Lou Riggs, a longtime Santa Monica College sportscasting instructor and mentor who helped develop the careers of Chris Marlowe, Chris McGee, James Worthy, Heather Cox, Keith Erickson, Jose Mota and John Jackson, passed away last Friday at his home in Santa Monica after complications from ALS.
He was 81.
A sportswriter and broadcaster for much of his life, Riggs fashioned his last 30-plus years specializing as a sports broadcasting teacher, specializing in mass communication and speech at SMC.
He also did private consulting for those current sportscasters, and was a valued broadcast go-to consultant for Fox Sports. He also taught for the national Columbia School of Broadcasting based in New York.
In 1992, he co-authored a textbook called “Play-By-Play Sportscaster Training” with Al Epstein, the longtime Pepperdine University sportscaster.
“Lou Riggs is the best broadcasting coach in Los Angeles — the Michael Jordan of sportscasting gurus,” said Marlowe, a retired U.S. Olympic volleyball captain who works for the Denver Nuggets, having honed his career with Riggs while working at Prime Ticket, NBC, ESPN and ABC, having doing beach volleyball during the Summer Olympics every year since 2004.
“Lou was a wonderful man, a great mentor, and a lifelong friend,” added Marlowe. “He touched all of our lives in a very meaningful way. We will all miss him greatly.”
Riggs, who started his professional career as a sportswriter and golf editor at the Santa Monica Evening Outlook from 1959 before joining Santa Monica College’s faculty in 1984, did play-by-play on UCLA women’s basketball, volleyball and softball and UCLA men’s volleyball from 1992-2004.
The Mission Hills resident was the sports director at Santa Monica College-based KCRW-FM (88.9) for 16 years in the 1970s and ’80s during the time he was also teaching in the radio, TV and film department at Cal State Northridge, developing one of the largest internship programs in the country.
He also worked doing horse racing shows at Hollywood Park and Santa Anita Park.
Born on June 19, 1934 in West L.A., Riggs once said he knew he wanted to get into sportscasting when he was 12. He got his AA degree in broadcasting journalism at SMC and his BA in journalism at Cal State L.A.
In a 20-part series in 2011 about what broadcasters could learn from listening to Vin Scully, and what made the Dodgers’ Hall of Fame broadcaster so successful, Riggs offered the following critique:
“I use Scully as examples of how to do if right all the time, even if so many of my broadcast students are so young (in their teens and 20s). Unfortunately, in a day of video games, they tend less to use of the English language and have shorter attention spans, so I’m not sure what younger generations of broadcasters bring to the table worth digesting. I grew up listening to guys like Red Barber (Scully’s mentor), Mel Allen, Fred Haney (when he was broadcasting Hollywood Stars baseball games), Jack Drees, Bob Kelley, Sam Balter, Ted Husing, Bill Stern and Harry Wismer. They weren’t all great, but, you could learn from them.
“Scully’s talent is that he is the opposite of most younger announcers today because they’re screamers, talk too fast, are ‘homers,’ don’t know when or how to tell a story. Scully is ‘old school,’ like John Wooden was ‘old school’ and like how I am in the classroom. ….
“What Scully brings is class, grace, word economy, knowledge, preparation and a smooth, calming delivery. If someone is a better story teller, in context with the timing of when to deliver it, it must be a dead comedian (maybe Jack Benny?). He never talks down to an audience. He brings us along for the ride — ‘pull up a chair’
“Unfortunately, there aren’t many like Scully — well, no one actually — but a Dick Enberg, Al Michaels and the late Bill King come to mind. They’re all older and have an understanding of the basic elements of good broadcasting, aren’t afraid to be quiet.
“If any young person wants to be a real professional, put the video games away and listen, digest how Scully presents a picture.”
Services are pending with a memorial service planned for him at Santa Monica College.