LADY DRAGON point guard Jakeia Wilson received the inbound with only a few ticks left in the first half. She crossed the East Jackson defender, took one step over half court and let the ball fly from her finger tips. Swishh—never a doubt. The Jefferson fans come off the bleachers in an uproar. Lady Dragons went into the half with a commanding 14-point lead en route to a 65-37 over East Jackson. [Full Story »]
Longtime Jefferson PA announcer Tommy Healan has been calling Dragons games since high school
EXCEPT for maybe Bolling DuBose —the Jefferson boys’ basketball coach of 36 years — nobody has been entrenched courtside in the Dragons’ gym longer than PA announcer Tommy Healan.
Of course, Healan is more heard than seen.
Healan, 46, has called Jefferson basketball games for the past 29 years — well over half his life — announcing starting lineups, calling out scorers’ names, keeping fans abreast of foul totals and even spinning a tune or two during a timeout. His job is two-fold: pass along information and create excitement. The Jefferson native does so with a voice that balances professionalism and showmanship.
“It’s like a radio broadcast,” DuBose said. “He’s made it like a radio broadcast. I think he could go on the radio and be a good play-by-play announcer.”
Healan said his role is one where “you’re maybe not supposed to be a homer.”
But then again …
“There is a line there you need to give yourself — to give yourself a little advantage for being at home,” Healan said.
Healan’s vocal talents certainly aren’t limited to basketball. His credentials in other sports are almost as long.
He’s served as Jefferson’s football PA announcer for 21 years and helped direct and announce the annual state track meet since the 1990s.
He’s also called Jefferson baseball games, wrestling matches and even tried his hand at volleyball this past season when Jefferson hosted a state tournament match.
Coaches agree. Healan brings a certain atmosphere to Jefferson sports.
“There are a lot of gyms you go to where you just don’t get that,” Jefferson girls’ basketball coach Jason Gibson said. “I think we’re very fortunate to have someone like that — not just in basketball but who also does football games. To me, that sets us apart from other places you go.”
It was with DuBose’s Dragons in 1983 that Healan, then a mere sophomore in high school, got his start.
Healan, a multi-sport athlete at Jefferson, began calling basketball to help liven the atmosphere of Jefferson’s home games. Even as a teen, Healan was a good fit behind ing. He made an impression right from the start on DuBose, whose Dragons made a run to the Class A Final Four that year.
“I thought, ‘gosh, having this is pretty neat,’” DuBose said. “‘Too bad he’s going to graduate one day and we won’t have this anymore.’”
DuBose, of course, laughs now because Healan has been around for nearly three decades.
While he derives much joy in his football duties, basketball remains Healan’s favorite sport to call due to the constant action and fast tempo, “especially since our boys’ team is synonymous for running up and down the court,” he said.
Healan’s vocal talents seem to augment the critical moments of a game.
“When he lets out one of his, ‘Austin Thompson for three!’ moments, it kind of rings out and really kind of gets that adrenaline flowing,” said Gibson, who played at Jefferson from 1991-1992. “I know it’s an exciting time for the kids. It sure was when I played.”
When asked about the biggest demands of a PA announcer, Healan was quick with a response: Pronunciation of names. That’s why he goes over each roster beforehand and consults a representative from the other team if he spots a tricky name.
“Because moms will come up and remind you of what their names are,” Healan said.
The other demands are, of course, time.
A banker by day in Gainesville, Healan’s PA work after business hours hasn’t netted him any added income, but his “second job” yields other rewards.
“It’s all volunteer,” Healan said. “I don’t want any pay. I guess one of the more memorable tributes from the kids was when they dedicated the annual to me several years ago. I thought as far as all the thank you’s, that came from the kids themselves.”
So what does his role as Jefferson PA announcer mean to him? Healan — who’s now on his second generation of Jefferson athletes — said it’s a duty he takes very seriously.
“It’s something that you want to take pride in,” Healan said. “The coaches know I want to do it right … It has to prioritize you, your family life and how you go about your weekend and your Friday nights. So, I won’t say it’s not a headache sometimes to make your schedule around home sporting events but we’ve managed for this many years. So it’s just become habit and everybody knows what to expect.”
And for 29 years, Jefferson has gotten Healan’s best.
“I think that as coaches, we take for granted how lucky we are to have Tommy,” DuBose said. “Most high schools don’t have what we have.”