It was a path paved with twists and turns, sorrow and delight, but in some cosmic-influenced force majeure, Brian Rees found his Camelot in the form of a microphone.
Many may know Rees as the smiling, gregarious guy behind the public-address microphone at University of Saint Mary basketball, and now wrestling, events as well as being seen everywhere calling out the names of Lansing High athletes and moments in playing arenas, but how he got there is a story that deserves a PA shout out.
Rees, born in Leavenworth, lived in the area all his life other than one year with his father Michael in Colorado, and has spent his years toiling in many endeavors, including the family business he moved into after leaving college.
Working at the Dairy Queen in Lansing after his father bought the franchise, Rees helped run the business for 10 years.
However, just short of retirement and living out his dreams for his golden age, Michael passed away in 1997 of brain cancer at the young age of 47, two years after Brian married the eventual Lisa Rees,
“My dad’s whole deal of wanting to run the Dairy Queen after he retired (from his job at Hallmark Cards) and could play golf anytime he wanted to, just came to a crashing halt,” Brian said. “Lisa was going to KU at the time and we were paying for (school) and I was working at Dairy Queen. When dad passed away, everything was like we didn’t want to do the Dairy Queen anymore.”
So, in 2001, they sold the business and the young couple had to make some decisions. Brian worked at a radio station trying to sell air time for 101 and worked the Kansas City Southern railroad for five years.
“I had my children and that took me away from my family, I was gone all the time,” Brian said. “So, I decided to come back home and worked construction with a friend for a while. My wife got her real estate license. I wanted to make sure I was with her for safety reasons, so I got my real estate license. Then the whole real estate thing took off.”
On top of all that, he spent 20 years volunteering as a head coach for youth wrestling in Lansing and is currently the president of Lion Elite youth wrestling club in Lansing. He also volunteered two years with the Lansing Education Foundation.
During all that came his evolution to becoming the voice of Lansing High School.
It all stated when the school – his alma mater – was needing someone to fill in at a wrestling meet and then things began to grow from there.
“I asked Brian if he wanted to announce the Kaw Valley League wrestling tournament that Lansing was hosting in the 07-08 school year,” Lansing High athletic director Gary Mattingly said. “Brian had been an assistant wrestling coach for me in the past and I knew that this was his sport.
“During the tournament, he was doing an awesome job and his voice was perfect for being an announcer. I asked him on that day that if I had an opening, he should be the voice of the Lions in all sports. He said that he would do it and I responded that I was being serious and he said he was also.”
Rees, who wrestled for two years at Labette Community College, felt that Mattingly knew something was brewing.
“I don’t know if he knew something coming down the pipe, but he asked me two weeks after the KVL tournament if I would be the voice of the Lions,” Rees said. “He asked if I would be willing to take it over. I thought about it for about a week and decided to jump in on it.”
“It just happened that I went to visit the person who announced my football games the fall of ‘08, and he told me that he was ready to hang it up,” Mattingly said. “I called Brian as I was driving back to the high school and offered him to announce all sports for Lansing and be the voice of the Lions. He agreed, and 10 years later he is still going strong.
“Brian does an awesome job bringing excitement to the games for Lansing while installing a sense of sportsmanship for both teams during the games. When he decides to hang it up, he will be irreplaceable.”
The Lansing job has brought him closer to his daughters Briele and Bailey in that he can not only watch them compete in sports, but he can say their names proudly and loudly without other parents thinking he’s showboating.
Especially when it’s his job.
Then of course even when they weren’t performing in softball or running for the cross country or track teams, the Rees girls could just take in his presence when they’d go to other sporting events – anything from basketball, wrestling, and baseball for the high school.
“I loved hearing my dad's voice at every game I went to when I was in high school,” current Baker University freshman Briele Rees said. “I remember always making my way up to the press box when it got too cold in the stands. There would always be a heater on up there and I could watch the game without freezing to death. My dad made everything so special and so much fun.
“During my softball season, he would announce our names before we went up to bat, play music in between innings, and he even gave us walk-up songs. He puts his whole heart into it and really cares about what he does. My four years at Lansing wouldn't have been the same if he wasn't the voice of the Lions.”
Then of course, he would later become the PA guy for Spires’ basketball games, but only by chance.
Rees happened to attend a USM women’s game and watched an exciting, buzzer-beating win for the hometown team and was impressed with the level of intensity the game displayed.
