Another game to broadcast on the radio was on his schedule. Another commitment had to be made.
McMillan recently made his final sign off when he died at age 75.
“He loved it,” said Shannon McMillan, Larry’s daughter. “He always was excited about it.”
In the fall of 1979, McMillan’s dream trip started when he teamed up with Dick Nichols to do local high school football and basketball games for KGY. Besides calling high school games, they also called play-by-plays at Saint Martin’s and Evergreen basketball games. They were the popular voices of South Sound sports.
“It was such an awesome show those two would put on,” said Bill Beattie, Tumwater High School’s football coach. “Their dedication to high school athletics was unmatched.”
Nichols and McMillan weren’t just working cohorts. They were good friends.
“The best part of all this was working with Larry,” Nichols said.
It was a long friendship between McMillan and Nichols. It started when McMillan was a senior playing football for Elma High School back in the fall of 1960. Nichols did the radio coverage of Elma’s playoff game that season. And 19 years later, they teamed up for the first time doing radio for KGY. From 1980 to 2012, a span of 32 years, they continued to be the voice of the South Sound sports.
“They’re announcing of ball games is legendary,” said Kevin Huffer, KGY’s program director.
From that very first game they did in 1979, Nichols knew McMillan had the right stuff to be his color commentator.
“In talking with him, you could see how articulate he was,” Nichols said. “He had played football and baseball in high school. He had a great knowledge. I got to thinking this is a guy who knows sports, who can talk out loud.”
McMillan survived the audition and became Nichols’ permanent sidekick on KGY.
“We just clicked right off the bat,” said Nichols, a 1954 Shelton High School graduate. “He really knew the games and he was articulate. I was a fan with a microphone. He was a guy who knew the game.”
It was radio combo that families welcomed into their homes for many years.
For McMillan, broadcasting games on KGY with Nichols and being the color commentator, adding an insight or analysis of the completed play, wasn’t about critiquing. He was never the critic, second guessing a coach’s decision or a player’s performance. He was just a friend.
“He was always extremely positive,” said Rocky Patchin, the former head football coach at North Thurston High School. “Very supportive of coaches and kids. He kept it real.”
McMillan wouldn’t second guess, saying this coach needs to do this and that. He never criticized. While being a radio celebrity can build a large ego, that never happened with McMillan.
For McMillan, it wasn’t just about his weekly commitment to doing color commentary for local sports and being the voice on the radio. It was about making friends, about shaking hands with the coaches, and meeting the players and people in the community. And McMillan always did his homework before games, getting to know the team’s strategies and the players and the coaches.
“He’d know everything about you,” Patchin said. “He just knew everything about you. Knew about your team. He’d always ask all the right questions.”
Patchin loved it when McMillan and Nichols would show up for one of North Thurston’s games.
“It was a tremendous attention to high school football around here,” Patchin said. “They always did a great job.”
McMillan enjoyed getting out, mingling with friends. To help accomplish that, he also sang in choirs, with his church, with the community, and with a quartet.
McMillan developed friendships with all the coaches, including Sid Otton, Tumwater’s head football coach from 1973 to 2016 and the state’s all-time winningest football coach.
“Larry was always friendly. Even when I last saw him,” Otton said. “He’s also very knowledgeable. You’ve got to respect someone who loves athletics that much.”
So, in McMillian’s closing days while being cared for at Roo-Lan Healthcare Center in Lacey, Shannon got an unexpected and pleasant surprise when she went to visit him. As she approached his room, she heard him singing.
“That was my dad,” Shannon said. “He loved to sing.”
Friends and supports of McMillan will be able to say their last goodbyes on January 19 from 12:00 to 2:30 p.m. at the Worthington Center at Saint Martin’s University. Shannon wants this last goodbye to Larry to be a good farewell.
“We want this to be the last true hoorah in celebrating his life,” Shannon said. “There will be sadness and tears, but more than anything we want to have laughter, stories, and the real love he had for his community.”
“We’re certainly going to miss Larry,” Beattie said.