The sports media world suffered a significant loss this weekend, with long-time Drake basketball broadcaster and Des Moines sports radio figure Larry Cotlar passing away at 66 after being swept away by flood waters Saturday night in Des Moines following his exit from a stalled van. Cotlar’s radio career began in 1974 after his graduation from the University of Missouri, and he worked in that industry since then. He wrote an autobiography titled “The Biggest Rolodex In Sports” in 2016, and he produced some remarkable stories along the way (as per Mark Emmert of the Des Moines Register):
“We would talk each other to sleep at night,” recalled Dolph Pulliam, Cotlar’s close friend and former partner on Drake men’s basketball radio broadcasts, which found them sharing hotel rooms on the road. “I’d be telling stories. He’d be telling stories and we would fall asleep telling stories. It was amazing.”
…“He just had a story for everything. Just his ability to recall events on the fly in real time and to be able to come up with a pretty interesting and alluring story was very impressive,” said Adam Emmenecker, who first got to know Cotlar as a star basketball player at Drake and later broadcast some games by his side. “You could tell his passion was being behind the microphone and telling stories.”
…Pulliam was often amazed to eavesdrop on Cotlar as he interviewed people like former Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver. During one Drake road trip, Cotlar nonchalantly dialed up Mr. October himself.
“I was like, ‘How did you get Reggie Jackson’s number?’” an incredulous Pulliam asked.
The answer, those who worked closely with Cotlar said, was by being one of the nicest guys in the business and meticulously preparing for interviews.
That description of Cotlar seems pretty apt. Register columnist Randy Peterson wrote quite the tribute to him Sunday:
Larry Cotlar never said one negative word about anyone or anything in his life. At least not about anyone or anything that most of us who live and exist in the sports world care about.
Cotlar was Mr. Positive. He found silver linings in everything. He was a one-person public relations firm for everything that is high school, college and professional sports.
“Nicest man — almost too nice for sports radio,” talk-radio host Heather Burnside told me Sunday morning.
…From talk-radio with the late Jim Zabel back in the day, to the talk-radio show he did up to the time of his death — Larry loved his job. Larry always spoke positively in what sometimes is a negative world. He had everyone’s phone number. He knew everyone’s backstory.
“If everyone enjoyed their job as much as Larry did, the world would be a better place,” longtime Des Moines Register sports writer and columnist Rick Brown wrote me in a text Sunday morning. “He loved the art of conversation, whether it was an interview or calling Bulldog basketball games.
It sounds like Cotlar will certainly be missed, among Drake basketball fans, Des Moines radio listeners and more. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.
[Photo from ESPN Des Moines]