Don Kaull’s second career wound up lasting longer than his first.
The retired insurance executive spent 35 years courtside with the University of Rhode Island men’s basketball radio crew. NCAA Tournament victories, Atlantic 10 conference championships and various other program milestones carried a special significance for the program alum. His voice generally betrayed his emotions during such moments.
Kaull will step aside entering this 2022-23 season. Steve McDonald will continue in his play-by-play role with Learfield and its subsidiary at Rhody Sports Properties. Providence marketing executive Chris DiSano will join McDonald and Stone Freeman in a three-man rotation.
“It’s meant a lot,” Kaull said. “It’s kept me active in the sport of basketball. I think if I was to watch two games a week on TV, I wouldn’t be into it as much as I was.
“When you go on the air for a game you’ve got to do a lot of preparation. You’ve got to prepare for a couple hours, look at all the stats, figure things out. It’s kept my mind pretty sharp.”
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Kaull was largely away from the Rams last season — he attended a Feb. 26 home win over Duquesne and sat on press row. His travel has been limited by an early bout with COVID-19 in 2020 and an ongoing battle against a treatable form of cancer. Kaull said he’s only been on the golf course a handful of times this summer — his outdoor activity has largely been limited to a riding lawnmower and the yard at his Portsmouth home.
“I really enjoyed it,” Kaull said. “I really enjoyed the coaches who were there.
“In fact, the other day, out of the clear blue on Sunday, Jim Baron called me from Florida. He just wanted to check in and see how I was feeling. Those are the friendships you have.”
Kaull graduated as the all-time leading scorer at Rogers and went on to a Hall of Fame career at URI. He was a three-time letter winner in the 1960s, played in what was a far more exclusive version of March Madness and enjoyed a successful career in business. His grandfatherly presence in Kingston is somewhat natural — Kaull and his wife, Caroline, have three children and 10 grandchildren.
“There are so many words that would fit, but the one that fits most perfectly for me is kindness,” McDonald said. “He is so kind, so considerate, so patient with everybody.
“If there’s a delay on a flight — ‘Ah, you know, it’s OK.’ If it was this or that — ‘Ah, don’t worry about it. It’s OK. Everybody makes mistakes. You’ll be fine.’ ”
Kaull didn’t need much time to list some favorite memories — an Elite Eight run and an upset of Kansas in 1998 sits at the top. A return to a pair of NCAA Tournaments in 2017 and 2018 gave Kaull a pair of late-career highlights. The Rams captured a conference tournament crown to seal the first bid and won a first regular-season title to claim the second.
“Kids don’t realize how important that is,” Kaull said. “It’s something they’re going to remember for the rest of their lives.”
Kaull’s departure shakes up what has been a steady men’s basketball local radio lineup in recent seasons. John Rooke and Joe Hassett have called Providence games for three decades and Brown has featured an extended partnership between Scott Cordischi and program alum Russ Tyler. Bryant leads with Jon Wallach on both men’s basketball and public address for football — he's a Boston sports radio staple with 98.5 FM The Sports Hub.
“It’s a natural progression for Chris,” McDonald said. “He’s so uber-prepared for every game, and he’s such a wonderful guy.”
DiSano is a regular online contributor to Cox Communications and has served as a broadcast analyst on YurView, the local television and streaming carrier for URI. He founded online blog College Chalktalk in the mid-2000s, building a national network of coaches to serve as contributors. DiSano is a Warwick native and has paired previously with both McDonald and Freeman, a recent Rams graduate who now serves in a dual role as a Learfield marketing executive and URI adjunct professor.
“I’ll call most games this season,” DiSano said in an online piece this week. “I’ll never replace Don — but I’ll do my best in the way I know how.”
On Twitter: @BillKoch25
This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Long-time URI radio broadcaster Don Kaull to retire