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By Stevie Watson
Point Park News Service
Growing up in Beverly Hills, ROOT Sports personality Dan Potash’s life did not compare to an episode of 90210. An only child to divorced parents, Potash lived in a humble apartment, eating frozen dinners and working an after school job. Though he had good friends, but he knew he was different and did not fit in with the chaos of Los Angeles. The high energy sports fanatic eventually found himself on the east coast and feeling more in tune with his surroundings in blue collar towns in West Virginia, South Carolina, and finally Pittsburgh.
The 42-year-old dedicated Penguins and Pirates reporter immerses himself in the lifestyle of traveling with two notorious sports franchises, becoming a household name to the City of Champions’ dedicated sports fans. The accomplished reporter is slowing down a bit though and finding more time to relax and appreciate what life has to offer outside of his career.
Southern California Living
“I didn’t have a silver spoon in my mouth,” Potash said of the stereotype that typically befalls residents of Beverly Hills. Surrounded by the glamour and red carpets of Hollywood, he lived in a modest apartment with his mother following his parents’ divorce.
Determined to keep her son in the renowned school district, his mother worked as a collections agent for a department store. “I know how hard she worked to keep things going for me and for her.” He is reminded of his reserved upbringing each time he visits home, as his mother lives in the same apartment they moved into in 1976 to this day.
Potash knew he was different from his peers. He did not have expensive cars that his friends had or live in a vast, Beverly Hills mansion. His lost contact with his father after he remarried, but sports helped keep him out of trouble. “For the most part I think as a single kid I did okay.”
The sports fanatic described himself as an above average football player, but not talented enough to play beyond high school. He instead took advantage of his school’s television studio. The opportunity to emulate Chris Berman while performing mock sportscasts at school reeled him in. Once he got behind a microphone, his life path was clear: he was going to be a sportscaster.
Potash had a relentless passion for sports broadcasting. After attending Santa Monica Junior College for two years, he went on to California State Northridge to finish out his degree in journalism and communications. Internships and mentors fueled his thirst for reporting more than the classroom setting.
“I always felt I learned more from my internships…Maybe school didn’t give me that same kind of fire.” Seeking out mentors during his internships and into each job to helped enhance his professional development.
Glenn Walker acted as a mentor to the aspiring reporter while interning at Prime Sports in Los Angeles.
Here in Pittsburgh, Stan Savran of ROOT Sports is someone that Potash turns to for professional and personal advice.
His biggest influence though, is Bob Costas at NBC Sports. Though Potash has yet to meet the veteran reporter, he utilized a personal connection as a good luck charm of sorts throughout college.
“I had to be a sportscaster because I had the same birthday as Bob Costas,” he said. “It’s stupid, I know.” Stupid or not, the personal link to Costas gave Potash hope that one day his career would take off.
He carried a tradition calling Costas’s St. Louis office every year on March 22. He’d speak with Costas’s assistant. “Hey, it’s Danny Potash in California just wishing you know who a happy birthday.” It became a running joke, but he ceased the yearly call when he landed his first sports casting job at age 25 in Clarksburg, West Virginia.
He did almost meet Costas once. They were covering the same event, but Potash claims the situation wasn’t ideal to introduce himself and share the story of his yearly phone call.
Building Success in Pittsburgh
After five years working in small market sports casting, the ambitious young reporter found himself in 2000 at the station now known as ROOT Sports in a large market. The personality became a household name to Penguin and Pirate fans familiar with his on-air antics and good humor.
The self-professed “jokester” likes to push the envelope with his reporting. “I think it comes off in the interviews with the Penguins- I’m thrilled that it does,” he said. “But what you see with me is it all revolves around having fun.”
Whether it is growing a playoff beard or a mustache for solidarity for Men’s Health Month in November (“Movember”), his schtick of being an all-around good guy and a bit of a goof is perfectly executed and helps him bring out the personalities in the athletes he interviews.
“Whether it’s Pascal Dupuis saying ‘Thanks Daaaaaan’, bloopers from the Dan and Dan Show, it shows personality,” he explained. “You can’t tell a story unless you have personality.”
In addition to keeping players on their toes during interviews, he enjoys including his director in the mix.
“I’ll look away and put eye black on and I’ll turn back on camera and they’re like ‘what the hell are you doing?’ and I’m just like, stay with me.” But according to the plucky reporter, they normally admit that what he did worked for the clip.
