Flipping through the record book for Long Beach State’s women’s volleyball program–wading through details on the five national championship seasons and the more than two dozen All-Americans who’ve played for the Beach–there’s nothing particularly eye-catching about the 1985 season.
The 49ers went 18-13 that year and made a first-round exit in the NCAA Tournament. But that season was the first for Hall of Fame head coach Brian Gimmillaro in his 32-year coaching tenure in Long Beach. The ‘85 season also marked the debut of a young public address announcer, just one year removed from playing the trombone in the school band.
The day before Long Beach State’s 1985 season opener, Assistant Sports Information Director Steve Janisch received a phone call from his usual PA announcer, informing him that he would be unable to work the volleyball games that season. Janisch then turned to the newest member of the sports information staff, and reminiscent of Lou Gehrig taking over for Wally Pip at first base, in stepped Dan Smith to address the Long Beach State crowd for the first time.
“I said ‘Well, I’ll give it a try,’” Smith recalled. “So the next night, there I am announcing volleyball for the first time ever. And I didn’t swear and I said most of the names right, so they let me do the next game, and then I had the rest of the season.”
Soon he was announcing the women’s basketball games, then came football and men’s basketball. As Smith remembers it, in the span of 18 months he “went from a fan to being the PA announcer for basically everything.” That spawned a career that covered more than 35 years of Long Beach State Athletics events, from The Gold Mine to Walter Pyramid, and from the Long Beach Arena to Blair Field.
But now that memorable run is over, with Long Beach State recently informing Smith that he will no longer be asked to announce games at The Beach.
Smith was the PA voice of Dirtbags Baseball from 1994-2006, a stretch that included 11 postseason appearances and the legendary career of Long Beach State Hall of Fame pitcher Jered Weaver. He was also the announcer at the Long Beach Arena when it served as the host site for a women’s volleyball Final Four, and for an NCAA Regional in men’s basketball during the 1989-90 season. That regional was highlighted by the memorable 149-115 win for Loyola Marymount over defending National Champion Michigan, a game Smith calls “to this day, the biggest thing I’ve ever announced.”
More recently, Smith has been the primary PA announcer for LBSU’s men’s basketball program, and spent two decades announcing the Big West Basketball Tournament during its time at Honda Center. He’s also been on the mic for the last five NCAA Regionals hosted at Honda Center during March Madness.
Though it’s not a stat that you’ll find in any archive or record book, surely no one has announced more Long Beach State games than Dan Smith. But his era as the unofficial voice of Long Beach State Athletics has come to an end, with LBSU’s Senior Associate Athletics Director for External Relations, Sean Ferrera, informing Smith that they are moving in a new direction with their public address announcer position.
“I’m obviously new here, and I’m evaluating and doing my due diligence, and I always operate with good intent on whatever choices or decisions I make,” said Ferrera, who recently came to The Beach from the University of New Mexico. “And that’s strictly a decision based on what’s best for our staff here. I’m going to operate with what’s in the best interest of my group.”
Smith’s final game on the mic was a women’s volleyball exhibition match against Pepperdine on Aug. 21. He arrived late for the pre-match reads, which typically begin about 30 minutes prior to game time. Smith does not dispute his recurring tardiness, citing the freeway commute from his day job as the main obstacle in meeting his call time.
According to Smith, there was a disagreement between him and Ferrera regarding the terminology Smith was using during the match. A few days later, Smith was informed of the decision to replace him during a phone call with Ferrera.
Smith admitted that he was angry following the phone call, but also said that his relationship with his alma mater had fractured in recent years, and that perhaps it was time for him to explore new opportunities.
“It hasn’t been fun doing Long Beach games for the last few years,” Smith said. “I started doing Cal State Fullerton games and they treat me so much better, so I knew I had a good thing to fall back on. And either way, I’ve done it for 35 years, and I’ve been thinking about, ‘How much longer am I going to do this?’ So is it speeding up that whole thing? Yeah. Would I like to go out on my terms? Yeah. But I do care about Long Beach. And I said this to Sean when he called me, I don’t think the athletic department is headed in a good direction for a variety of reasons, and it’s frustrating to see something that could be so good not be run the best it could be.”
The relationship between Smith and the athletic department was seemingly in good shape as recently as 2016, when then-Athletic Director Cindy Masner was quoted in a Press-Telegram story profiling Smith’s career at the school.
“Dan has done a tremendous job as our PA announcer in a variety of sports over the years,” Masner said at the time. “We are lucky to have someone of his caliber as part of the Beach family.”
The story also included glowing praise from Gimmillaro, who referred to Smith as “the best I’ve ever heard in his position.”
Long Beach State’s current Executive Director of Athletics, Andy Fee, supported the decision of his staff to oversee decisions regarding game day personnel.
“I personally don’t hire or fire public address announcers. That is something that our staff works with in terms of hiring and terminations,” Fee explained. “And I think, over a number of years and on recent history, (Assistant Athletic Director for Athletic Communications) Roger Kirk and Sean Ferrara decided that they wanted to go a different direction. I appreciate Dan’s years of service, and I think this is just simply a new direction, and we wish Dan well.”
Things will sound a little different inside Walter Pyramid when the new men’s basketball season rolls around, and with the Big West Basketball Tournament now hosted in Las Vegas, local hoops fans might not get to hear Smith calling another Long Beach State basketball game any time soon. Unless they’re willing to make the trip to Cal State Fullerton, where Smith intends to pick up more games this coming season.
“It’s a strange parting,” Smith said. “Life moves on.”