Seton Hall basketball announcer Dave Popkin is a man of many talents
Dave Popkin is entering his 21st season as a basketball commentator with the Seton Hall Basketball radio network along side play-by-play and soon-to-be Hall of Fame broadcaster Gary Cohen. He’s in his 24th year as the Voice of Northeast Conference basketball.
Dave was one of the first guests on SportsJam with Doug Doyle 15 years ago and since then his career in sports, philanthropy and music has continued to flourish.
Most recently, Dave joined the WBGO content team as a free-lance news and music contributor. You can check out his interviews with the likes of Robert Cray, "Kingfish" Ingram, Coco Montoya and Eric Gales….at WBGO.org.
Dave returned to SportsJam in November of 2023 to talk about his latest projects. He has a new radio sports talk show/podcast about college basketball called "Crashing The Boards."
"I felt like New Jersey college basketball needed more coverage. There are a couple of other good shows about the topic but there's a void there. Austin Johnson, the color commentator for Rutgers and myself are going to have a friendly debate about Seton Hall and Rutgers. We're going to talk about the other six Division I teams in New Jersey as well. We'll talk to former players and noted high school coaches. It's for the serious basketball fan. It will air Sunday mornings at 11am on FOX Sports Radio NJ."
Popkin says Seton Hall will be part of terrific Big East Conference this season. What does the new season look like for the Pirates and second-year head coach Shaheen Holloway?
"Well the coaches picked them ninth out of 11 in the Big East. I think they'll be better than that. I'm not sure how much better. Even if they have the same record and the same result at the end of the year, the league is so much tougher. I think it's going to hard to be .500 in the Big East because you have National Championship contenders. UCONN is the defending National Champ. They're back and at least as good as last year. Creighton and Marquette are contenders for the Final Four. St. John's is better with (coach) Rick Pitino. Georgetown is better with Ed Cooley. Xavier is great. I didn't even mention Villanova yet. The Wildcats could win the National Championship. I think it's going to be difficult for Seton Hall this year. I do think they have more depth. I think they have some more shooting which you have to have in college basketball, especially 3-point shooting. I think they have more in those areas, but it remains to be seen."
Dave thinks there's a good reason why the Big East conference is so strong this season.
"First of all coaching. That's the one constant. If you can bring in a Hall of Fame coach like Rick Pitino, get Sean Miller from Arizona, bring Thad Matta back to Butler, Ed Cooley is a guy that brings his team to the NCAA Tournament almost every year, you can go up and down the league. Greg McDermott is one of the best offensive coaches in the county at Creighton. That's the constant for these programs. If they can keep these guys for 10,15, 20 years, it builds continuity with the staff, the players and the fans. I think the Big East has had continuity with not losing members. If you look at all these other conferences like the Pac 12 which has evaporated. All but two left for other leagues. You're seeing changes in every single conference, except the Big East. They got UCONN back. Other than that it's the same ten teams that reformed the league over ten years ago. The Big East's national television contract with FOX and their relationship with Madison Square Garden hosting tournament every year has built continuity and strength in the league."
Dave stresses he loves being a part of Seton Hall basketball.
"I really do. It's different than just parachuting in with some of the other stuff I've done with FS1, CBS Sports Network or the NEC games. I'm on the bus with the guys. I'm on the charter. You get to know the players. I would say progressively over the last five or ten years, it's easier to talk with these players. They're bringing in really smart and nice guys."
Popkin, a University of Miami (FLA) and Neptune High School (NJ) has recently called men's and women's college soccer, women's basketball, and college baseball on FS1. Dave called eight different sports for both CN8 and MSG Varsity. He has 20 years of minor league baseball play-by-play experience, including presently calling selected road series for the Buffalo Bisons - Toronto Triple A (10th year). He called Power 5 college football and basketball games for ESPNU and ESPN3 (8 years) and has appeared on many national and regional networks, including: NBCSN, MSG, YES, MASN, NESN, Fox Sports Net, and FloSports.
One of the hardest working sports broadcasters, Dave was honored as a Literacy Champion by Write On Sports. He and Brooklyn Nets announcer and former Wagner coach Tim Capstraw run sports broadcasting camps each year at Montclair State University.
A rare opportunity came up in 1998 for Dave to call the action for a professional team coached by one of the greatest NBA players of all-time. He called a season of the USBL’s New Jersey ShoreCats season at the Asbury Park Convention Center. That team was coached by legendary shooter and Hall of Famer Rick Barry.
"I think I was the only one who got along with Rick Barry then. He's a brilliant guy and a great coach, but he was difficult for a lot of people because he's a genius and doesn't have a lot of patience for people. I got along with him great and that made the job a lot easier."
Popkin is also the CEO of an events company, Hilltop Management, and President of the Board of Trustees of the non-profit organization, Nutley Family Service Bureau. NFSB’s mission is to strengthen the emotional and social well-being of individuals and families through affordable mental health counseling and social service programs.
Dave and his wife Cindy Tirrell have been giving back to their communities and beyond for many years. They are also long-time supporters of WBGO.
In 2017, Popkin created "Rock Hunger," a music festival that raises money for Nutley Family Service Bureau. Dave sings in two bands that have played for those charity events, "The Attic" and "Porch Rockers", a five-member group that plays punk, rock and new wave pop at local establishments in New Jersey.
"Music is my favorite thing in my life, even more than sports."
A big Bruce Springsteen fan, Dave and his wife Cindy named their beautiful and loving dog "Clarence" after the late E Street saxophonist Clarence Clemons.
You can SEE the entire SportsJam interview with Dave Popkin here.