and drive home. I would get home at 3 AM and delivery newspapers.”

Former Duquesne football and current Albany coach Greg Gattuso was with Panormios at the beginning of this broadcasting venture and came away impressed by his efforts.

“Alex did it when people didn’t really know about Duquesne football,” said Gattuso. “When we first started that thing, he was a loyal supporter of the program, I always have had a great admiration for him. He does a great job and did it through the hard times.”

Duquesne women’s basketball sports information director Ryan Gavatorta recalled a similar instance during the 2013-14 non conference schedule when Panormios made the drive up and back to Toronto to cover a game against national powerhouse Notre Dame.

“He spent close to 12 hours in a car to do a game that lasted an hour-and-a-half, which was a blowout,” Gavatorta said. “He didn’t think twice about doing that and I always thought that was something very great.”

For Panormios, the drive to do women’s basketball was an easy decision as he saw there was a push to get women’s basketball on the airwaves.

“I love doing football but I’ve become strangely obsessed with women’s basketball,” he said. “The men’s game, I like it too, but I love the strategy with women’s basketball. It’s more methodical, there is just something about it I kind of enjoy.”

Women’s basketball was initially not a natural fit as Panormios had never called the sport before, but that certainly was not going to stop him from trying.

“I’m thinking ‘if I can pull this off and fool people for a little bit’, because I knew very little,” said Panormios. “It’s one of those things when you get in there and I think get by with your enthusiasm.”

Panormios has become very familiar with the game since then.

Gattuso had the chance to provide color commentary alongside Panormios for a brief time. As a coach he already had a respect for Panormios because of his work ethic, but sitting next to him provided a new level of understanding.

“It was just a different feel and I got to see him work up close,” Gattuso said. “It’s certainly not as easy as a lot of people think.”

Panormios is able to play it straight on broadcasts when he needs to be more neutral, but his broadcasts are filled with enthusiasm that spread across WPIT, ESPN 970, Red Zone Media and now the Atlantic 10 Network. This being the case whether Duquesne was coach by Gattuso, Jerry Schmitt, Dan Durkin, Suzie McConnell-Serio or Dan Burt.

“If I am doing Duquesne for a Duquesne audience, you are going to hear all of the excitement,” said Panormios. “In the case of women’s basketball, you want them to know that you are for their daughter and you want to say their name as much as possible.”

No one understands that excitement better than Tad Maurey who has done color commentary beside Panormios since 2001.

“Alex has a natural delivery, one that listeners enjoy from a play-by-play person,” Maurey said. “To me he has all the intangibles for a play by play announcer and hes versatile enough to do multiple sports and do them well.”

Whether a broadcast is watched in Cacak, Serbia or Pittsburgh, PA, Panormio’s excitement and correct pronunciation of names is something that he has taken pride in for 22 years and that is something he believes can be understood by everyone.

During a recent women’s basketball game, Robert Healy III, a journalism professor at Duquesne tweeted that there was no one he would rather hear call the final minutes of a close game than Panormios.

“If he’s not describing it, it just doesn’t feel like a Duquesne women’s basketball game,” said Healy. “He knows what’s important and knows how to set the scene before every single play. I could put the phone down and listen to my broadcast and not feel like I am missing anything. He and Tad play off each other very well and Tad does a very good job of analyzing.”

Panormios was touched by Healy’s remarks stating his words were something that fueled him.

“To be honest, they are golden because you don’t get them that much anymore,” Panormios said. “To hear someone say that there is no one I would rather have do a game then Alex, that blows me away. When Bob tweeted that I said ‘oh my gosh, that is the best thing ever’.”

The Mentor

Robert Healy III was trying to make the transition from two-sport athlete to having more of an impact in the journalism community, when a lunch with a boss at his Clear Channel internship led to a chain of events which returned him back to the sidelines.

Ryan Gavatorta was running board operations at WPIT in 1997-98 but it was during his time North Hills high school football when he got an important break.

Tad Maurey graduated from Indiana University and got a job as a producer. In 2001 he was interested in broadcasting high school football games when he had an interview with an individual in charge of a streaming internet business.

The above trio have all been impacted by Panormios and now each frequently cross paths with him at Duquesne.

Healy III played football as an undergraduate and though he was still competing in track during graduate school that lunch with his boss was a key to getting connected to Panormios. There was already a familiarity with Panormios since he previously heard road broadcasts.

