Scanning the walls of Dori Monson’s home office, you probably wouldn’t know he was a Seattle radio talk show host with an Edward R. Murrow award. The wall is synonymous with family and passion for coaching.
Wedged between photos of his wife of 35 years, their three daughters and rescue dogs they consider family, Monson’s walls are vivid reminders of his other career: coaching girls basketball.
“There’s barely a wall in my office,” the KIRO News radio host 97.3 says from noon to 3 p.m. from the city, not far from the Scandinavian neighborhood where he was born and raised, “but it’s more like a scrapbook of my life as a basketball coach than a showcase for my “day job”.
And yet, there are a lot of crossovers between the two for 60-year-old Monson. Both reflect a level of competition that keeps him on top of both games. After 35 years in the industry and a 2-A Washington State Women’s Championship hoops coach, Monson still has fire in her stomach for both passions.
His course was extremely unpredictable.
At the age of 10, Monson wanted to start creating a life very different from the one he had lived until then: rough and tumble.
“I wanted to have a happy home,” said the youngest of three children. “My father was not there. Our phone was cut off. I bathed in cold water. All of these things happen, and the only point of reference you have is your own life.
But Monson was determined to break the proverbial cycle.
“In retrospect, it doesn’t seem so terrible,” he said. “I thought I could change things in the future.”
One of his favorite games as a kid was Sports Illustrated. Featured Baseball Game. An obscure game, of course, a bit cheesy and wonky. But Monson was everywhere.
“It was that dice game,” Monson said. “You could handle players like Brooks Robinson.”
At the time, the game retailed for $9.95, which was no small feat for a kid in the early 70s.
“I convinced my mom to match my $5 when I could get it together,” Monson said.
“It was a fortune. She agreed to match the money.
Unfazed, Monson cut the grass, swept the fairways, whatever he had to do to increase his cash balance for the game. After finally winning her half, her mother kept her word and spat out her $5 match.
“I spent the next five years buried in that game,” Monson recalled. After several moves, he remembers having lost “my original game but found it years later, and had to pay a fortune”.
Board games, he said, were easier on the emotions. Real games broke his heart when he was seven.
“The Seattle pilots have left town,” Monson said. “The trucks were heading north after spring training, and they were diverted to Milwaukee after the sale.”
Some of those nightmares still haunt his sleep.
“I had a real love for the game in the summer of 1969,” Monson said. “I had a fort in the trees and attached an extension cord to the house so I could listen to games. I bought a baseball score book. I learned to count as many games as possible.”
A self-proclaimed nerd, Monson remembers going to his local library to brush up on his baseball skills. His goal: to come up with a plan that would surpass Earl Weaver of the Baltimore Orioles – his favorite team.
After graduating from high school at age 15, Monson went to the University of Washington. “I was working 70 hours a week at two jobs just to pay school fees,” he said. “At 17, my life’s purpose was to manage a warehouse.”
Then he met someone who would change his career trajectory and his life.
“I was working in a warehouse one day and heard an ad for the Ron Bailey School of Broadcasting,” Monson said. “The tuition was almost $3,500 – an impossible amount of money for me at the time.”
But when guest speaker and then KING-TV sports commentator Bill O’Mara met Monson through school, the legendary hydroplane racing caller struck a deal with Monson: “He told me that he would let me be his intern if I went to school and finished my degree,” Monson said. “It was a gentleman’s agreement. But he also said I had to graduate from college to wrap up. the case.
Monson went to UW Seattle for a semester but had to drop out because he couldn’t afford the tuition. Two days later, Monson – who was living at home – heard a car coming down the driveway.
“I don’t know how he knew where I lived, but Bill O’Mara came to the porch and knocked,” Monson explained. “I knew he had no money to pee in, but he peeled off six $100 bills and reminded me of our deal.
“This man had fallen on hard times and was sleeping at his own radio station,” Monson recalled. “I came back and re-registered the next day.”
The Seattle radio talk show veteran credits the start of his radio career to O’Mara. O’Mara was still doing play-by-play in high school until he was 90, and Monson recalled that “Sports Illustrated did a piece on him.
