How do you replace a local legend?
In the case of Marty Bannister, who began filling the role Vince Koza had as the host of 93.1 The Fan’s afternoon sports talk show last week, you do it carefully but confidently.
The show, known as Sports Talk With Koza before Koza’s death after a three-month battle with cancer, is now called The Drive With Marty Bannister.
Bannister brings nearly 40 years of radio experience to the show.
He currently is the play by play announcer for Ohio University’s men’s and women’s basketball on ESPN3 and also works for Spectrum TV and the Ohio High School Athletic Association radio network.
His resumé includes doing a sports talk show for 13 years on WIZE-AM radio in Springfield, being the sideline reporter on Ohio State football’s radio network for 10 years, doing play by play of Ohio State women’s basketball and baseball, being the voice of the Columbus Destroyers of the Arena Football League and more.
He obviously will bring his own style to the show but says some Koza favorites will remain, especially an emphasis on local sports.
“The biggest changes are the name and the fact I’m doing the show,” Bannister said.
“The goal wasn’t to come in and completely revamp and start from scratch. I know what Vince meant to the community and the impact he had on everybody’s lives. I don’t want people to think we’re completely forgetting him at all. And we’re not. Believe me, we’re not.
“I did basically the same thing in Springfield for 13 years and the markets are so similar in size, in the high school situation and in the radio situation. I think local radio is so important and that’s one of the reasons I’m happy we are continuing to do this.”
Koza always said his broadcasting idol was former Cleveland Cavaliers play by play announcer Joe Tait.
It was Al Michaels in the early 1970s when he did play by play on Cincinnati Reds games who drew Bannister into broadcasting.
“My grandfather and I used to sit by the side of his house in West Virginia in the summer and listen to Reds games. When I was 10 or 11 years old, I remember hearing Al Michaels and right away I said, ‘That’s what I want to do.’ I knew at that point. I’m nowhere near as good as he was but that was the thing that kind of told me that’s what I wanted to do.”
Because of commitments to Ohio University, the OHSAA radio network and Spectrum TV, Bannister won’t be on The Drive five days a week or do the bulk of 93.1 The Fan’s play by play on games until April.
Before subbing three days a week for Koza during his illness he already had area connections. His wife, Amy — with whom he has a 12-year-old daughter, Sophia — went to Ada High School. And his wife’s parents, Gerry and Sharon Brazier, live in Lima.
Bannister also has two older children – Corey, a 34-year-old Army veteran who was wounded in Iraq, and Amy, a 31-year-old Navy veteran.
This is not the first time he has replaced a veteran broadcaster.
“You always walk in with some trepidation when you’re following a guy like Vince. I’ve kind of done that my whole career. I was the voice of Wittenberg football and basketball starting in 1992 and the guy I replaced had been doing the games since 1967 or 1968,” he said.
“When I started doing the (Ohio State) sidelines, I replaced Jim Karsatos, who had been doing it for 10 or 12 years. And when I started doing Ohio State women’s basketball, I replaced Herb Howenstine who had been doing the job since the mid-1980s.”
“I’ve always stepped in after guys who have been doing games or hosting shows for years and here I go again.”