For more than three decades, Milwaukee Bucks fans young and old, near and far have had a regular visitor to their homes each fall, winter and spring.
His voice has long been a mainstay in living rooms and restaurants all over the state, but with the advent of streaming video, he’s been able to join fans in their cars, boats and homes the world over.
Now, for the first time in his career, longtime broadcaster Jim Paschke will join Bucks fans on Christmas morning as Milwaukee plays in its first Christmas Day game since 1977 when they face off against the New York Knicks at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.
“This time we get to open presents together,” Paschke, 68, said with a smile. “It’s something different, something cool. …To open the five-game schedule is really amazing. It will be fun. And in New York, it’s great.”
In his 33rd season as the television voice of the Bucks, it’s not every day that Paschke gets to check something new off his list of NBA experiences. He’s narrated the franchise’s highs and lows, sharing insights on title contenders and cellar dwellers along the way.
He spent three decades calling games with “The Original Buck” Jon McGlocklin, with the two getting their own banner in the rafters to celebrate that accomplishment in March 2016. McGlocklin doesn’t work as many games anymore – though he will be back on the call with Paschke at Fiserv Forum on Thursday – but Paschke has been the one steady presence during some recent changes to the Fox Sports Wisconsin team.
“He’s been here so long, he’s the O.G. of this organization,” Bucks wing Khris Middleton said. “He’s a great guy, very professional. It’s great he’s finally getting a Christmas Day game just like us.”
In 2015, Gus Johnson and Marques Johnson joined the broadcast crew. They added some new energy and perspectives, but their presence meant fewer work days for Paschke and McGlocklin.
That was certainly an adjustment, as was bringing former Marquette star, Bucks player and NBA veteran Steve Novak into the fold and adding Katie George to the sidelines this season. Gus Johnson has since moved on, bringing Paschke back to the full-time play-by-play spot, but looking back, Paschke sees the transition as a healthy one that both served viewers well and enhanced his own life and career.
“At this point, I’m so privileged to have been here this long,” Paschke said. “I’m so fortunate to work with the people I have worked with and do work with.
“When you talk about Jon McGlocklin, Marques Johnson, Steve Novak, Katie George, it’s still fun. I mean, 33 years into this, these people make it fun. We have our little things going on all the time and we’re getting into each other, we’re challenging each other.”
The arrivals of Novak and George, in particular, have brought something new out of Paschke this season. He’s still dogged in his pursuit of new insights and angles to share with TV viewers, but he also now has taken on a teaching role. After working with veterans such as McGlocklin, the Johnsons and former sideline reporter Telly Hughes, Paschke now has a pair of people at the outset of their careers to mentor.
At times, he’ll playfully take on a curmudgeon role to make a point for their benefit, whether they like it or not.
He swears he’s not going anywhere any time soon, but with people to teach, he has embraced the mentor role in the hopes of passing on his experience chronicling the NBA to the next generation.
“I’m closer to the end than I am to the beginning, obviously,” Paschke said. “When the little bell dings on the airplane and you know you have 20 minutes before you land. I want to make those 20 minutes – however long that is – I want to give back as much as I possibly can and I want to give to the people I’m working with, particularly Katie and Steve who are relatively new to what we do. If I can share anything I’ve learned, I want to do that.”
Novak, in particular, has a special relationship with Paschke. A native of Brown Deer, Novak listened to Paschke call games throughout his childhood. Then, as an NBA player, he was on the court as Paschke narrated his actions. Last season, his first time in the analyst’s chair came alongside Paschke in Boston.
The night before that game, it was Paschke who over coffee answered the questions that Novak didn’t even know to ask in helping him prepare for the job ahead. It was a night and a gesture Novak will never forget.
He knows that in the broadcasting business an analyst can only be as successful as their play-by-play broadcaster allows them to be. From that very first moment, it was clear Paschke was invested in Novak.
“I think to me to the overwhelming thing is, growing up a big Bucks fan and watching and listening to the Bucks, he is the voice that has always represented all the information that you got from the Bucks when you watched the game, when you turned the TV on,” Novak said. “I look at it as such a huge honor – a privilege, really – to work with him because I 100 percent know what his sound has meant to me watching the Bucks and now knowing I get to be on there with him has been a blast.”
As much as a thrill as it will be for Paschke to work alongside Novak and George on Christmas court-side at Madison Square Garden, spreading Bucks information and insights far and wide, there’s a different part of that day he’s even more excited about.
In September, Paschke was honored as the second-ever recipient of NBA’s Todd Harris Spirit Award at the annual NBA Broadcast Meeting. That award is given to a broadcaster or executive who is the ultimate team player and inspires people to make every day brighter. Paschke certainly fits the bill, though he humbly jokes that no one has ever called him “sunshine.”
A friend of the late Todd Harris – a former NBA executive described as a fixture in the league office and with broadcast partners who passed away in 2017 – Paschke was honored to receive the award that bears Harris’ name. On Christmas Day before the Bucks and Knicks tip-off, he’s looking forward to his chance to meet Harris’ wife, Jackie, and children, Mason and Logan, for the first time.
“After being given the Todd Harris award, meeting them is very meaningful to me,” Paschke said. “I’ve been kind of gearing toward that and I have my presents ready for them. … Knowing him and having been a friend of his and having worked with him over the years, that will be very special to me.”