WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — Longtime voice of Purdue Basketball Larry Clisby died this morning in his home in Florida his family announced.
He was 74 years old.
Clisby announced his retirement from calling Boilermaker basketball this past November after a career of over 40 years. He finished having called 1,189 games.
Clisby was famous for his 'Bullseye' calls. If it was crunch time, the score was close and any Purdue player connected on a three you would hear; bullseye!
The story of Clisby started in Akron, Ohio.
"Radio is just something special," said one of Clisby's longtime friends, Don Fischer. "You are someone else's eyes."
Larry Clisby was adopted at three days old and grew up in Warren, OH. He graduated from Warren Howland High School and then Kent State University with a degree in telecommunications. Shortly after that, his broadcasting career started in Paducah, KY.
"I have people that still talk to me that knew me in Paducah, KY 45 years ago," said Clisby.
However, his time in Paducah was short-lived. A Lafayette radio owner with WASK noticed his transcendent voice and hired him. Before the age of 30, Clisby got his start with TV in West Lafayette. Clisby worked for WLFI in the 1980's in the sports department. He hosted the Gene Keady Show on many occasions.
"I am lucky," said Cliz. "I have the best job in the world."
Through trying times and through tournament triumphs, Cliz is now in his 42nd year calling Boiler basketball games from the same seat in Mackey Arena. But it's a call he got from a different seat that forced a timeout on his career.
"The emergency room doctor was almost choking up himself and said 'I am sorry to have to tell you this but you have brain cancer,'" said Clisby's wife, Michelle Clisby.
It was stage 4 metastatic brain cancer.
"That's just a scary two words to put together," said Michelle.
Metastatic means the cancer had to spread from somewhere; that somewhere was Clisby's lungs.
"Does it get any worse than brain cancer?" said Michelle.
"I was 4 stage lung cancer and when I first got that diagnosis I thought I was a dead man," said Cliz.
That date was June 15th, 2018. Cliz and his wife Michelle were engaged by that point.
"We have to figure this out," said Michelle. "We have to figure it out together."
Cliz said he turned to family and friends for support and even relied on a Hoosier for some help.
"Don Fischer the great announcer at Indiana and has been a longtime friend of mine," said Cliz.
"Cliz is one of those guys that said he was going to beat this," said Fischer. "We've known each other since he became the voice of the Purdue Boilermakers and Larry is a hilarious guy."
Cliz knows laughter is the best medicine.
"People always want to know what it's like to have two rivals that get along with each other and we always laugh," said Cliz.
But, Michelle says otherwise.
"You know it's funny almost when he gets a little grumpier is when you know he is feeling better because that's his personality," said Michelle.
The personality of a man was almost destroyed from cancer. Cliz has fought bladder, skin, lung and brain cancer. The bladder and skin cancer happened in 2011-2012.
"I asked my oncologist the other day how many more years he thought he had and he said "oh two. He said two. He said maybe four, five, six,"' said Cliz.
The oncologist said possibly ten years.
"I said I don't know If I will be alive in ten years, but I will take ten in a moment," said Cliz.
In that moment it was time for a comeback.
"I walk in there and I don't know what to expect," said Cliz.
The date is July 5th, 2019.
"That is a big word when you are fighting this stuff," said Michelle.
"I said what do you call that?" said Cliz. "What am I? Am I? Ya know? She said you are in remission. I said you have to be kidding me!"
"I'm just proud of him," said Fischer. "Proud of what he has done to fight through this whole thing."
He has fought the urge to give up and he has fought through the pain.
"I thought for a moment this might be my last year," said Cliz. "I am not saying it will be but I am not saying it won't be."
It was people like his wife, his friends and Boiler Basketball fans that always had his back.
"I am so appreciative of all people," said Cliz.
Cliz doesn't know if he'll see year 43 and neither does his wife.
"If there is a way to come back and do it another year that's the sort of thing that would happen to Larry Clisby," said Michelle.
Purdue basketball doesn't know either.
"I'm not going to leave this job feeling for myself because I have had an amazing career," said Cliz. "Amazing career."