Gracing television screens and radio waves for just shy of two decades, Spokane’s Keith Osso walked into his internship at KXLY in 2002 sporting a tidy head of hair and a clean-shaven face, thanks to his dad’s direction.
“My dad said, ‘You can’t go to work like that,’ ” referencing his previously unkempt appearance.
At the time, Osso didn’t see the point, thinking all he needed to do was work hard and the job would be his. But as usual, as Osso said, “The old man was right again.”
Bryan Osso died in December, ripping open a void in the Osso family.
He was the patriarch, the guy who kept the family together. He was always present at sporting events, recitals, birthdays, weddings.
His father’s death changed Osso’s perspective.
“When I noticed the fact that I hadn’t been around as much as I wanted to be – and now that he’s not going to be around – I just knew it was time to find something that would be more advantageous to my family,” he said.
Leaving KXLY was a difficult decision for Osso. He loved his job, his media friends and his time spent covering sports. But eventually the grueling sports calendar – especially in a sports-saturated town like Spokane – forced him to step away from the only career he has known.
“When my dad died, everything changed for me,” Osso said. “And I really had to take a look at where my life is and where I wanted it to be, and I think this is a much better route for me for the next 20 years.”
No more 2 p.m. to midnight shifts or unplanned weekends that didn’t allow Osso to experience normal, consistent life with his family, which often took a backseat to his impassioned career.
“If it weren’t for the hours, I wouldn’t have left,” he said. “(KXLY) treated me great.”
Osso found himself looking into a career change. His aunt approached him with an opportunity to teach at NEWTech (formerly the Spokane Skills Center), a Spokane regional career and technical education partnership serving Spokane-area high school juniors and seniors.
Osso said he found it to be an instant match to his aspirations, allowing him to continue to foster growth, open channels of creativity and have more family time.
“I wanted more work-life balance,” Osso said. “I wanted something that allowed me to be creative and I wanted something, too, that allowed me to be a positive influence.”
Osso was announced July 22 on NEWTech’s Facebook page as the animation and special effects instructor as well as the head coach of the esports team.
It has been a natural transition for Osso, who had spent the past eight-plus years as the sports director at KXLY, helping mold the next generation of reporters.
“I think that having a desire to help kids and help people get better, that was one of the best parts about the job I had,” he said. “When we hired people for the sports department, we were hiring pretty green for the most part. To watch them and teach then and watch them develop and get better was something I really learned to enjoy.”
It took years, however, for Osso to learn how to lead.
Osso grew up playing sports, including his time at East Valley High. He learned the high of winning and the crushing feel of defeat, with an intense desire to focus on his personal successes.
He wanted people to grow because he wanted to win. He didn’t celebrate their improvement, he celebrated how many wins he and the team racked up.
“I was pretty selfish from a leadership standpoint,” he said. “I had to really learn how to celebrate other people’s victories, and it’s so much more satisfying now. It is pretty cool to see other people flourish.”
Osso will have 60 students seeking his leadership and knowledge. Watching them succeed and watching their victories will drive him to get better, he said.
He said he will also enjoy crafting unique lesson plans, helping his students get better, faster.
Instead of designing plays for his team, it’ll be assignments and structures for his classes. Instead of touchdowns and winning 3-pointers, it’ll be awarding good grades on projects.
“And then when a light bulb goes on, it’s pretty satisfying,” he said.
NEWTech has already proved to be a successful start for students looking to get into producing. Osso said the school has been a sort of pipeline for KXLY, supplying some of its best production staff.
He has seen the results of the program. Now it’s up to him to guide students toward their end goals, whether it’s producing or something else in animation or special effects .
Osso said animation isn’t his strong suit, so he will need some extra studying to learn the intricacies of the subject. Thankfully, his position as the head coach of the esports team doesn’t require too much grueling homework.
Osso has played video games since the Nintendo Entertainment System released in 1983 and has picked up other consoles along the way. He sports a PlayStation 5.
A large portion of his time spent on the controls went toward Madden, MLB: The Show, PGA Tour golf games and some first-person shooters.
Now, he has to learn how to play the games that are organized with the help of the Washington State Interscholastic Activities Association. These include Overwatch and Valorant, which are new to Osso, and Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros., among others.
Learning to play those games on a PC with a mouse and keyboard will be an adjustment for Osso, a longtime PlayStation owner.
But his background in classic organized sports sets him up well for this team of technology-adept high school kids.
“I’m just excited to get in there and see what this team atmosphere is about – strategize, have a game plan and see if we can execute that,” he said. “Esports is new to some of us, but it really is going to be cool to see how they develop together.”
Colleges are starting to offer scholarships for esports, realizing the massive market that has recently been tapped.
“I think it’s really cool and I think it gives a pretty good opportunity for these kids to still have that team environment, still be part of something, even if they can’t throw a ball really hard,” he said. “Everyone plays video games to some extent; there’s an app on your phone or a Nintendo for me when I was a kid.”
Osso said he will fondly remember his time in sports reporting, as it has been his entire professional life.
He specifically mentioned the radio show with Dennis Patchin and Rick Lukens that ran for nine years on 700 ESPN with Osso as the third member of the team.
Their voices boomed through radios at 3 p.m. every weekday. Listeners never knew what would come through their speakers – in the best way possible.
“That was a kick, I tell you what, the radio was the best,” Osso said. “We were never short of opinions. It was the most fun of my life.”
While that gig was aside from his normal duties at KXLY, it still was a shock when his time on radio came to end. Even with radio out of the picture, he still had his normal sports reporter job on which to fall back – until he made the decision to sign off from KXLY for the final time.
“It was an honor to be able to do what I do,” Osso said. “My parents got to watch me on TV every day. Not a lot of people get an opportunity to have a job like I did, let alone have that opportunity where they grew up. But this community has always been my home and I’m just so thankful that I got to do that for as long as I did. And nothing but positive memories now that I move on to the next chapter.”
The day he announced he was leaving KXLY, notes of gratitude greeted Osso from viewers, co-workers, former co-workers and other media members from the region who had crossed paths with him.
“It was humbling. Everybody should have a day like that,” he said. “I didn’t deserve it, I just didn’t, but it was so personal for me. Everything I do, I put my heart into it.”
Osso said people often don’t allow their emotions to be felt until after the fact. From retirements to job changes to even death, things are left unsaid until the finality of situations.
Osso finished his thoughts on his time at KXLY with another remembrance of his dad, the one who sculpted him and has continued to alter his course after he was gone.
“I felt like it was part of my dad’s legacy,” Osso said. “The biggest comfort our family had is that we didn’t leave anything unsaid with him and he didn’t leave anything unsaid with us. We knew where he stood. We understood that we all loved each other. We knew that, and it’s something I tried to do with my personal life.”
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