Johnny Holliday, Rick Barry: Friends For 50-Plus Years … And One-Time Broadcast Partners

By Nate Puciato

While many fans may know 12-time All-Star and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame NBA player Rick Barry for his triumphs on the court, one of his closest friends knows a different side of Barry.

Barry and Johnny Holliday, the legendary Maryland football and men’s basketball play-by-play announcer, met through their time in the Bay Area with the NBA’s San Francisco Warriors. The Miami natives shared the Cow Palace in Daly City, Calif., with Holliday in the booth and Barry on the court.

Barry averaged 24.8 points and 4.9 assists between the NBA and ABA from 1965-1980. He guided the Golden State Warriors to a sweep of the Washington Bullets in the 1975 NBA Finals, earning Finals MVP for his efforts. Barry and Holliday, however, met well before that.

“I was the public address announcer for the Warriors back in 1965 when I was in San Francisco for five years,” Holliday said on Glenn Clark Radio Aug. 1. “And Rick got drafted by the Warriors out of the University of Miami, so the public relations guy … said to me, ‘Would you like to have lunch with Rick Barry?’

“I said, ‘Yeah, sure,’ so we go out to lunch and for some reason we just happened to hit it off and became the very best of friends.”

While Holliday began to grow into one of the leading disc jockeys in the nation, Barry developed into one of the best players in professional basketball. It came as no surprise to Barry to see Holliday reach the heights that he did.

“Johnny was voted the No. 1 disc jockey in the country at one time, [and] he was very, very popular in the Bay Area,” Barry said on Glenn Clark Radio Aug. 1. “… There’s no doubt that he was going to be a huge success in what he did.”

Holliday’s first experience in the booth with Barry took place during the 1967-68 season. Barry tried to jump to the ABA’s Oakland Oaks after two seasons with the Warriors, but a dispute kept him from playing that season.

Because he wasn’t playing, Barry decided it was in his best interest to at least analyze the game with Holliday in the booth. The pair called the University of California’s men’s basketball team’s games. Immediately after their first game together, Holliday knew Barry was the right guy for the job.

“So we did Cal basketball every Saturday, home and away on television,” Holliday said. “… There are two games in one night, and Cal is playing UCLA in the second game. We’ve got like a minute to go before we go on the air and there’s no analyst next to me.

“As we go on the air, I see coming down through the stands this rather tall guy, and it’s Rick. … He asks somebody for the scoresheet from the first game. They hand it to him; he looks it over, and then he kind of slides into me, and then recaps the first game without having been there. I said, ‘This is going to be a lot of fun.'”

Even now, Holliday feels Barry should be an analyst for NBA games, but he says Barry’s honesty is the one thing keeping him off the air.

“He was really good, and he ought to be on television right now as an analyst for the NBA,” Holliday said, “but the reason he’s not, because he’s too honest.”

Barry, who did most of his broadcasting work in the 1980s, agrees with that sentiment.

“I actually lost a job, they said I was too critical,” Barry said. “Back in those days, they didn’t want to hear the truth. I felt like Jack Nicholson in the movie ‘A Few Good Men:’ you can’t handle the truth.”

“I was critical, but not critical to be critical,” Barry added.

For more from Holliday and Barry, listen to the full conversation here:

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Maryland Athletics


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