Erik O, Legend on the Microphone

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

March 21, 2013

One of Erik O. Furseth’s favorite moments every March – perhaps the one he looks forward to most – comes during the hour before each MHSAA Basketball Semifinal.

From his familiar seat on press row, Furseth has called hundreds of Michigan State University and MHSAA Finals basketball games.  

But the opportunity for high school teams to play at Breslin Center is not lost on him, especially as he watches players and fans enter the arena for the first time.

“(It’s) the kind of awe that overtakes people when they come there,” Furseth explained earlier this month. “The enthusiasm reflected on the kids there and so on.

“What a thrill for those kids to come and play a ballgame there.”

Now imagine Furseth saying this with the voice that’s become legendary to generations of basketball fans across this state.

Furseth, 82, has been a member of the MSU basketball family for more than 60 years. A player first, he since served as the homecourt voice of MSU basketball from 1968-02 and MSU football from 1971-98, and this weekend is continuing a run of calling MHSAA Boys Basketball Finals that began more than four decades ago while those games still were played at Jenison Field House.

Some of his phrases are on ready recall for those who have sat in his audience.

“The clock is correct and official.”

“Yesssss … on the basket!”

“Heeeee gets the bonus.”

Last weekend, Furseth also called his sixth MHSAA Girls Basketball Finals, and he’s announced MHSAA football championship games since their days at the Pontiac Silverdome and Baseball Finals for a decade. Furseth also just finished his third season as voice of Traverse City St. Francis football and girls and boys basketball.

“Erik is able to make that job not just a game, but an event,” St. Francis athletic director Tom Hardy said. “To have somebody of his caliber, with his recognition, in a small gym in Traverse City … whether there are 100 people or it's standing room only, it’s so great to know the professionalism of that is taken care of. He just understands kids.”

Furseth moved from East Lansing to Traverse City 18 years ago. That he would find his way to the microphone in his new hometown makes sense. But that it became the tool of his trade the last half-century certainly would be considered a detour from his original plan when Furseth turned down a chance to play football for Woody Hayes so he could study forestry in East Lansing.

Life-changing moments

“Erik O. on the radio” was the voice of Lansing rock-n-roll radio during the 1950s and 60s.

“He was the number one disc jockey in this area before they were called disc jockeys,” said Lansing WILX sports director Tim Staudt, who grew up in East Lansing and has worked in mid-Michigan television for four decades and as a daily radio host for 20 years.

“He has the all-time greatest voice, and obviously it's held up to this day.”

Furseth grew up in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, and got to know Hayes while the soon-to-be-legendary coach was finishing his tenure at Denison University. Hayes hoped Furseth, a high school football standout, would become part of the coach’s first recruiting class after taking the job at Miami (Ohio) before the 1949 season.  

But Furseth, who had vacationed in Michigan growing up, was drawn to MSU’s forestry program. So he made a trip to campus – picked up by then-assistant Duffy Daugherty for a visit with head coach Biggie Munn – and was sold on coming to East Lansing instead.

It didn’t take long for his future to turn in an unplanned direction.

Furseth was injured his first fall with the Spartans, and he never played a down of college football. But at that time, MSU sent all freshmen who had played high school basketball a card encouraging them to try out for the Spartans’ freshman hoops team. Furseth, also a 6-foot-3 post player in high school, not only made that MSU team but played three seasons on the varsity under another future coaching legend – Pete Newell, who would go on to lead teams to NCAA and Olympic championships. Furseth played in MSU’s first Big Ten game, against Northwestern in 1951.

It was during sophomore year that Furseth’s academic future also changed lanes. Forestry students were required to take a soil science class offered only during the winter and from 3-5 p.m. – a conflict with Furseth’s basketball commitments. He dropped the class, dropped the major, and as a junior switched course of study to communications.

MSU basketball’s announcer at that time, Larry Friedmeyer, was among a few who took note of Furseth’s deep and authoritative tone, and suggested he audition for the campus’ WKAR radio station. Furseth was hired at 75 cents an hour to host a few nights each week of “The Concert Call,” a classical music program, and later that year joined local station WILS to read the evening news. After serving in the Air Force, Furseth returned to WILS – and a star was born.

