There was an empty seat on press row Friday night at the Delta Center, in honor of longtime Salt

Lake sportscaster Bill Howard. Howard, 68, passed away Friday afternoon at his home in Holladay. He had been suffering from cancer.A moment of silence was held in Howard's behalf prior to tipoff of the Jazz-Sacramento game.

Howard came to Salt Lake City in 1965 to work for KUTV-TV. His comfortable voice captured the imagination of pro basketball fans in the 70s, when he called Utah Stars games from 1970 to 1976. He also did stints at KALL radio, announced University of Utah basketball, and spent one year as the play-by-play man for the San Diego Rockets and appeared briefly as an announcer for the Denver Nuggets.

Howard returned to KUTV from 1976 through 1980, then worked part-time for KUTV until he retired in 1990.

"During my years in the ABA, he was the play-by-play announcer," said Jazz color announcer Ron Boone. "When you think of Bill in the later years, you know he was the same person throughout his career. He never changed."

Howard was widely respected in the journalism profession and was named Utah Sportscaster of the Year several times.

"Your first thought of Bill is, `Boy, such a nice person.' " continued Boone. "Then you think back to his profession and what a great announcer he was. His delivery was crisp and he came to you and you could understand what was going on. He was so knowledgeable."

Boone said Howard had a phenomenal memory and could recall dates, games and moments "as though they happened yesterday."

An Oak Park, Ill., native, Howard attended Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. His career began in 1950, when he landed a job with WJPG radio in Green Bay. From there he moved to WFRV-TV in Green Bay, where he worked from 1961 until moving to Salt Lake in 1965.

Said Boone, "The way he delivered basketball to you was just easy listening. He understood what was going on."

Howard is survived by his wife Helen, daughters Anne and Kathleen, and son Bill.

A funeral mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Cathedral of the Madeleine, 331 E. South Temple. Vigil service will be held at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Neil O'Donnell & Sons Mortuary, where friends may call Monday from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Burial will be at Arlington National Cemetery, Washington, D.C.