In college, Monson majored in communications and did play-by-play work for the Huskies at the campus station. He knew he could do it because he practiced in his bedroom as a kid.
“I was making my own play-by-play calls with Orioles games when I was seven in the summer of 1972,” he recalled.
Monson then got a job in sports at KING-TV watching ball games and writing timecodes. “I dug and started knocking on train station doors until something happened. I started doing high school recaps on Saturday morning. Then they gave me a chance to do sports in the morning.
These segments were recorded as Monson finished his night shift.
“Then the new TV news director told me I had to quit radio. When I asked why he said he didn’t have to tell me. I guess it was because he had something against the radio side and wanted to stick it to them.
It was then that Monson had to choose. Would it be radio or television?
“I walked in and met our radio news manager Steve Wexler and told him I was thinking of choosing radio over TV. He kind of grimaced and said he wouldn’t do this if he was me,” Monson said. Wexler told him that even though he had only been with the station for a week, he already knew he was going to make some changes and might go in a different direction. In other words, Monson thought he was going to get fired.
Monson called his wife and told her about his dilemma. She assured him that he would make the right decision. “I went to the TV news director and told him I quit,” Monson said. “I had no backup plan.”
The next day he returned to Wexler’s office and said he was quitting work on TV. “Wexler started laughing,” Monson said. “I told him that if he still fired me, it was his decision. But he was fair to me. I asked him to give me 30 more days to see if I was better in his eyes. See if I grew on him. Get coached. I think he liked my common sense because he agreed.
As he no longer had to work the nights on television, he could devote all his time to his radio concert.
“I arrived even earlier and made some substitutions for the main host. I wanted to make myself indispensable.
His wishes came true.
He has held his current position for 27 years and is known to everyone within listening distance. “The last two years have been great,” Monson said. “I have a few friends who are breaking down the ratings, and they’re telling me we’ve been the highest-ranking local news and talk station in the country for the past two years. It’s not a formal study , but these guys know what they are talking about.
From 2010 to 2017, Monson balanced his radio work with his role as head coach of the Shorecrest High School women’s basketball team Shoreline, Washington. “I retired three years ago,” Monson explained.
In 2016, his team won the Washington State 2-A Women’s Basketball Championship and Monson was recognized as the state’s Coach of the Year.
Coaching has long been something close to Monson’s heart. He found it rewarding because he was able to teach life lessons to student-athletes.
“Coaches were so important to me when I was a kid. My wife and I were blessed with three daughters. Only my youngest played basketball all through high school, but the others were active in tennis. My wife too.
Although he didn’t say it was all about fate, Monson believes there is a deliberate force in the universe.
“I don’t think some things that happen in life are accidental,” Monson said. “I’ve only had one class in my entire college career with assigned seating. It was a children’s literature class, and my future wife and I had to sit next to each other.
Today, Monson hosts The Dori Monson Show on KIRO Newsradio, weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. It’s a life he loves. Monson’s daily show is topical. It allows him to share his thoughts, his humor and just be himself.
“Seattle is a very liberal place,” he said. “I think people see me here as someone who can help balance the rest of the media. I have things to discuss that aren’t political. I want to be a companion for people stuck in traffic. Do “Laugh them. I take great pride in that.”
He said he and his team break a lot of news because they have a connection with listeners. “We get a ton of advice from listeners,” Monson said. “They turn out to be good stories for us because listeners have become familiar with our show and what we’re talking about.”
Several years ago, it won him an Edward R. Murrow Award.
Monson said he took advantage of the challenges presented by Covid. “It was a game-changer for me. I started doing my show at home and I still do. I can still interact with my anchor at the studio and my producer.
In the evening, he spends four to five hours preparing for the next day’s show. Monson’s show is the only primetime show that does not have a co-host.
Monson said he would continue this concert as long as he had a functioning voice and brain.
” I like what I do. I worked 40 years to get here. I want people to hear what I have to say for as long as they want.