Furseth was a DJ for WILS for 14 years. On Saturdays for a decade, he hosted dances at the Lansing Civic Center that drew 1,000 teenagers a night – and one evening, included a surprise drum performance by a famous student at the local Michigan School for the Blind, known then as Little Stevie Wonder.

Furseth later managed WILS from 1956-68. “Being the manager made it no fun anymore,” Furseth noted.

He left for a job outside of radio. But the fun returned when his announcing career began.

Erik O on the microphone

The “O,” by the way, stands for Olaf. Furseth’s parents are from Norway. “Erik O” was a smooth radio name early in his career when he was filling in for mentor Dave Froh – “Erik O for Dave Froh” – so it stuck.

In his role at a basketball game, Erik O admittedly doesn’t see much of it – at least, as a fan might. He can say his top three MSU players during his time as announcer were Scott Skiles, Magic Johnson and Johnny Green. But for the most part, Furseth focuses on the factual information he must supply with every substitution, foul and break.

He found that winning formula long ago.

“He’s just a nice guy – and nice guys don’t usually last on the air as long,” said Lansing sports radio personality Earle Robinson, who recently retired after 39 years at WKAR. “He’s always had good relationships and such a pleasant personality.”

“You’d never know he was a basketball player or anything. He’s very free of any ego, very helpful to people and generous of his time,” said longtime MSU men’s basketball broadcaster Gus Ganakas, who formerly coached the Spartans from 1969-76 and was an assistant on Furseth’s freshman team.

“And particularly in basketball, he knew what he was doing. He’s a former player and has a background as an athlete, and he has a pleasing voice. I’ve always admired him because of his devotion to what he’s doing.”

High school sports are high on that list.

Furseth enjoys announcing the seventh and eighth grade football teams that play at Traverse City’s Thurlby Field – “They think they’re big time,” he said – and finds it incredible how much the high school teams can improve over the course of a season.

He relishes the camaraderie he sees at Class C St. Francis, and wishes he’d attended a similarly-small school himself. To a player who was wearing his former number, he said, “You’re wearing my number. Do it right.” And the St. Francis boys basketball team felt at home at Breslin Center in 2012, when it finished runner-up to Flint Beecher while a familiar voice called the action.

Furseth recalled earlier this month. “Really, for me, high school (sports) exemplifies the development of our kids athletically and in many other ways. You learn a lot of things in athletics.”

“When I think about my life, to think something I started led to doing this; I’m thrilled that it happened,” Furseth said of returning to another Finals. “It’s always been a great thrill for me to do it.”

PHOTOS: (Top) Erik O. Furseth calls the Saginaw/Rockford Class A Boys Basketball Final last season at Breslin Center. (Middle) Furseth prepares to call another game during the 1999 Boys Finals weekend at Breslin. 

Bedford Boys Hoops Off to Best Start in Decade Under Alum Bollin

By Doug Donnelly
Special for MHSAA.com

January 24, 2023

TEMPERANCE – The Bedford Mules are kicking up a special boys basketball season in southeast Michigan.

Southeast & BorderTemperance Bedford is off to a 10-1 start, the best for the school in a decade. Third-year coach Jordan Bollin is happy to bring a winner to his alma mater.

“Bedford has had good teams here and there and good players and coaches, but it never seemed to be anything that was sustained,” Bollin said. “I knew it was going to be a challenge.”

Bollin played varsity basketball at Bedford, graduating in 2006. He went into coaching almost immediately after high school and was named head coach at Dundee in 2015. After 68 wins in five seasons, Bollin was named head coach at Bedford.

“I talked it over with my wife, with the athletic director, with (assistant coach) Mark Hubbard,” Bollin said. “I always, in the back of my mind, thought that I would want to come back to Bedford and coach one day. I wanted to do it while I was still relatively a young coach who still had the passion for all of this. It’s the right time.

“I felt like, leaving Dundee, I had an opportunity to build something myself.”

Wrestling has been the winter sports king at Bedford for decades as the Mules spent years at the top of Class A/Division 1 wrestling circles. The boys basketball team has enjoyed its moments, such as a three-year span when it went 18-6, 18-5 and 14-8 across 2012-2014, but there have been down years, too. Various coaches have tried their hand at the helm, including former NBA player Dennis Hopson.