When the two talked, Panormios offered a crash course and then an unpaid sideline reporter position which Healy eagerly accepted.

Healy still knew most of Duquesne’s football players and the staff, so he would routinely listen to games on an earpiece and when Panormios or color commentator Chris Koharski tossed it to him, the wireless microphone was turned on and the one-time offensive lineman provided his opinion which could be heard on ESPN 970.

A couple of games in, Koharski had family obligations and Panormios brought Healy into the Rooney Field broadcast booth to provide color commentary.

The next season, Koharski moved east and Healy became the color commentator. This was shortlived when Panormios became ill and Healy would do the broadcasts himself borrowing equipment from the student radio station when games were on the road.

These responsibilities grew to Duquesne soccer games as well making Healy assume Panormio’s tireless schedule of covering one game, traveling to New York and then returning to Pittsburgh on little-to-no sleep before broadcasting another contest.

Panormios was grateful to Healy saying he saved the broadcast that year and the latter immediately reciprocated the gesture.

When grad school was over, Healy had an endless amount of sound thanks to Panormios who gave the opportunity and archived all of the games. Having that experience made him more desirable in the sports information world and he was hired by Hamilton College and Susquehanna.

Now Healy is back at Duquesne teaching broadcasting, sports information and more, using what Panormios taught him to his students.

“It all started with the opportunity Alex gave me and then being a listener of his tried to mold my broadcast a little bit like him,” Healy said. “Alex probably isn’t aware that him giving me that microphone and got me experience. I wouldn’t be teaching journalism and sports broadcasting if not for Alex.”

Gavatorta met Panormios doing at WPIT in 1997, his first radio gig. Though the two kept in touch, working the North Hills football games was when the relationship truly began.

North Hills football broadcasts had postgame shows at Monte Cello’s and while Panormios drove to the establishment, Gavatorta was given free air. During home games, this was 30 minutes, but in some road situations the time could approach or exceed an hour in length. Panormios trusted Gavatorta to properly fill the time.

Gavatorta has been a sports information director at Duquesne for 11 years, and Panormios was well into his broadcasts. He considers it a happy coincidence that the friendship has continued at Duquesne. Gavatorta appreciates Panormio’s calming voice and the fact that he is a fanatic.

When Gavatorta takes his seat at media row, he knows that Panormios will be a few seats down, something which brings a wide smile to his face.

He would not want it any other way.

“I love just having him on my left side for every game,” Gavatorta said. “It’s been like that for all 11 season I’ve been here. It’s my standard, if something needs to be said, I can feed him quick information, it’s good communication we have but similar to the players, it’s my ritual. I sit down and Alex is there.”

Since 2001, Maurey has been working alongside Panormios. Games were streamed on Red Zone Media, which Panormios himself created.

Maurey does not forget that Panormios gave him his start and appreciates the partnership in addition to the friendship the two have.

“We have grown accustomed over our many years together of each others tendencies,” he said. “It takes time to work together in the booth and feel comfortable with your partner. We had our growing pains like anyone else in the beginning, but over time, you just get a feel for each other and it becomes second nature. I’d say we complement each other very well.”

Together the pair have opened the “trey cafe” on countless occasions and whether the pair are sitting next to each other in press row or Maurey is trying to get an on-field interview, the two have been able to play off each other and maintain a healthy partnership.

“Alex has been reliable, professional and the unquestioned voice of many memorable moments for two of the most accomplished programs that this university has,” said Healy.

The Duke

When Dan Burt was hired as women’s basketball coach, one of the first things he did was promise Panormios that he would be able to interact with his team, something he felt would assist the latter with future broadcasts.

Burt had previously been an assistant coach with Duquesne from 2007-13, but really this was what established a relationship between the two.

“I think any time you know your subject, it allows for you to relate to them much better when you’re talking about them,” Burt said. “He certainly has done that very well. We’re an inclusive group at Duquesne, we invite everyone to join the family. Alex and Tad have both joined that family and been part of us and we’ve enjoyed them very much.”

It is respectful gestures such these which help Panormios give his all game in and game out.

“It would be tough for me to broadcast if no one cared,” said Panormios. “Down here at Duquesne you feel like you are a part of something that’s growing and it fuels your passion.”

When Duquesne football traveled to Albany, Gattuso could not wait to introduce Panormios to Roger Wyland, who is “the voice” for the Great Danes.

