Jonckowski to call final Gopher hoops game

Dick Jonckowski has been the public address announcer for 31 years at Williams Arena for Gopher men’s basketball games. The New Prague High School graduate will call his final game Thursday, March 2. (Times File Photo)

When the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers play Nebraska in men’s basketball Thursday, March 2, at Williams Arena, it will be the end of an era.

Dick Jonckowski, who grew up in New Prague and is a member of the New Prague High School Hall of Fame, will announce his final game after 31 years as the public address announcer for the Gophers.

Jonckowski, whose father ran the Prague Theater when he was growing up, replaced the legendary Jules Perlt, who had the job for 55 years, and became a legend himself. In recent week’s he’s been featured on various media. The Big Ten Network ran a profile on him on its show The Journey, the Star Tribune did a Q and A feature in the Sunday, Feb. 26 issue, and just this week he did a one-hour segment on KFAN radio.

It was 1986 when Jonckowski began his stint at Williams Arena. That was the same year Clem Haskins took over the program. Under Haskins, the team would flourish in the 1990s, highlighted by a Big Ten title and a Final Four appearance in 1997 - accomplishments that were erased following an academic fraud scandal that surfaced two years later.

"I still have my Final Four Ring from that team," Jonckowski said. "Al Nuness, a former Gopher player who worked for Jostens called me and noticed I wasn’t on the list when the ring order came in. He said he was going to make sure I got one and he’d pay for it."

Jonckowski has endured through good times and bad under three head coaches that followed - Dan Monson,Tubby Smith and now Richard Pitino.

The Gophers are having one of their best seasons in years, riding a seven-game winning streak into Thursday’s Nebraska game.

"I really like this group. They don’t have one big star, they all get along and they have a lot of confidence in each other," Jonckowski said.

One of his favorite memories was a game against Iowa in 1994 when Voshon Lenard led the Gophers to a triple-overtime win over Iowa.

"At the end of the game, I was hyperventilating. I got so wrapped up in the game, people thought I was having aheart attack," he said.

Other memories include a.....

To see more on this story pick up the March 2, 2017 print edition of The New Prague Times.