Cal Basketball: Never a Dull Moment Calling a Game with Bill Walton
The greatest challenge of Roxy Bernstein’s broadcasting career is also perhaps his greatest joy.
“I never know what to expect going into a game,” Bernstein says of the more than 100 college basketball games he’s called in recent years with analyst Bill Walton.
With other broadcast partners, Roxy says they meet with the network producer early in the day to discuss possible storylines. That does not happen with Walton.
“There is no mapped-out game plan,” says Bernstein, a 48-year-old Cal grad. “Really, our first conversation of the day is the same one you’re seeing at home.”
Roxy and the producer will strategize ahead of time, and the game itself often dictates the direction the broadcast will go.
But the inevitable emergence of “eccentric Bill” is the X-factor.
“There’s a certain 6-foot-11 former redhead who has a significant impact on where we’re going with the broadcast,” Roxy says.
Suddenly, during a fastbreak, Walton will be talking about the 47 bridges in Portland, and some viewers will be inclined to mute the broadcast. It’s all by design, Bernstein insists.
“He is as smart as anybody I’ve ever been around. He knows exactly what he’ doing. He’s exciting a reaction from you at home. . . . He’s accomplishing exactly what he’s setting out to do.”
Roxy clearly loves Walton.
“Nobody enjoys life and where they’re at more than Bill,” he says. Because of that, the experience is always fun.
Bernstein says he’s learned ways to reel in Walton when the game demands basketball talk. He recalls a night at Eugene four years ago when UCLA and Oregon staged a terrific game, and Walton was on point all night.
When it matters, Roxy says, “You see the genius of Bill Walton as a basketball analyst.”
Asked if he thinks younger viewers have no concept about how good a player Walton was while three times being named NCAA Player of the Year at UCLA, Roxy doesn’t hesitate.
“There’s no question that exists,” he says. “Even some of the players today probably don’t know. They know he was player . . . but (not) how good he was.”
Roxy gets to see the private side of Walton as well. They often have dinner together after games and the two have become friendly. When Father’s Day arrived last month, Bernstein’s wife arranged for Walton to contribute a special gift.
The signed jersey shown below comes with a Walton-esque message: “Thank you, Roxy, for my life.”
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo
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