Potash just celebrated his 12 year anniversary with the station on October 18 and isn’t looking to leave any time soon. “If it was just a great sports town and I didn’t like living here, I wouldn’t stay. Maybe that’s just my heart speaking more than anything else.”
On Air and the Air
While traveling around the country with two high profile sports teams has its drawbacks, it is not without its benefits. Potash believes being with the teams 24/7 is the “next best thing” to being an athlete but he knows that discretion is key in keeping his job.
“I don’t see everything I really see, I don’t know everything I really know,” he said sternly. “Being on that plane, being in the team hotel is a privilege I would never want to break.”
The privilege of being a fly on the wall during victories with teams ranks high as a perk. Traveling with the Penguins during their Stanley Cup run in 2009 gave Potash access to a celebration that he along with the team, wished would never end. “The flight back from Detroit after Game Seven when the Penguins won it and sitting there and watching them pass the cup around, that’s pretty cool.”
The photo with Mario Lemieux holding the cup on the ice of Joe Louis Arena in the midst of celebrating sitting next to his computer at his work station reminds Potash his job rewards. “We made eye contact and I kind of motioned and he winked and nodded…when is this ever going to happen again?”
Potash may be known for his big personality, but the players he associates with aren’t shy and return the favor.
He explained that the Penguins fly out of a private airport where they park right on the tarmac. A player whom will remain anonymous told him to move his car when he pulled in next to him.
“What do you mean I have to move?” he asked.
The player responded that the last time Potash parked next to him before an away game he played a poor game.
“I said ‘you’re out of your mind, you’re not putting that on me… he actually pulled out and moved down like 50 feet…he ended up playing a good game.”
This past summer, Andrew McCutchen refused to give him an interview prior to a game because the time before, he performed poorly during the game. This time though, Potash had the last laugh as Cutch went 1-4 at bat that day. He knew he couldn’t be refused an interview next time around.
After 12 years reporting in the Steel City, Potash claims that if his career ended tomorrow he would look back with pride and be okay.
Well, there is one regret. “The only thing I haven’t done that I’m still mad about is that I’ve never gone to the Superbowl,” he said through gritted teeth and slammed his fist on the table. In 2001, he was supposed to go with the Steelers, but the team was beat by the Patriots for the chance to try for the title again.
The eager reporter was already packed and ready for the trip to New Orleans. Had the Steelers beat the Pats, the then Fox Sports media would have left for New Orleans that weekend to begin setting up shop for the big game. “Do you know how much it sucks to go home and unpack clean clothes?” He admits that experiencing the Penguins championship makes up for the unfortunate end to that Steeler season.
The NHL lockout is at a stalemate, toning down Potash’s travel schedule. These days, he is finding peace and solace at home when he isn’t on the road now that he has someone to share a home with.
In August, on a Caribbean vacation, Potash proposed to his girlfriend of six years, Heidi. “I threw her a curve, she never saw it coming,” he said proudly of his proposal. They are planning a destination wedding on the west coast for as soon as April of next year.
His bachelor days behind him, Heidi has helped him learn to enjoy cooking at home, relaxing nights in, and weekends doing small home repairs. He is also finding a better work-life balance, as opposed to working around the clock like he did in his younger years.
“If I have a day off and a friend calls and says ‘Hey, let’s go to a Pirate game’ my answer is usually ‘no,’” he said of extracurricular activities. “It’s nice to have a break with her [Heidi] where it’s not sports here [work] and sports at home.”
He spoke of his home in Cranberry and the shock his friends experience visiting. Many of his friends, and even his mother, hold an antiquated view of Pittsburgh as a dirty, steel town from the 1970s. “They’ll see deer walking through our back yard and they’ll say ‘you’ve gotta be kidding me. If someone’s walking through your yard in Los Angeles it’s usually a burglar’”
Potash has not been robbed of material possessions in Pittsburgh, but one thing is for certain: Pittsburgh has stolen his heart. With the success of his career and someone he loves to come home to each day, he has enjoying life and ready for whatever comes next.
“One of the nicest compliments I could get is ‘You’re a Pittsburgher,’” Potash said fondly of his relationship with the city. “I feel very fortunate that I’ve found a place to call home.”