By Blake Solarek
From working with the Ole Miss Radio Network to becoming a studio host for the Memphis Grizzlies, Gary Darby has made an impact in whatever area of the broadcast industry he has embarked upon.
For the Magnolia Heights (Senatobia) alum who after junior college attended Ole Miss, sports were basically everything to Darby. When he was younger, he would stay awake late into the night listening to sports on the radio, furthering his interest in the field.
He knew he wanted to be in sports somehow, something he was truly passionate about. Darby got accepted to the print journalism program at Northwest Mississippi Community College in Senatobia, Mississippi, which is located not too far from his home in the Harmontown community of Lafayette County.
Darby said he knew pretty quickly in which direction of journalism he was headed.
“Obviously I was not a good writer, because my advisor said I needed to get into radio and television.”
So he made the switch to radio, and he has been doing that since 1986.
Growing up, Darby lived across the street from Mary Kuehn, now the wife of David Kellum, the play-by-play radio host for Ole Miss football, basketball, and baseball. The families became close, and Darby’s father implored Kellum to give Darby a job.
Kellum gave him his first push into the field literally. When he entered the radio studio, Darby was told what buttons to push.
Kellum told him, “I’ll be back in four hours.”
Kellum, who had been listening to Darby during those four hours, offered him a job and he began working at his radio station. Darby began doing high school sports, junior college sports, and Ole Miss women’s basketball, and that later expanded into other sports such as Ole Miss baseball. His career now covers more than three decades.
One man who heavily inspired Darby was Marty Brennaman, the overnight radio host on WLW-AM out of Cincinnati. Brennaman was the longtime play-by-play announcer for the MLB team, the Cincinnati Reds.
Darby said that he “based a lot of what I did off [Brennaman]” and that “working with David (Kellum), I just listened, watched; you emulate people you grow up with and take it in your own direction.”
Darby’s actions match his words as he informs that he “wanted to be good at it.” He spent more than 15 years with the Ole Miss Radio Network, and eight years with the Memphis Grizzlies as a studio host, pre-game, half-time, and post-game interviews, coaches’ interviews, and fan calls.
Darby did it all and to him, it was “a lot of fun.” But he’s far from finished.
He has traveled the state of Mississippi doing junior college games and covering Oxford High School and Lafayette County High School. Now he is doing high school sports again, including basketball games for Baldwyn High School.
High school sports are special, according to Darby.
“There is nothing like going back and doing one of those high school games,” he said.
He believes many other broadcasters would agree, since that is where many got their starts.
Darby said his best moment while working with the Grizzlies was when the team reached the Western Conference finals in 2013, the biggest moment to happen in the franchise to this day. It was monumental for him and in a personal way for several reasons.
“Growing up and watching sports forever, and you see these athletes and then you’re a part of it…they made me feel like family from day one.”
That was indeed an exciting moment for him to be a part of it and to have that opportunity. But everything he has done has always had “that family feeling” with his connections and friends, he said.
Darby loved his time with the Grizzlies network.
“I got paid to go watch NBA basketball,” he said, “41 times live a year, plus the exhibition games.”
Gary Darby has a motto he lives by, especially when it comes to opportunities or taking a step toward something.
“Do it,” he said he tells classes or those who might ask how to have a career in broadcasting. “Even if it’s not what you thought you were going to do or what you want to do, experience it. Just go try it. Do it.”