Kevin Williams is a legendary sports host who is the Director of the Shore Sports Network and has been covering sports for WOBM in Ocean County for nearly 41 years.
Williams created the WOBM Christmas Classic, a 32-team boys and girls basketball tournament that's been around for nearly 37 years.
Kevin is the latest guest on SportsJam with Doug Doyle as the former colleagues practiced social distancing during the coronavirus crisis. Williams and Doyle were the play-by-team at WOBM in the early 1990's.
No one knows the coaches, players and parents in the Shore Conference than the nine-time New Jersey Sportscaster of the Year. Many listeners have called Kevin Mr. Ocean Sports. Williams and the late Bob Levy made 92.7 WOBM and 1160 WOBM-AM into a legendary shore readio station network.
Kevin is a big Mets, Penn State and Rangers fan and used to cheer for the Baltimore Colts. It comes as no surprise that his first grandchild would be named after one of Kevin Williams' favorite baseball players Gary Carter.
Kevin and his wife Jane had a recent social distancing visit to see their grandson Carter.
"I came up with the name. Since he was born on June 7th of last year, he has been the best part of my life. I love him dearly. They (son Brandon and daughter-in-law Jill) live in Hoboken. Of course I'm down at the Jersey Shore so it's not like we see each other every week but not being able to hold and hug him over these past couple of months has been like a form of torture. At times I was a little younger grandpa so I could look forward to doing things with him that I could still do when he gets older, but I will tell you he's pure joy. He's a great little kid. He smiles and laughs and anytime I know I'm going to see him it immediately brightens my spirits."
Last year Kevin's son and daughter Brandon and Alex surprised the sports host at the radio station to help celebrate their legendary father's 40 years of broadcasting at WOBM.
It's been more challenged for the Shore Sports Network to pump out the volume of stories that it has been for many years, now that the coronavirus has wiped out the spring sports seasons.
"The backbone of what we do is our website which is devoted to putting up daily content of high school sports in Ocean and Monmouth Counties. We cover the 48 schools that make up the Shore Conference and obviously each season brings new sports to cover. When everything halted in mid-March we were just at the point where the basketball season was finishing up. We still had a couple of teams from our area that were playing meaningful games including Manasquan on the boys side and on the girls side St. John Vianney and Manchester. They were still in the hunt for an overall championships. But we were able making the transfer to the spring season in which our main sports are baseball and lacrosse and all that legwork was starting to get done. Now here we sit in the later part of April with no games being played and that's what we do the most. We provide scoreboards and highlights. So we found ourselves doing a lot of feature stories. We've established a Jersey Mike's Senior Spotlight where each week we highlight a male and female athlete who are being sideline right now by the lack of schedule. We don't know when this is ending so it's even harder to plan for the future because when does that plan start."
The play-by-play team for the Shore Sports Network has remained the same for many years too. Play-by-play man Matt Harmon, who also calls the action for the New York Red Bulls, joins Kevin and former football coach Ed Sarluca for the high school games in the Shore Conference.
"When you get to do something you like, but you get to do it with people you like even more. In my case and at my age, if it wasn't for the fact that I get to work with Matt Harmon and Ed Sarluca on a regular bases, we have basically been together since you (Doug) left many many years ago. Matt was a college kid when we first brought him in. You're the one who recommended him. The bottom line is that on a Friday night or a Saturday or if we're doing a basketball game during the week, I still love sitting next to him. He's an absolute pro. To me he's one of the best play-by-play guys anywhere. The face that I get to still work with him and our sideline reporter Ed Sarluca is what makes it still fun. Ed was a long-time assitant football coach for many years. He started up at Monmouth County, at Keyport. He coached at Toms River East. He coached at Brick Memorial, and outstanding defensive coordinator, highly regarded and basically when he retired from coaching we kind of brought him along to be our sideline guy. I think on a third generation with some guys now."
Kevin's long affair with Penn State goes back to his father Jimmy's friendship with Joe and George Paterno,
"My dad and George were in the Marines together. They were from the same area, Rockaway Beach, New York. They knew each other a litte bit but they became life-long friends. So were sort of got brought up in Penn State football."
The Williams' family has had many tailgates at Penn State football games over the years.
Helping his late father with his Seaside Boardwalk business was a big part of Kevin's makeup. He enjoys reading the newspaper and books on the beach. Pizza is probably still has favorite boardwalk food.
The veteran broadcaster has maintained life-long friendships with several top sports stars like Todd Frazier, Keith Elias, Todd Durkin and others. Elias joined Williams and Doyle for one of their many high school broadcasts in the 90's.
To this day Kevin says covering the Toms River Little League World Series championship was the most enjoyable run for him. That team was led by Major Leaguer Todd Frazier.
"40-plus years here and it's the best I was ever a part of and there's no doubt about it. That was so special. That was 1998. I was in Williamsport the entire time. I was at every game. I did reports every morning and got to be friends with of the parents on that team, friendships I still have today. It was just a magical experience when they came back and there was a victory parade and thousands of people showed up."
When the WOBM Christmas Classic basketball tournament started there were only eight boys teams and now it's become one of the premiere hardwood tournaments in New Jersey and beyond. The event was first played at Ocean County College in 1984. They were there for many years but with tremendous growth, Williams eventually found a new home. That court is now part of the RWJ-Barnabus Health Arena on the campus of Toms River High School North. Two gyms are now used for the tournament that hosts 16 boys and 16 girls teams.
" I told someone if I ever had a tombstone that this (WOBM Christmas Classic) would probably be the thing they would put on it. We've done nearly 90-thousand dollars in scholarships that we give out based on the academic performance of student-athletes who've played in the tournament. I'm incredibly proud of what this has become."
Williams gives credit and homage to radio hall of famer Bob Levy for helping him in every aspect of his life.
"In July 1979 I got hired at 175 dollars a week (as sports director at WOBM). It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Almost every decision I made in my life I ran by Bob at some point, even ones that were personal, you know family matters. He was a confidant beyond belief and unfortunately he passed away a couple of years ago, but I got to spend almost my entire career working with him. And much of what I do today and how I treat people today is a by-product of the things I learned under him.
Click above to hear more stories about how former Penn State coach Joe Paterno rescued Kevin one night and his list of great coaches from the area.