If you’ve watched a Cleveland Cavaliers game on TV in the past 13 years, you likely heard the voice of Fred McLeod. The Cavs’ play-by-play announcer died suddenly on Monday. He was 67. WKSU sports commentator Terry Pluto said the longtime broadcaster was about to enter his 14th season with an organization that he loved.
McLeod was a native of Strongsville and began his broadcasting career in 1974. He worked in Ohio, Missouri and California before landing in Detroit, where he spent 22 seasons as the television announcer for the Detroit Pistons. And he got the attention of Detroit businessman, Dan Gilbert.
"[Gilbert] would watch the Pistons games, especially before he owned the Cavs," Pluto said. "And he liked Fred's work and got to know him. So when [the Cavs] decided to change some things with their broadcasting crew in 2006, they brought Fred home."
Paired with "Mr. Cavalier"
When the Cavs brought McLeod back, they paired him with Austin Carr in the broadcast booth. The fan-favorite is known as "Mr. Cavalier." He was their No. 1 draft pick in 1971 and his #34 jersey is one of seven retired by the team.
"Fred McLeod realized he was there to make Austin look good," Pluto said. "It was Austin's show, and Fred was there to make sure people knew the score and the time. Sometimes Austin would get so excited during the games, he'd throw elbows and nearly hit Fred! Fred was willing to subjugate his own ego to make the guy he's working with the star."
Fans, not analysts
Pluto said the two of them together sounded more like two Cavs fans cheering on their team than objective analysts. "Austin would get mad that they weren't guarding anybody. Fred would laugh. Those two enjoyed each other. They wanted their team to win."
McLeod was with the Cavs during their 2016 Championship.
"One thing that really bothered Fred was when it got to the NBA Finals, they would take the games away from the local broadcasts. The networks owned it. He would go in the locker room and interview players. He would show up for the press conferences and take some notes. He wasn't afraid to go out and do some of the stuff he did way back in the beginning when he was first getting started in the business. He frankly really didn't have to do it. He was a real pro."