CdM alums excited for gig

The 2011-12 school year is the 50th anniversary for Corona del Mar High.

The Sea Kings had a great fall season, winning a CIF section title in football and reaching the finals in boys' water polo, girls' volleyball and boys' and girls' cross country. It's been special.

But there's another fascinating aspect during the 50th anniversary. CdM has two of its alumni working for the Los Angeles Lakers, one calls games on TV and the other on the radio.

"Pretty cool."

Those are the words Bill Macdonald and John Ireland used to describe their respective gigs during the shortened season of the NBA.

It makes sense both would say it's pretty cool that two CdM alums are calling Laker games. They are beach boys. Both grew up in Newport Beach and played basketball at CdM. They grew up fans of the Lakers and their famous announcer, Chick Hearn.

Pretty cool, indeed.

Both are excited to be working their dream job. That excitement was seen in the background of the Lakers-Clippers exhibition game Monday at Staples Center.

Macdonald, who calls games on TV for Fox Sports West and KCAL 9, shared a story with me. Before the game began, Macdonald had the opportunity to look over at Ireland. Both smiled at each other, as if to say, "Can you believe this?"

They share the same hometown and high school, but they have different stories of how they reached their big gig.

Macdonald, who graduated from CdM in 1976, is familiar with the Lakers, and the Buss family. He sold Lakers season tickets after finishing up college, first at UCLA, then Orange Coast and finally at USC.

"I've kinda come full circle," said Macdonald, generally known as Billy Mac. "I was working for John Buss. But it took me 30 years to work for Dr. Buss."

Macdonald worked for John Buss when he owned the Los Angeles Lazers, a team of the Major Indoor Soccer League.

Macdonald got a $500 loan from his father and found a small radio station, KBOB, that he could put Lazers game on. After getting the OK from John Buss, Macdonald was on his way.

He would later meet Chick Hearn.

"I would seat in the same seat he did," Macdonald said. "That was always a thrill for me. Anyone who grew up with the Lakers knows Chick. And now I'm calling games for the Lakers. This is an unbelievable dream. It's all about the organization and the fans, and I want to do the fans right."

Macdonald has called a game for the Lakers before, as he filled in while he worked pre-game and post-game shows.

He did the play-by-play for Kobe Bryant's career-high 81-point performance against the Toronto Raptors on Jan. 22, 2006.

Away from the job, Billy Mac is known for his sense of humor and down-to-earth personality. Ireland is the same way, and that can be seen when he emcees the Lowsman Trophy banquet during Irrelevant Week.

Billy Mac won't shy away from cracking a joke. Yes, he said it was pretty cool that two CdM alums are working for the Lakers, but he had another description.

"It's harmonic convergence," he said. "What are the odds?"

Ireland was also amazed of the odds, since CdM is a relatively small school.

Ireland, CdM Class of 1981, said he feels incredibly lucky to be working for the Lakers as the play-by-play announcer on 710 AM. He's also the host of the radio show, Mason & Ireland, on that radio station.

Ireland got his start in Monroe, La., working as a news reporter after graduating from UCLA. He also worked in Texas and San Diego before landing at KCAL in 1995. He worked as the Lakers' sideline reporter since the 2002-03 season. He had also called Clippers games.

"My main goal is to honor the chair," Ireland said of his new gig. "That is Chick Hearn's chair. I grew up listening to Chick …

"It's a very unique opportunity: for us to grow up in a small town and then to do this. I want to make sure to be over-prepared."

Ireland lives with his family in Manhattan Beach. Macdonald lives in Corona del Mar. He had two sons, Kirk and Cory, who attended CdM High. His son, Billy Jr., plays on the baseball team as a senior at CdM.

Every where Billy Mac goes, he receives congratulations and well wishes, he said.

"I don't think I really realized how big the job was," Macdonald said. "It's like everyone is a Laker fan. They've all been coming up to me to talk about the team and the job."

Ryan Schachter, the CdM boys' basketball coach, is excited that two CdM graduates are calling games for the Lakers.

"I know Billy Mac really well," Schachter said. "He's a great guy. Funny. I'm so happy for him. It's a great opportunity for him to do the Laker games."

Pretty cool.

Twitter: @SteveVirgen

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World