Father of two former Genoa three-sports stars who graduated in 1992 and 1993, longtime Genoa Public Works director Kevin M. Gladden nonetheless admits that he’s been known to get just a bit too worked-up over some ballgames.
If you were to run the highlight reels back 19 seasons to when Sy and his brother Andrew were taking it to the house at Bergman Field on football Friday nights, not once did “Coach” Dad get ejected from one of his boys’ All-Suburban Lakes League performances.
Instead, K.G.’s vocal chords have taken over as his role for the past 15 years as Genoa athletics’ public address announcer.
“I actually started announcing all of the Genoa High School basketball games first, and that was right around 1994 right after my youngest boy Andrew graduated from Genoa, and when Dennis Spisak, who was the Genoa athletic director out here at the time, approached me, and said, ‘You know, we want you to announce our basketball games for us, because your voice is loud enough, it’s clear enough, and we can definitely always hear you every night way up in the stands’,” remembers the 52-year-old native of G-Town.
K.G. himself was a 10-varsity letter-winning, three-sports star who earned four letters in cross country. (his main event was the two-mile back then, and he won a Northern Lakes League championship as a freshman); four in track (Gladden nabbed the Suburban Lakes League’s 440-yard title during his senior campaign in 1973); and in Comet bowling back when now-retired coach Dave Miller and his Genoa rollers were winning championship-after-championship in the NLL, back in the ’60s and early ’70s.
“Spisak told me, ‘Yeah, you might as well put that voice to good use, and get behind the microphone,’ which at the time, I thought was kind of funny, really,” continues Gladden.
Gladden’s first game courtside would come against Eastwood in a sold-out contest, for all the conference marbles. Soon after, he agreed to take over for Bill “The Professor” Bundy.
“When Sy and Andrew were still playing football for Genoa, and basketball, and even baseball, there’s no way they were ever even going to dream of handing me over a microphone, let alone ask me to become the P.A. announcer for Genoa basketball, because they knew I just might’ve said something I shouldn’t of over the microphone, to the officials, and then I’d really be in trouble,” Gladden said.
“In the very first Genoa home basketball game that I did, we were playing against Eastwood, and as it’s been for so many seasons, Genoa was good that year, Eastwood was really good, and it was just a really big game for both teams, with I think a shot for the league title on the line,” hints K.G.
“A couple of guys who are good friends of mine now, who are referees, came walking out of the locker room, and started warming up, when they looked across the floor, saw me sitting behind the microphone, and started nudging each other. So then the one guy, Dave Deprisco, comes walking across the court, and says, ‘No, they did not give you a microphone,’ because he remembered so well from when my boys used to play, of course.
“And I just smiled, and kind of said, ‘Yep. . .they sure did. But you do know Dave, now I definitely have to behave myself.’
And he said, ‘That’s a good point, that’s a good point. . .that’s probably the best place for you. Right there in that chair.’
“Fom that night on, the whole thing just kind of progressed into my starting to announce for Genoa football up at Bergman, too, in about 1996,” adds Gladden.
He has a friendship with original “Voice of the Comets,” John “Jack” Werner, whom K.G. grew up listening to while taking his licks on the gridiron. Soon he added football.
“Jim Henline, who was the principal at Genoa at the time, came up to me, and said, ‘Hey. . .you’re doing such a good job announcing basketball for us, we’d like you to do football for us, too.’
“But before I ever even really decided to take the job, I talked to Jack about doing it, and he was really supportive, and said to me, ‘Yeah, Kevin. . .I think you should go ahead and do it. They’re going to need somebody stable up there in that press box, who’s going to be able to do the job for quite a few good years, you know’.
“That was over 12 years ago now, that this whole football thing started, and even longer than that for basketball, when I was like 40-something-or-so, and I guess it was just the right time in my life to do it all,” he reflects. “But you know, not once have I ever, ever tried to emulate Jack Werner, or for that matter, any of the other various guys they’ve had work the mike here in Genoa up at the football field, or out in the gym over the years.”