Sam Lagana sat in a moderately sized office atop a hill in Malibu that overlooked the Pacific Ocean and chuckled as he pulled out his iPhone.
Lagana retrieved a text message sent by Golden State Warriors Coach Steve Kerr, who razzed him about ESPN Monday Night Football commentator Sean McDonough mispronouncing his name — “Laganya” — before the introduction to the national anthem at the Rams’ exhibition opener against the Cowboys.
“Have fun tonight and all season, Sam,” Kerr’s text concluded.
Lagana, the associate vice chancellor at Pepperdine University and a longtime friend of Kerr’s from Pacific Palisades, will ring in the NFL’s return to Los Angeles as the Rams’ public address announcer when the team hosts the Seattle Seahawks in its home opener Sept. 18 at the Coliseum.
“It’s crazy and exciting at the same time,” said Lagana, who counts a Deacon Jones autographed football among his prized collection of sports memorabilia, and can recall attending his first Rams game as a child against the Chicago Bears.
When the Rams announced their return to Los Angeles after 21 seasons in St. Louis, Lagana — a recognized voice among the volleyball community in Southern California and the voice of the former L.A. Avengers of the Arena Football League — mentioned to friends that he would be interested in announcing the games.
Soon after, while at work, he received an email from the team asking him to record seven lines.
Lagana wedged himself in a hallway between offices and a restroom, where he thought the acoustics were best, to record the script.
He included an eighth line — an insight to his personality and what he hoped could become a Rams signature:
“The time has come for every man, woman and child to rise with the Rams,” Lagana bellowed on the recording.
Two months later the Rams offered him the position.
“Sam really stood out because of his voice, his passion,” said Chris Slepokura, the Rams’ director of broadcast production. “His voice can really echo through that stadium.”
Lagana’s sound is discernible. His enthusiasm, the Rams hope, will be contagious.
“There are notions that you might just want your PA announcer just to tell you down and distance,” said Kevin Demoff, the Rams’ chief operating officer and vice president of football operations. “We didn’t subscribe to that. We thought we wanted to give Sam a chance to bring his personality to the game and try to make football infectious for the NFL.”
Lagana grew up a fan of legendary Los Angeles public address announcer John Ramsey, whose delivery was articulate, unruffled and deliberate, but admitted his style is noticeably different from the man who announced for virtually every sports team in the city.
“That was just never my style,” Lagana said. “I think what I might be is just a guy who is bringing the same kind of enthusiasm that they are feeling to the game. I am just kind of your average fan that is as excited as is everyone else to be there.”
Through two dress rehearsals during exhibitions, adjustments have been made, Lagana said. He and the Rams analyzed what they believed to have worked best inside the Coliseum, which can be acoustically challenging when sound reverberates off the Peristyle. His goal is to raise the energy and induce a crowd response.
Back in his office at Pepperdine, it was the first day of school after summer vacation, but it was the Rams’ pending opener that Lagana said was drawing goosebumps.
He pulled out his iPhone a second time to open a tweet that he saved after he announced the Rams’ exhibition opener.
“May we all live our lives with the enthusiasm of the Coliseum PA announcer,” the tweet read.
For Lagana, the message was perfect.