Magazine Feature / People

Denver sportscaster Thierry Smith was serious about sports

Longtime Denver radio sportscaster Thierry Smith (BA psychology and speech communication ’75) was as dedicated as a journalist could be, colleagues say.

And his dedication and passion for sports and journalism didn’t cease during his debilitating battle with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Smith finally lost that battle Aug. 24. He was 56.

“He set the tone of how to get it right in Denver,” Tim Spence, KKFN program director, says of his friend’s journalistic integrity.

Since the 1980s, Smith was a fixture on sports radio talk shows and spent most of his time working for KYBG and later KKFN. He left KKFN at the beginning of 2009.

“[He] loved being behind the microphone, loved talking sports, loved being a fan in addition to reporting on the game,” Spence says. He says Smith had a “warrior aspect” to him and didn’t let his disease deter him from what he wanted to do.

Smith used a wheelchair since 1991.

“It is truly amazing as to what this man accomplished but what he had to go through in order to accomplish that,” Spence says. “I wish I had that kind of same passion.”

Smith was born Jan. 1, 1953 in Paris. His father, Lauren (BSBA ’69), was a Denver native who studied in Switzerland after serving in Europe during World War II. He met Thierry’s mother, May, a Swiss translator, and the couple moved to Denver in 1955. May was a librarian at the University of Denver before retiring. She died in 2006.

“I taught him how to play tennis when he was little and some football,” Lauren Smith says. “He loved everything to do with sports.”

The father and son attended the high school state championship basketball game each year for 30 years. “He was a likeable, personable, very social person,” Lauren Smith says.

Thierry Smith attended East High School in Denver, where back problems sidelined his basketball aspirations and forced him into the roles of team trainer and equipment manager. During his senior year, Smith was seriously injured in a car accident. A few years later, he was diagnosed with MS.

In 1981, Smith was offered the job of sports director at KDKO, the now-defunct black-owned station. For years, Smith was the only African-American voice in sports radio.

His on-air personality was entertaining, but his voice was often slower and calmer than others in the market. “He was different than typical broadcasters,” Spence says. “He did feel a need and a desire to entertain … to give a story at hand. He had a great sense of humor that endeared many of his listeners.”

Smith put a great deal of focus on Colorado high school sports and was a part of the Denver Post panel that awarded a weekly prep football coaching award.

“Saying that he will be missed is an understatement of the year,” Spence says. “There’s not one person in this town who cannot say that he didn’t touch their lives.”

In addition to his father, Smith is survived by his wife, Diana, daughter Dasha and son Damon.

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