Husband. Father. Downtown Church Worship Leader. Chick-fil-A Manager. The Voice of the Grindhouse.
Rick Trotter was being courted to Memphis in 2005 from Atlanta to take a job as a worship leader for a local Memphis church.
He was one of a few longtime Atlanta Hawks fans (that have ever existed). Pau Gasol was drafted by the Hawks in 2001 and then traded to Memphis in a package deal for Shareef Abdur Rahim, so Trotter had his eye on Memphis already, thinking “what is up with this Spanish dude that was worth so much?”
“When I was being courted here to Memphis, a small part of my decision was based on the fact there was a professional sports franchise (in Memphis). That showed me this was a city which was progressive and not some rinky dink town on a map.”
Well, thank you Rick.
Trotter started to look a little closer at Memphis, and the Grizzlies. “Hubie was coaching here. They ran about 10-deep, so it was an intriguing team. A team with Shane and Pau and all these different pieces, these guys could do some things.”
In 2005, Rick and his wife moved to Memphis.
About a year after his move to Memphis, he auditioned to sing the national anthem, because singing is what he does. As a vocalist myself I will add, he does it exceptionally well. I mean, who doesn’t love Rick Trotter singing the national anthem?
After sharing in Memphis fans’ heartbreak during the Dallas (third consecutive postseason) playoff sweep of 2006, Rick became more invested. One day while surfing the Grizzlies’ website, he came across an open position for PA announcer and discovered John Paul Stevenson was leaving.
“John Paul was really good. In my experiences here, one of the things I remember about being in FedexForum was John Paul Stevenson calling the games,” Trotter told me.
Rick went on to apply for the job, having no prior experience. But who needs experience when you have passion and drive, right? Rick said, “My brother grew up playing basketball and I would always go to the games and criticize those guys calling the games and think ‘I could probably do a better job than them.’ … I’d even turn the sound down while playing NBA Live and announce it in my head, but never (in a real game).”
Deep down though, Trotter knew he could do it, and he had the right mental attitude too, “What’s the worst they could say? No?” So Rick went through with the open audition and submitted his tape (ok, maybe not REALLY a tape). A couple weeks later, he got a call back.
“Wait a minute. They called me back? Well, there’s gotta be something there.”
The next step was the open audition in the arena. A few weeks later, he got another call back, this time narrowing him down to one of seven. After that round, a few more weeks later (does anything ever happen quickly in the NBA?), he got another call back and this time it was down to two guys. Rick and this professional dude. Rick describes it well.
“It came down to two of us. He was a professional broadcaster, had this pedigree and a suit and was a sharp dude. I thought ‘They’re clearly going to give this guy the job. I don’t know why they’re calling me back.’”
However, after interviewing with Andy Dolich and game operations, the decision was made.
Rick got a call from the Grizzlies while in a class at Crichton College (now Victory University). He had to step out of the class to receive the call and when he walked back in, his professor said he had a look of shock on his face. He got the job. Those lucky few in his class that evening were the first ones to hear the news, before his wife, the media, and fans.
“I was blown away. I couldn’t believe it.”
As Trotter took the reigns behind the microphone for the 2006-2007 season, the Grizzlies were ushered into a rebuilding phase; three years of bad, bad, bad basketball. One in which the bandwagon dwindled and an empty arena would fill up only to watch visiting superstars rather than the home team.
Rick remembers those days, “Three straight losing seasons. It was rough. Young and hungry was the theme. Rudy was trying to do his thing. OJ. Mike. There were a lot of coaches. So many things moving but not quite enough to get anything done.”
Yet then Zach Randolph arrived and according to Rick, “that changed everything. The Grizzlies started winning games and it was a different atmosphere in (FedexForum). All of the sudden the attitude changed. The playoffs were in the back of our mind, but it was then the next season, that magical season (2010-2011), that we came in as the 8th seed and shocked San Antonio; and from then on nothing has been the same.”
In fact, it was during that Spurs playoff series that Rick’s favorite moment behind the microphone happened. Zach Randolph hit a three pointer over Tim Duncan in game three of the seven game series. “It was surreal. Even as a I think about it now, everything is in slow motion. That was THE moment. We weren’t just winning games, but we were advancing.”
(Watch that playoff series recap video. It’s a good one. Grizzlies first playoff series win)
It was also that Spurs playoff series, many fans were introduced to the voice of the Grindhouse. The love affair deepened as Rick coined his unique phrases “shot-clock violated” and “two point basket.” His brand started to take shape and grow, and ti continues to grow today.
Rick is a staple at Grizzlies home games. He is a vital part of the Grizzlies game experience. However, Rick is much more than the “voice of the Grindhouse.” He is father and husband to his a wife and two kids. He is a manager at Chick-fil-A on Union Ave. He is a part time worship pastor at Downtown Church. He’s a busy man, but a grateful man.
While he gets paid to announce games, he doesn’t consider it a job. “My wife will tell you. When I’m stressed out and life’s creeping in, I come into FedexForum and release.”
Part of the reason Rick continues to give his time to us fans and the Grizzlies organization is because he is a fan of the NBA.
As a fan yet also a professional observer it must be difficult not to yell at officials during the game, or boo opposing players (Clippers anyone?). We all do it at times, but Rick, he can’t. You may recall last season seeing NBA official Scott Foster yell at Rick. I was curious about his relationship with Scott, so he told me (as any professional would) “Scott Foster is a great guy. A veteran official.” Me, #maniacallaugh.
A part of Rick’s unique brand is his use of Twitter in games. “I’m a twitter junkie. I can put my thoughts better in 140 characters. It’s just (second nature) during a game. However, there have been a few times where I tweeted something and I probably shouldn’t have. But it’s me just reacting and not always thinking…I’ve never been in trouble and I’ve never been asked to tote the corporate line or shield for the organization. If you ever see me RT something or say something, it’s genuinely coming from me.”
Don’t sweat it though Rick we’ve all said things on Twitter we probably shouldn’t have. I do it everyday.
Beyond the officials, though, Rick says Deandre Jordan of the Clippers is the only guy on that team he can’t hate. He explains why here:
Trotter calls Grizz Nation a mercurial, passionate and beautiful bunch of fans. We have embraced him and he has embraced us. With his unforgettable Grizzlies growl, his energy and unique brand behind the mic, Rick gets fans out of their seats in key moments. If there were a win shares stat on PA announcers, Rick Trotter would be the leader.
The previous regime gets a lot of grief for moves they made. However, hiring Rick Trotter was the right move. There is no better man suited for the job in this grit grind, blue collar town. We are blessed, Memphis.