Don Poier, ASA Member and Voice of the Memphis Grizzlies, Dies

Herald staff and wire services

DENVER - Snohomish native Don Poier, the longtime voice of the Memphis Grizzlies, died suddenly Friday, hours before the team was to play the Denver Nuggets. He was 53.

He was found dead early Friday afternoon in his Denver hotel room at the Westin Tabor Center. Poier apparently had a heart attack, according to The Commercial Appeal newspaper in Memphis.

"This is a dark, dark day for all of us," said Andy Dolich, the Grizzlies' president of business operations, who was in Denver with the team. "The tragic part is we won't have that magnificent voice describing what this team is doing as it continues to climb."

Poier was the voice of the NBA Grizzlies since their inception in 1995, when they played in Vancouver.

"It is just a devastating thing for the franchise, because he's one of the original people," coach Mike Fratello said.

Poier moved with the team to Memphis in 2001. He served as the radio play-by-play announcer the last three seasons and moved to the TV side this season.

Before working with the Grizzlies, Poier spent more than 20 years as an announcer on Pac-10 Conference football and basketball games.

Poier was sports anchor and sports director at KING-5 television before leaving in the early 1980s to start a company that produced sports programs. Colleagues had fond memories of the man they described as gracious and always a gentleman.

"He was a wonderful man, who always took the time to talk to you," recalled Norm Ohashi, a KING-5 executive producer. Ohashi was at the start of his own broadcasting career. Poier left an impression on him for always taking an interest in his colleagues, no matter their status in the organization, Ohashi said.

An avid golfer, Poier and his wife Barb a few years ago bought a recreational vehicle and were enjoying trips on the road, according to a 2003 interview in RV Golfer Magazine.

In 1992, Poier co-hosted a stadium show for about 1,000 former Snohomish High School students as the school celebrated its 100th birthday. Poier graduated in the class of 1969.

Edward Peterson, of Snohomish, said as a band director, he instructed Poier for about eight years from elementary school through high school.

"He was a tremendous student," Peterson, 73, said.

Poier always worked hard and strove for perfection in what he did, but he didn't forget to have fun, Peterson said.

"He was a good joker, but he could also take jokes," he said.

After Poier graduated from high school, they stayed in touch and maintained a good friendship, Peterson said. Poier didn't change much after hitting big time as a sports announcer, Peterson said.

"He was still the same great guy, and his work ethic was not any different from high school," he said.

Snohomish City Councilman Larry Countryman said he's heard about Poier's success as a sports announcer.

"I just knew that he was a sports announcer. It surprises me," he said about Poier's sudden death.

Poier will be missed in town, Countryman said, adding that Poier's father has owned a car dealership and lived in town for a long time.

"Almost everyone knows who he is," he said. "He was a local boy who made it good."

Ronald Tillery, who worked alongside Poier covering the Grizzlies as a columnist for the Commercial Appeal, wrote in a tribute to Poier that the Grizzlies' didn't just lose their voice, they lost their best friend.

"A sweet man, that Poier," Tillery wrote. "He's the guy who joyfully coined the phrase 'Only in the movies and in Memphis.' And this is the scene that makes you cry."

The Commercial Appeal newspaper in Memphis contributed to this report.