Tip off between UCLA women’s basketball and Arizona was more than a day away, and a drop of blood had already struck the Pauley Pavilion hardwood.
The smear came from the back of Dennis Koehne’s right hand. A few moments passed before Koehne, who sat on the floor with criss-crossed legs, noticed the two gashes on the back of his right hand. But upon seeing the red specks just beneath his fingers and on his khaki pants, the facilities manager shrugged. He then hummed calmly to himself as he tended to a remote cable trapped under an electronically collapsible bleacher.
Come game time, five straight points and a steal by freshman guard Kari Korver turned Koehne into the loudest Bruin in Pauley.
“Kari Korver!” Koehne growled with elongated R’s. The 6-foot 4-inch Koehne nearly swallowed his microphone as he leaned forward with the back legs of his chair in the air. Everyone else at the scorer’s table kept their feet flat on the ground, while Koehne’s toes were the only part of his body on the floor.
Koehne, who has been managing facilities for UCLA Recreation since 1983, also serves as the athletic department’s regular announcer for women’s basketball, volleyball and gymnastics. Koehne does not consider his announcing gig as much of a job at all. He believes a second-grade education covers the required skill set for shouting out names and plays in colorful voices.
Fourth-year civil engineering student Justin Spring said that he feels that Koehne’s facilities role, on the other hand, fully showcases his boss’s capabilities.
“(Koehne is a) very unique individual. Very smart, very focused and knows how everything operates at every moment of time,” said Spring, who works for the recreation department as a building supervisor and sports assistant.
Students like Spring make up the crews that assist Koehne in setting up teams’ practices and games. Among their duties are collapsing or expanding retractable bleachers, arranging up to 300 chairs on the floor level of Pauley and setting up 2800-pound hoops on wheels. As a manager, Koehne works alongside the crew and “proofreads” all the safety features of any performance stages and lights. He also supervises custodial services, and gets to do some cleaning himself with a zamboni-like scrubbing machine called an autoscrubber.
Despite having a facilities job that includes anywhere from 15 to 40 hours each week of setting up and taking down equipment for a variety of sports, the self-proclaimed “landlord of 11 teams” suggested that his main occupation should not be considered work much of the time, either.
“People play (basketball, volleyball), do gymnastics … we have concerts, track meets, tennis matches. My job is recess. Everything about it is setting up for fun,” Koehne said. “When I’m here, I’m having a blast most of the time, give or take a meeting or some accounting things.”
The responsibilities of Koehne vary drastically from day to day and week to week. On some nights with 7 o’clock games, Koehne can finish his work around midnight. But games that draw bigger crowds, such as last Wednesday’s overtime loss to USC, may keep the facilities manager in Pauley until 5 in the morning.
Somewhere among the odd and often long hours of his main job, Koehne finds time to get reminded by his bosses and peers that he often overextends himself at work.
“He’s hardworking and sometimes you get yourself into a little trouble when you try to be the nice guy and do everything,” said Susan Brown, the assistant director of Events Facilities Management Office and Pauley Pavilion. “It’s not a bad thing, you want to be helpful and everybody knows that you’re the go-to guy … (but at) some point there’s a cap to that.”
He also leaves his schedule open for students with questions about their work by hosting “infinite office hours,” carried out in person or over the phone when he is not occupied with meetings or church.
“He’s always a teacher. I hardly ever see him get upset. I know he has a high expectation. … If I don’t know how something works or how it’s supposed to go, he always wants you to ask him,” Spring said.
Koehne keeps his ears open for any athletes looking for extra practice, as well. Former Bruin and current NBA player Arron Afflalo would shoot around at Pauley Pavilion at 6 a.m. with the permission of Koehne and his crew, while other old UCLA players like Jrue Holiday and Darren Collison were allowed to shoot between 10 and 11 in the evening.
Koehne classifies his work as long, as opposed to challenging. But Koehne’s physical devotion for his job actually introduced one of his staple basketball announcing phrases.
One day after calling back-to-back five-set volleyball games, he lacked the “high end” to pull off a musical sound he wanted to try out for free throw attempts. What Koehne wound up letting out was a deep utterance of “shooting” followed by a slight, high-pitched “two” that quickly caught on.
“I remember, (two-time UCLA national basketball champion) Mike Warren after the game, started imitating that and he liked it. If Mike Warren liked it, holy cow.”
The number of cough drops Koehne consumes at the scorer’s table further illustrates the toll his enthusiasm takes on his body.
“I’m really hard on my throat. Some people’s name’s I rough up, especially during intros,” Koehne said.
Koehne’s affinity for cough drops gave rise to a wrapper-throwing game between the facilities manager and DJs that sit close to him during games. The game’s conventions include Koehne’s mouth being off-limits as he announces and collar shots being worth more bragging rights than a standard hit.
Third-year economics student Daniel Acquesta and Koehne exchanged wrapper blows during the Arizona game, but Koehne’s active sense of humor was apparent to Acquesta right when the two first met.
“He told me that to get him to open a door for me that I had to do pushups. I actually got down to the ground and started to do them, and he just opened it, and walked away,” Acquesta said.
An avid UCLA sports fan, Acquesta has attended many games with Koehne announcing, and described the announcer as a fan-favorite among the volleyball student section regulars.
Koehne believes that he has a closer connection to the athletes he directly serves, but also recognizes the attachment fans can have to an announcer, something he feels is little more than a disembodied voice.
“I’m a familiar face and voice to (some of the frequent fans) and if somebody else announces a game … I get scolded by a bunch of people, but … (I ask them) who announced, they’d tell me, (who filled in for me, and I’d respond that) ‘he’s awesome,’ (and they would reply) ‘Yeah, but it wasn’t you, though.’”
Koehne chatted with a few fans after the Arizona game, but about half an hour after the buzzer sounded, no more than a dozen people remained. Those left in Pauley were either part of custodial services or Koehne’s student crews. Koehne worked with his crews, helping to align basketball hoops for the next day’s practice by standing at the free throw line and directing adjustments in the basket placement.
On game nights like those, Koehne is often the last person to exit Pauley.
He estimates that around midnight, he’ll be able to start his 35-minute walk home, a trip to Beverly Glen Boulevard for which Koehne has established a rule. He does not pick up his phone for work after a certain point.
“I (don’t) allow myself to think about work south of Wilshire.”
“The brain of Pauley Pavilion,” as Spring calls Koehne, figures to have little difficulty following his own rule. Koehne has found a way to make work and fun one in the same while he helps to comprise the heart of UCLA’s recreation and athletics community.