Henriksen: Behind the Mike
by Mike Henriksen
There have been a lot of changes to the coverage of State Basketball tournaments since I started working with SDPB a little over two decades ago. In those first years, only 2 tournaments were covered each year, one girls and one boys. And there were just 8 games aired each weekend. No games were streamed online. After a few years, streaming of all three tournaments became available. And the decision was made to put all 12 games, including consolation rounds, from each location on the various SDPB stations. But there are certain things that have never changed from the time SDPB was awarded the contract.
Early on in the coverage history, SDPB management decided that every aspect of their coverage would have a positive spin. That was fine with my broadcast partner Craig Mattick and myself. We shared a philosophy that when it came to calling games, we were not there to coach, we were not there to officiate, and we were not there to criticize. Our goal was to showcase each person taking part in the best possible light. We knew that for some of the kids, especially, that weekend may be the highlight of their life.
One of the things that SDPB has always been great at is telling stories. Whether that is on air with shows like "Dakota Life", or online in (list online series here), stories are what they do best. And they knew that they could use the state tourney coverage to find and share even more tales.
Craig and I were delighted to be a part of that. When a team made the tourney we were covering we would reach out to coaches, and even fans we knew, to get extra information on kids taking part. We cared as much about if they were on the Honor Roll or Student Council as we did about some of them being All Conference. Again, we wanted to boost the kids and let people know they were indeed students, with family and other hobbies and activities, not just basketball players.
Yes, when it came to storytelling about family connections or other interests, some people have told us to "stick to the game". But the majority of viewers have appreciated our approach. Being able to tell the story of folks who have overcome adversity, or other angles, is one of the things we enjoy doing the most.
Often those stories came from the coaches. But we also had fans provide us information. And no one was better at that than the late Bob Connot of Winner. In the early 2000's, the Warriors were in the Dome for the finals. Bob had reached out to me wondering if I wanted some background on the players. I told him anything that made me sound smarter than I am I was all in favor of! Bob sent me 4 pages, including something about every kid on the roster. That became a tradition for him, no matter what the sport. If Winner was in, as they often were, so was Bob! His information was insightful and could also be hilarious. But he always had something positive about every single kid. We got to be good friends. I later came to learn that everyone became a good friend of Bob's. That was who he was. I am grateful that he reached out to me. That is a connection I probably would not have made if it weren't for my working for SDPB. He was a gem of a human, and I miss him.
There has never, in my mind, been a better story we have shared than the one about Bailey Richter. Her Waverly-South Shore team made the B tourney in 2019. Earlier that year, she suffered from optic nerve strokes and lost her sight for up to two weeks at a time. But she was able to participate in a game and hit 2 three-point shots late in a game in the opening round against Ethan. It was glorious to watch, and even better to call on the air.
One other thing that has not changed is the joy I have gotten from sharing a microphone with Craig Mattick all these years. He is a pro's pro and always so prepared. Whether it is soccer, wrestling, track, volleyball, basketball or football, he does it all and he does it all well. In my opinion, he is the single most under rated sports announcer in South Dakota in the over 40 years I have been here.
I have been blessed to be associated with SDPB for all these years. I am closer to the end of my time with them than I am to the beginning. But whoever may be calling the games, you know that when it comes to the coverage of state basketball tournaments, the folks at SDPB will continue to do what they do best. And that is to tell positive stories.
Mike Henriksen is a Nebraska native who has spent 44 years on the radio in South Dakota. He is the author of 3 books, with more on the way. He is also a local history researcher and a popular public speaker. Mike and his wife Deb have 2 kids, 2 kids in law, and 5 grandkids. His books can be found online at genuinejourneysoflife.com.
Watch SDPB’s coverage of the SDHSAA Girls and Boys Basketball Championships on SDPB-TV, on the SDNet app, or at SDPB.org/basketball.
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