Dave Popkin is the lead color commentator for Seton Hall University's Men's Basketball Division-one team. The 49-year-old was born and raised in Neptune, New Jersey. He has nearly 30 years experience doing play-by-play for North East Conference (NEC) College Soccer, FOX Sports 1, and has called games for Toronto Blue Jay's AAA-affiliate the Buffalo Bisons for ten years. He has also been one of the main teachers at the "Sports Broadcasting Camp" (formerly Bruce Beck camp) for over 15 years.
Dave Popkin is the lead color commentator for Seton Hall Men’s Basketball on the radio stations AM 970 and Sirius XM. The 49-year-old described himself as a "very loyal person" who has lived in the same house and been married to his wife for over 20 years and who above all likes "constancy." That may be why a reputable college such as Seton Hall has allowed Popkin to represent the University's good name on the radio with play-by-play voice Gary Cohen.
Since the website this article will be published for is based around the New Jersey Sports world, let's go back in time as I describe how David Popkin became a professional broadcaster who calls sports for networks like Fox Sports One and ESPN Plus. It all started in a small town located along the North Jersey Shore.
Growing up on the Jersey Shore
Dave Popkin grew up in the town of Neptune, New Jersey. He described it as a "smaller town" near Belmar, a popular beach-front destination located on the North Jersey shore. Popkin came of age during the late 1970s and early 80s. This was a time, before the Internet, when pre-teen kids bonded with their friends by playing sports like basketball and baseball on sandlots and in parks all over the world. Seton Hall University announcer offered a glimpse into what his childhood was like, in a small town on the North Jersey Shore.
We played outside all the time. That's what kids did," Popkin said. "We would wear the different helmets of the [Major League] baseball teams and whatever season it was, that was the sport we played. It was a great, great way to grow up." - Dave Popkin
Baseball was Dave Popkin's "First love" as a child and collecting sports cards was one of his favorite activities. Organizing pick-up sports games with friends taught him about many facets of life and he looked back on it as a positive early life experience.
I learned a lot about everything. I learned about business, reading, writing, stats and sports history. It was a really good basis for me and I still collect. It’s been a constant of sorts that keeps me connected very much the way that some announcers I know play fantasy sports and it keeps them connected to the sports they cover."
Neptune High School Basketball
Dave Popkin played high school basketball and baseball while he attended Neptune High School. One day at practice, his high school basketball coach, Russ Walling asked him to consider helping the coaching staff as well as being on the team and this is what Coach Walling told him.
‘My basketball coach handed me a video camera and said 'Hey, you'd be of more use to us if you became the video coordinator for the team and helped us scout, basically becoming part of the coaching staff, instead of being the 13th man on the team and only getting in [games] if we're up or down by 30 points. So, I took him up on the offer and started announcing the games into the shot-gun mic on the camera and I would sit [at games] and call the games from the top row of the bleachers.” - Dave Popkin
It is well documented in the history of sports that great athletes had to overcome rejection and other forms of adversity somewhere during their adolescent years, before they became great at their profession, whether that was becoming a pro athlete or a businessman. After all, the greatest Basketball player of all-time, Michael Jordan "missed the cut" from his Varsity High School Basketball team according to Newsweek. Popkin knew that the scouting work would be hard work and its also clear that he loved watching basketball, or else he probably would have quit there.
Eventually, I brought those tapes back to the coaches and they gave me positive feedback [and told me] 'Hey you should do this. Look at schools with good communication programs.’ I did, I looked at all of them and eventually decided on the University of Miami which was an amazing opportunity." - Dave Popkin
The University of Miami
The University of Miami Hurricanes Football program has five National Championships in D-1 NCAA Football. By the time Popkin enrolled at Miami in 1989, they had just burst onto the national sports scene by winning their second NCAA Title under head coach Jimmy Johnson. A young determined
While Dave visiting colleges, he was walking around Miami's Athletic Center, where he almost ran into Jimmy Johnson, the Head Football coach who went on to win two Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys (1992-93) and Brent Musburger a play-by-play announcer for many different sports for CBS during the 1970s and 80s.
"It was the epicenter, the heart of the Notre Dame - Miami rivalry, we ended up winning two, almost three National championships while I was there. I did exactly 200 games while I was there, the baseball team had me throw out the first pitch at my last game and it was an incredible experience. It was cool because the Basketball team was in the BIG EAST [college basketball conference] and I got to fly home during the winter and see my girlfriend and family."
Dave honed his skills as a sportscaster at the University of Miami. He got to cover three sports, Baseball, Football and Basketball for WVUM the Student Radio Station and he also described that it took a lot of hard work and persistence to gain that valuable experience.