Gattuso thinks highly of both men and sees similarities which motivated him to make this introduction, the smile never departing his face.

In Pittsburgh there are many who are known for their broadcasting efforts including Mike Lange, Bill Hillgrove and Ray Goss, who has been the standard for Duquesne broadcasting for several decades.

At Duquesne, Panormios has found his voice now for over two decades in two important university athletics programs, and has drawn admiration and respect from those around him.

“He should be the next media member in the Duquesne Sports Hall of Fame,” said Healy.

Perhaps no one understands the hardships Panormios has gone through to get to this point better than Gattuso who seconded Healy’s sentiment.

“There’s no one more deserving of going into the Duquesne Hall of Fame than Alex,” he said. “He built this whole deal up and really started from scratch. He did this out of love and a desire to be a broadcaster and I think he built a cool legacy for himself. I would be very much in favor of him getting in and it would be a crime if he doesn’t get put in the hall of fame in the near future. He’s a very worthy person and he deserves that more than many who go into the hall of fame.”

Northeast Conference Director of Communications and Social Media Ralph Venture has been with the conference for 11 seasons, 10 of which Duquesne has been a member of, and has been able to meet Panormios on several different occasions. He, like many others has consistently come away impressed.

“With all Duquesne home games airing on NEC Front Row, I have listened to Alex call numerous games and his passion for the sport and the Dukes is remarkable,” said Venture. “Duquesne Football is fortunate to have such a passionate professional of their team.”

When reflecting on his time at Duquesne, Panormios offered his trademark smile and staying true to himself, painted a picture that was easy to understand.

“It’s been a blessing to be here, to be anywhere for 20-plus years is a blessing,” Panormios said. “To have been given the opportunity to be here, I mean I could have been bounced out and they could put someone else in. I’m still here and I’m thankful. It’s provided me with a lot of memories and a lot of excitement.”

Duquesne family praises Panormios

“Alex is one of the most professional media people in this town, a real unsung jewel. His passion and joy for both Duquesne football and women’s basketball is very clear in his broadcasts. It’s not just the way he calls a game and keeps the viewer informed, but also the way he treats people in the media room and press box. He always offers a smile and greets you by name. It’s the little things that go a long way in life. I am proud to call him a colleague, but even prouder to call him a friend.” – Dom Errico, Duquesne public address announcer

“I met Alex as early as when I began sitting courtside at the Duquesne women’s basketball games, when the Dukes great point guard was leading the team when she was still an underclassman. Alex was in full involvement with the business and traveling at a fairly high pace, often by car. I was very interested in the what and of his work. I remember inquiring, and he was open to my asking. He would post around his travels, a bit refreshing like ‘Travels with Charley’ by John Steinbeck, which was an insight into Steinbeck’s travels around the Country. I remember now quite a few years of his greeting us at what would eventually become ‘Murderers Row’ or my walking down to an ever friendly, Alex Panormios with one of his classic upbeat greetings. I thought, ‘Really nice guy.’ He has a good, confident voice and is a hardworking guy. I have felt and seen the high regard and warmth for him. He clearly is a member of the women’s basketball family, well-liked by the players and coaching staff alike.” – Ed Massarsky longtime Duquesne fan and Murderer’s Row member

“I’m really happy for him. The longevity of 22 years is very impressive, it just blows my mind. He is such a good person, he genuinely cares about people and he has a love for what he does. That is the biggest thing you can take away from him.” – Dan Burt, Duquesne women’s basketball coach

“In my experience, quality people jump out at you and the moment you sit down with Alex you realize he is a quality person.” – Greg Gattuso, Albany football coach and former Duquesne football coach

“Alex has been a tremendous commentator for Duquesne University. He is an amazing person who genuinely cared for student-athletes who have played in the Palumbo Center. The experience we have as student-athletes would not be the same if it wasn’t for him. He was part of the puzzle that helped us reach the second round of the NCAA Tournament.” – April Robinson, Duquesne women’s basketball guard (2012-16)

“Alex has been a part of Dukes Football through many exciting games and championships over the years. We appreciate his dedication and the work he has done to call our games to his many listeners.” – Jerry Schmitt, Duquesne football coach

“To me his legacy is longevity and professionalism.” – Tad Maurey, Duquesne color commentator and Panormio’s on-air partner for 17 years

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