Sports talk always king at KHTK

Courtesy of the Sacramento Bee

(April 6, 2011) Four items adorn the pink sound-absorbing walls of radio station KHTK’s on-air studio. Two are framed Sacramento Kings photos.

The station has aired Kings games for the last 16 seasons. With game broadcasts, pregame and postgame shows and general sports programming, talking about the Kings has been a significant portion of programming – and perhaps more to the point, the station’s identity for a generation.

A Kings relocation to Anaheim could affect KHTK (1140 AM) as much as any business in town that isn’t directly working for the club. But station management isn’t panicking.

“We do love having the team,” said General Manager Steve Cottingim. “But really, at the same time, we are a sports talk radio station that has done well despite the team struggling.”

If the NBA franchise leaves, Cottingim said, the station will focus more on Major League Baseball and National Football League teams in the Bay Area as well as Sacramento’s minor league teams. The station recently signed a deal to broadcast Oakland Raiders football games.

While the Kings have been the dominant topic, Cottingim spoke of the station’s general appeal to male listeners.

As baseball celebrated Opening Day, the hosts of the “Rise Guys” morning show blended Kings nostalgia with baseball hype and other NBA chatter.

Mark Kreidler, one of the three hosts and a former Bee sports reporter, shared the “worst moment of (his) professional life” when a big league player pushed him into signing a child’s baseball card in the ballplayer’s name.

Coming back from a break, Kevin “Whitey” Gleason wondered if this region would become Golden State Warriors country.

“No,” offered Kreidler.

Kreidler said Oakland’s NBA team would be smart to try to convert Kings fans by holding a preseason game or two here but wasn’t sure how many Kings loyalists would switch allegiance.

Veteran broadcaster Steve Swatt said KHTK will want to conduct marketing research to “find out what the customers want” in a post-Kings Sacramento.

“KHTK was the go-to place if you wanted information on the Kings,” he said, adding that if there is still interest in the team, he suspects the station will devote resources to it.

In an interview, Gleason said the Kings’ likely departure has been softened by the fact that they have been one of the league’s worst teams and by interest in the world champion San Francisco Giants.

“It’s considerate that they leave at a time when people are more interested in baseball than they ever have been,” he said. “I don’t think it will be as big a deal as it would have been in the glory days.”

The Rise Guys have a long history of blending pop culture topics into their mix.

Cottingim said the addition of the midday “Don Geronimo Show” has already helped broaden the station’s non-sports appeal.

Geronimo, who previously had a national radio show, talks about everything – family, music and occasionally sports. His show has posted a 313 percent ratings increase over the previous sports-oriented show hosted by Jim Kozimor.

Meanwhile, Geronimo sidekick Carmichael Dave (Dave Weiglein) has caught lightning in a bottle with his “Here We Build” Twitter campaign to collect contributions to keep the Kings in town.

About 200 people rallied Tuesday afternoon in Cesar Chavez Plaza downtown to support keeping the Kings. Weiglein announced that his campaign has received $500,000 in pledges.

“It’s not too late,” he said to the crowd. “The jersey still says ‘Kings’ on it – ‘Sacramento Kings,’ that is.”

Of KHTK’s three local shows, Kings TV play-by-play announcer Grant Napear’s show is the most Kings-heavy.

“If, in fact, (the team) leaves, it’s going to hurt the station like it will hurt the city,” said Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers Magazine, the leading talk-radio trade magazine. “It isn’t the end of the world, but it is going to prove challenging.”

Read more at the Sacramento Bee where this story was originally published.