Jim Marsh, a former Sonic TV broadcaster and one of the beloved architects of Seattle-area youth basketball, died Monday afternoon in a Portland-area facility. He was 73.
Marsh, a stalwart in the Seattle sports community for decades, had lived with Parkinson’s disease since being diagnosed in 2004.
“When he got the Parkinson’s diagnosis, he didn’t let that change him,” said Seattle-area radio broadcaster Mike Gastineau. “It impacted him pretty quickly. There was a courage and a bravery in the way he handled that was really impactful to me. Anybody who goes through that you’re excused a little bit if you have a poor-me attitude. Jim just didn’t let that be a thing.”
“It didn’t impact him as negatively as it could have,” Gastineau said. “He really dealt with it in a great way.”
Marsh, a 6-foot-7 forward, starred at USC before being taken in the 1968 NBA draft where he was selected in the 11th round by the Sonics.
However, he played his entire career (39 games during the 1971-72 season) with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Following his pro career, Marsh spent 12 years serving as a color analyst with the Sonics.
Marsh’s greatest impact came later when he coached the imminently successful Friends of Hoop AAU team while serving as a mentor to Spencer Hawes, Jon Brockman, Martell Webster and Isaiah Thomas.
“I can’t imagine how many thousands of people are sad right now because of this news,” said former Times columnist Steve Kelley. “In a lot of ways he was my best friend. The weird thing about saying that is, he was so many people’s best friend from every possible walk of life. Not just sports, but politics, charitable work and business and nationwide. As much of a figure he was in Seattle sports, was beloved across the country.
“Maybe the most selfless person I’ve ever met. He would do anything for anybody. … He had the biggest heart of anybody I’ve ever met. He didn’t discriminate in terms of social position or anything. He was the same to everybody.
“He was almost like Forrest Gump. He knew everybody and he witnessed everything. He’s got stories.”
There’s the tale of Marsh saving a half dozen people from a floatplane crash.
And Marsh was often fond of recounting his first collegiate game and how he “held” UCLA’s 7-foot Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was then known as Lew Alcindor, to 56 points.
“There’s not a player that came out of Seattle who was a major college player or went on the to the pros who didn’t know Jim,” Gastineau said. “Almost all of them were impacted in a positive way by Jim. Name a great player out of this city and they’re mourning tonight. They knew this man.
‘He helped them and did right by them. Some of them he coached and some of them he coached against in AAU leagues. But they all knew Jim and they knew when the chips were down, they could count on Jim. Calling him architect of Seattle basketball is absolutely an appropriate statement.”
Marsh wasn’t a star on those USC teams, but he was a smooth-shooting big man who was a team captain as a junior and senior while averaging 13.3 points his final season.
Marsh is survived by his daughters Sherry and Jenny.