Sportscaster Steve Buckhantz is best known as the long-time TV play-by-play voice for the Washington Wizards.
But in early 1993, when he was sports director at WTTG-TV (Channel 5), he scored one of Washington’s most stunning sports scoops, breaking the news that the legendary Joe Gibbs planned to retire as coach of the Washington Redskins at the tender age of 52.
Joe Gibbs in 1992
Buckhantz tells the story in ‘The Great Book of Washington DC Sports Lists’ compiled by Andy Pollin and Len Shapiro.
After finishing his 10 pm sportscast, Steve headed for Champions bar and restaurant over in Fairfax. “About 12:30 am my buddy Jim Speros comes up to me and says his dad (who had worked for the Redskins) told him that Joe Gibbs was about to retire,” Buckhantz recalls in the book.
That news was simply unbelieveable and would have been easy to dismiss. After all, Gibbs was only one season away from winning the Super Bowl in 1991.
“I told him he was crazy but then you hear something like that you have to check it out,” Buckhantz recalled.
“I got up at 6 o’clock in the morning (an hour I never saw) and called ‘Skins General Manager Charlie Casserly at home. His wife said he was swimming.
“Oy Vey. I called back at 6:45 am and managed to get him.”
“You can say Gibbs is retiring because of health reasons, none of which are life threatening, and that Richie Petitbon will take over as head coach,” Casserly told him. The unbelievable turned out to be true.
“By telephone in my underwear I reported the story live for Channel 5,” Buchantz said. “It soon became one of the biggest sports days in Washington history.”
The Redskins had planned to hold the news through the weekend. But after the story broke, Gibbs was forced to return from Richmond, Va. where had a speaking engagement for a news conference at Redskins Park.
“When he saw me, his eyes rolled to the back of head,” Buckhantz remembered.
Of course, Gibbs would return 11 years later, for a second and far less successful tenure as Redskins’ head coach from 2004 to 2008 in the Dan Snyder era.
But Steve’s retirement scoop stirs poignant memories. Especially since the Redskins just named a new coach with the initials J-G.