"It was exactly what I needed. The games were at a high-level and our radio station was very good and there was competition. Dan LeBatard was there when I was there, Todd Wright was there when I went there [along with] a lot of people who have become local and national pro sportscasters.”
Seton Hall University
Popkin first started calling games for Seton Hall University in 2003. The team was bad then but has been revitalized by Head coach Kevin Willard, who took over in 2010 and has gone 250-149 since 2010. Starting in 2016, Seton Hall have made four straight appearances at the NCAA Tournament.
Dave has been the main color commentator for Seton Hall Men's Basketball for 18 seasons. SNY and WPIX's Gary Cohen does the play-by-play for the Pirates alongside Popkin, his color commentator on AM 970 and SIRIUS XM Radio. It’s a dynamic duo of accomplished professional sportscasters who have been together for nearly two decades. Popkin described what his relationship with Cohen means to him today.
"We have a great friendship and I consider Gary to be one of the best broadcasters, particularly in Baseball and Basketball. People seem to really love our broadcasts and we love doing them."
About eight years ago, Dave and Gary and their broadcasting crew would travel with Seton Hall on road trips from Philadelphia to New York City. Popkin described his experience doing weekly NCAA College Basketball shows for "Four Millennium Stations" on the road in 2013.
“We would travel around to various arenas, sports bars, and studios to do the weekly show,” Popkin, “It was doing Seton Hall and NEC at the same time I hosted the show.”
Popkin has worked hard for SETON Hall. He started out helping develop Seton Hall University’s website, interviewing sponsors, anything that could help the University "get back on the map" after some down years for the Men's Basketball program. Now, that Seton Hall Basketball along with Rutgers is one of New Jersey's best college programs, its important to recognize the coaches and staff who have made that happen.
“Willard and his staff brought in the right kids that fit their system and now its blossoming,” Popkin said, “Our strength is player development, Willard doesn’t have to recruit five-star players to win. Kids want to go where they can win and Isiah Whitehead and Miles Powell are proving that you can win here.”
Seton Hall’s color commentator described where the program is today and why the men’s basketball team is in good hands going forward.
I cherish my relationship with Seton Hall," Popkin said. "When they ask me to do anything extra, I’m happy to do it because I’m part of team and I consider it all part of my duties. Not just showing up and calling the games. - Dave Popkin
The Sports Broadcasting Camp
In addition to calling college sports for major TV and streaming networks like ESPN +, Dave Popkin is a main instructor at the "Sports Broadcasting Camp" along with his friend and colleague, Brooklyn Nets Radio Analyst, Tim Capstraw. They have taken control of the camp after its founder Bruce Beck of NBC 4 New York broadcasting fame, decided to turn it over to Popkin who had worked with him for 14 of his 15 years of involvement.
The Sports Broadcasting Camp was held virutally last July and November and Popkin said that for the most part, the kids enjoyed the July sessions more.
The July campers many who had been to the in-person camp before, said they preferred the online camp. We did a lot of exercises, there was not a lot down time. They could be in their own space and we were able to get announcers [to teach the kids] from across the country.
After many years of working closely with the Sports Broadcasting Camp, Popkin was able to inform me that many ex-campers have gone on to achieve rare feats in the world of professional sports broadcasting. One recent example is Gregg Caserta, a former Bruce Beck and Ian Eagle camp student who filled in for longtime Mets radio announcer, Howie Rose on WCBS 880 AM Radio. Caserta called the play-by-play for the New York Mets on June 4 and 5.
Another former Sports Broadcasting camper who is accomplishing great feats in the industry is Noah Eagle, son of former Camp lead instructor Ian Eagle, the play-by-play voice of the Brooklyn Nets on the YES Network. Eagle junior was hired to be the Play-by-Play announcer for the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers in 2019, when he was just 24-years-old.
Instead of getting guest speakers in New York and New Jersey, we had Jared Greenberg from TNT [studios] in Atlanta, Dave Sims from Seattle and Ben Wagner in Florida, who's a Toronto Blue Jays announcer. It gave us an opportunity to broaden our guests.- Dave Popkin
Before COVID, kids from all over would come to the Yogi Berra Museum in Montclair, New Jersey to hone their skills under the instruction of the best in the business and that has not changed. Now in the Sports Broadcasting Camp's 20th year, Dave Popkin and Brooklyn Nets radio analyst, Tim Capstraw are tasked with continuing the great work that Popkin and the many that have made the Sports Broadcasting Camp what it is today.
We’re going to do it virtually this year and I understand Were going to move it back to in-person in subsequent years and its been a very gratifying thing to be a part of. It's our 20th year and we're all excited about what this year's Sports Broadcasting camp might include." - Dave Popkin