Here on At The Hive, our mission is to provide the best news and updates surrounding the Charlotte Hornets organization.
Over the past year, we have expanded beyond the seventeen-man roster and looked into the other components that help construct how the team operates on a daily basis.
This time around, I present a Q&A with Hornets newest radio play-by-play announcer, John Focke. Focke, a Minnesota native, has been a staple of Twin City sports for more than a decade. Covering areas beyond the Timberwolves, Focke has created a resume that makes him a great fit alongside the already successful Hornets media team.
Without further ado, here is my talk with the new voice of Charlotte Hornets radio.
On the WFNZ podcast, you mentioned that you were a play-by-play announcer for all four of the major Minnesota sports teams at one time or another. What skill/trait has allowed you to become so versatile in covering games?
So I worked part-time for the Twins & Wild Radio Networks and I broadcasted basketball, football, hockey, baseball & volleyball at different levels during my career (high school and college level)
I have so much respect for all the radio broadcasts in the Twin Cities that when I worked for them it was to learn how they do it, see what things we were doing well and what things we could improve on, making sure we were up to date in technology all those things. I look at my time working for the Twins & Wild as almost like Grad School, it was an education and I was fortunate to work and learn from some really great people.
As for calling all the different sports, that was by necessity, I was a one-person department when I started out and everyone wanted their sports on the air so I jumped in with both feet and the mindset that you never know which one will take off. I’ve always been an NBA fan and played hoops growing up so that was what I was most familiar with but I also really enjoyed calling hockey and that led me to job calling D1 hockey for a while so you just never know where things will go.
You have done studio work for the Minnesota Timberwolves since 2007. What has been the most iconic moment you can recall in your twelve years with the team?
Two events jump to mind, first was the return of Kevin Garnett a few years ago when he was traded from Brooklyn back to MN. Growing up a Wolves fan and covering KG in the early 2000’s I know firsthand what he means to Wolves fans. When they introduced him that night against the Wizards the atmosphere in the arena was electric.
And the other moment happened last season, Game 82, win and you’re in, lose and you’re out. MN trying to get back to the playoffs for the first time since ‘04 and the game against Denver went to OT before the Wolves pulled it out. A very special moment for the fans and a great moment to be a part of.
Feeding off the last question, the Timberwolves made the playoffs only once since 2007, losing to the Houston Rockets in the first round back in 2018. Through all the team’s losing seasons, how were you able to keep the fan’s attention and interest while on air?
There is always a story, some seasons you just have to work a little harder to find them. Last year was great, every game was a step towards breaking that streak, and so each game had tons to spotlight. In other seasons you have to work to find those storylines but they are there. Could be the development of a player or improvement by the team in an aspect you know they’ve been working on such as late game execution or ATO execution. In some seasons you focus on the small things that hopefully lead to big things.
Besides the Timberwolves, you have also been a part of the Minnesota Lynx for seven years as the team’s play-by-play announcer. Witnessing all the success that has come to the team, which has included three championships, are you seeing a higher demand for the WNBA than say a decade ago?
So for a stretch from 2011 to 2017 the Lynx won 4 titles and were in the Finals 6 times, it was an unprecedented run of success. I started with the franchise as the Studio Host and producer in 2008, eventually moving to play by play in 2012 for road games and taking over all the games in 2015. Through my 11 seasons, I have seen the growth of the fan base not only of the Lynx but the League in general and as a by-product there have been many more outlets covering the W. It is an incredible league with amazing players and people. I was truly blessed to be along for the ride with the Lynx and get to see what goes into building a championship team and organization up close. I’m happy to see more games being picked up by Twitter, ESPN and CBS Sports and I am very proud that the Lynx are so committed to radio as they are the only team in the league that carries every game home & away on radio.
I want to congratulate you as you are officially apart of the Charlotte Hornets media group. The Hornets media group has always been a stronghold within the organization, although the team’s performance hasn’t matched that play on the court. With greats like Steve Martin and the entertaining duo of Eric Collins and Dell Curry, how do you plan to match that level of success on the radio?
I am excited to join the group of folks who cover and call Hornets games, I have a ton of respect for Steve Martin who I got to know the past few years when he returned to radio and love the way he connected with the fans and is woven into the fabric of the team. My plan, as it has been at every stop in my career, is to work as hard as possible to put out the best product and tell the stories of our players and franchise in an entertaining way. I’m looking forward to learning from Eric, Dell, and everyone who’s covered the franchise for a long time and can’t wait to get started.
Last season, the Hornets showed great projections for the future. Rookies Miles Bridges and Devonte Graham both stepped up huge towards the latter half of the campaign. Second-year wing Dwayne Bacon was also a key contributor in the last slew of games. With the team being money-strapped salary wise, what do you expect from the Hornets newly-found young core next season?
With my focus on the Wolves, I didn’t get to watch as much of the Hornets last season as I’d like to with this new opportunity ahead of me but I did follow the last few weeks from our studio and was impressed with the way those guys closed the season. I thought they showed great improvement and I am sure the coaching staff and front office would love to see that again. Day to day improvement and hopefully playing your best basketball at the end of the season.
This is a big summer for the Charlotte Hornets as guards Jeremy Lamb and Kemba Walker are set to hit unrestricted free agency on July 1st. Do you believe that the Hornets should cut into the luxury tax and sign their face of the franchise in Walker? Or, do you think they should let him walk to join a contending team?
That question is a little above my pay grade at the moment, haha and I think there are so many factors that go into it. I’ll let Mitch and the front office handle that but I do agree it’s going to be an interesting summer and I can’t wait to get to Charlotte and see how it all plays out!
Thanks for the opportunity hopefully that is about what you’re looking for!
I want to personally thank Mr. Focke for taking time out of his day to contribute to this piece. If there’s interest for more content like this, we can batch up more Q&A style of articles in the future.