Bollin himself played for coach Bill Ryan, who led the boys team for seven years but has found ultra-success with Bedford’s girls basketball program.

Bollin knew that when he took over the varsity, he wanted to incorporate the entire program.

“No program is one coach,” he said.

He brought multiple assistants with him from Dundee, including longtime Monroe County coach Hubbard, a Bedford graduate, and former head coach in the county himself. The two have formed a bond.

“We talk every day on the phone before practice,” Bollin said. “We go to lunch once or twice a week. He’s a mentor and someone I talk to all the time.”

Bedford has posted wins over a variety of teams this season, from Southeastern Conference teams like Dexter and Monroe to Ottawa Lake Whiteford, Adrian Lenawee Christian and Stockbridge. Ten of the Mules’ final 11 games are against SEC schools, including two against 8-3 Saline.

Bedford coach Jordan Bollin.Bollin knows the toughest is yet to come.

“We get Ann Arbor Huron at home,” he said. “We lost to them by three on the road. We had the ball, down two in the final seconds and had the ball and were called for a travel. It was close.”

Six-foot-7 Andrew Hollinger is the team’s top scorer and rebounder. Four years ago, he played five games on the varsity, then was a starter in Bollin’s first season. He’s now closing in on 1,000 career points and is one of the best rebounders in southeast Michigan.

“He’s phenomenal,” Bollin said. “He plays so hard, and he’s a great kid. He’s a 4.0 student and very humble. You’ll never hear him talk about himself; it’s always about the team.”

While he’s proven to be a great scorer and free throw shooter this season, Hollinger is also a relentless rebounder.

“I’ve always been one of the tallest out on the court, so I know that I can really use that to my advantage in order to rebound,” he said. “Once the shot goes up, I try to chase down the ball or box someone out in order to give my team the chance to get the ball back.”

Bollin said Hollinger’s intensity shows.

“I use him as an example to the other kids all of the time,” Bollin said.

Twice this season Hollinger has set the school record for most consecutive free throws made in a game. He went 15-for-15 once and 16-for-16 another time. Hollinger averaged a double-double last year at 18.2 points and 10.8 rebounds and has topped those numbers through 11 games this season.

Hollinger brings the Mules up court.Hollinger is one of eight seniors on the roster. Like Bollin, he’s a homegrown talent, having made his way up from the Bedford Community Education program in the fourth grade to middle school, JV and varsity.

“I fell in love with basketball when I played in the local community ed program,” he said.

Hollinger said all of the seniors had a feeling this was going to be a great season.

“I think the success from our team comes from how hard we play every game and how much experience we have,” he said. “We knew coming into the season that we were in pretty much every game the season before and just had to find a way to start winning games.”

Bedford won six games during the COVID-19 shortened 2020-21 season and four a year ago – losing several games that came down to the final minute. Bollin has matched the win total in those first two years at Bedford in two months.

Ironically, Bollin said, it was the 2020-21 season during which most of this year’s seniors learned to play varsity basketball.

“We had so many games where we had players out for COVID that we had to bring a lot of them up to the varsity to play,” he said. “A lot of the seniors this year got a ton of playing time that year.”

The other current seniors include Griffin Wolf, Tommy Huss, Jimmy Fackelman, Simon Eighmey, Caleb Kochendoerfer, Evan Campbell, and Leo Wagenhauser. They are complimented by a couple sophomores and juniors plus freshman Carsen Behnke.

Hollinger is hopeful the first-half success will continue.

“We all believed in each other in the offseason, and that belief still continues through the start of the season,” he said, deflecting any attention from himself. “I love how basketball is a team game and how you need the whole team to be playing hard in order to win. It’s not just about one person, but it’s about everyone.”

Bollin said he could sense this summer that this season had the makings of being something special.

“I thought we’d have a nice season, but, no, I wasn’t expecting 10-1,” he said. “But, in the summer, I knew when everyone was there and together, we were tough to beat.”

Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at DougDonnelly@hotmail.com with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Bedford’s Andrew Hollinger works for an opening while surrounded by Monroe defenders last season. (Middle) Bedford boys basketball coach Jordan Bollin. (Below) Hollinger brings the Mules up court during a 63-43 win Friday. (Action photos by Tom Hawley and Mike Doughty, respectively, and courtesy of the Monroe News.)