“I didn’t think it would be that exciting to watch girls’ NAIA basketball, but it was a blast,” Rees said. “I just said I’d like to do something like this if something came up.”
He spoke to the USM women’s basketball coach, and current Lansing High baseball coach, Michael Basler.
“I had known Brian for some time as our daughters had grown up playing youth sports together when I was at University of Saint Mary,” Basler said. “As a college basketball coach I had recruited at Lansing High School several times to watch various athletes while Brian had been their announcer and was really drawn to the energy and passion he had for the kids and the game. I️ was also impressed with the energy he was providing within the building.
“So, I sat in down with Brian and had a conversation and asked if he be interested in announcing our women’s basketball tournament at the University of Saint Mary and potentially more games. From there I think it just blossomed into a good fit for Brian, something that he enjoyed and we obviously really enjoyed having him be our announcer. He brought his passion and energy to the Ryan Sports Center and that provide more energy to the games there. Brian was a great addition to the University of Saint Mary, he then had the opportunity to start doing more and more events from there and has blossomed in that role.”
Starting in 2008, for the first five years, Rees volunteered his time to the USM cause before reciprocity between the two grew the relationship to one of equal advantages.
“We support them and give money to Saint Mary and they do a lot for Lisa (real estate-wise),” Rees said. “Anyone coming into Saint Mary, they will push to us.”
But why does he do all of this?
“I have always liked sports, I came to pretty much all Lansing games anyway, so it just kind of fit,” Rees said. “People said I had a pretty decent voice for announcing. I like to do it and show people how announcing should be. You shouldn’t be a factor in the game for the home team. Do I get excited for the home team? Absolutely, but I don’t neglect the visiting team. I try to stay neutral. I can do a little flair for the home team and at Saint Mary it is OK, but the high school should be neutral.
“For softball, the state of Kansas doesn’t allow walk-up songs and I knew that going in. But the reason why is that the home team announcers will only do that for the home team. So I was like, I will go around the rules, and I play them for both teams.”
He also takes the enunciation of names seriously to keep the game moving smoothly and “if you don’t take the time to know how the visiting team’s names are pronounced, it shows an unprofessional lack of respect. Some announcers will mispronounce the names on purpose.”
He has even done local club lacrosse and professional MMA matches, while filling in for basketball games on 810 Varsity.
The neatest job he says he had was covering a tournament-style MMA event where he witnessed one fighter advance all the way to the semifinals with a broken arm.
“He was trying to win the $10,000, so he had to try it, but he couldn’t go on,” Rees said. “He didn’t finish, but he was out there. It was amazing. Lights. Smoke.”
Where Brian’s father was unable to live out his later dreams in life, the son has discovered his own and has thrived in doing so. But, when asked what his father would think of him now, in this role as the voice of two schools’ athletic departments and achieving so much respect, it was too hard for Brian to answer:
“That’s tough,” Brian answered emotionally. “He would enjoy it. He’d probably sit by me. We were close. We were tight. That’s a tough question. Anything I did he was involved with.”
Some of the women in his life know the answer as well.
“Brian's dad was an amazing man and incredibly supportive,” Lisa Rees said. “He would have loved to listen to Brian announce, I know that for sure. Brian and I were talking about his dad and Saint Mary games just the other day. There are usually a couple spots next to Brian alongside the court each game and we talked about how his dad would probably be sitting right next to him every chance he got. I know he would enjoy every moment he could be with Brian and any of his events just because he loved hanging out with him and supported him so much.”
Marlene Rees, Brian’s mother, also had her own take.
“Mike, was always 100 percent supportive of everything his son and daughter were involved in,” Brian’s mother said. “He himself was very competitive in various sports as an adult. He would be excited and proud of the personal dedication Brian puts into announcing, no matter what sport or what school. His dad would still be at every event if he was still here today, lending assistance if needed.”
Brian Rees doesn’t see himself doing this as an older gentleman as the 48-year-old sees his future doing something else, but…
“I possibly could, I question myself every day,” he said. “My kids are getting older and Briele is involved in college softball. Do I want to be more of a part-time person when they need me or just give them the dates and say, ‘This is when I can’t do it?’ It’s getting more and more tough. I can see myself doing Lansing for a while. It’s my hometown. They are starting a new league and I am excited about that. I want to see what that looks like announcing, you know?”