Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski had given hundreds of speeches and thousands of in-game exhortations, but rarely had he faced an audience this accomplished. It made him nervous. On a soggy Thursday afternoon last week at the Sirius-XM studios in New York City, Krzyzewski hosted an offseason broadcast of his hourlong radio show, Basketball and Beyond with Coach K.
Being on the air does not faze Krzyzewski; his guests that day did. On his left sat broadcaster Bob Edwards, a member of the National Radio Hall of Fame. Former Bear Sterns CEO Alan Schwartz sat to Krzyzewski's right. Then, as is often the case in the land of Howard Stern, someone famous walked through the lobby. A quick-thinking Sirius executive shuttled Steven Van Zandt into the studio for an impromptu interview with the Duke coach, a huge Bruce Springsteen fan.
"Steven Van Zandt. Allen Schwartz. And Bob Edwards," Krzyzewski sighed. "It felt like I was back on the Olympic team again. But that's a good thing, to get out of your comfort zone."
Krzyzewski will be 65 at the conclusion of the 2012 London Games, where he will presumably lead the U.S. men's basketball team deep into the tournament. How much interest does he have in broadcasting following his coaching career?
"I would like to do radio," Krzyzewski said. "I don't see myself being courtside at a game. If I am courtside, I might as well still be coaching. I don't know about broadcasting full time, but I love doing this show, and I would always want to do this. I think radio can be a lot more genuine and you're not restricted by time. You can really get in-depth. I think if I did TV, I would really want to do more of a studio thing where you get a chance to talk about stuff."
Last week was one of the few times Krzyzewski did his show without Dave Sims, his cohost and the television play-by-play voice of the Seattle Mariners. "When I first started coaching," Krzyzewski said, "every coach had to have a call-in show. But I hated that format, so I didn't do any radio. Now, for 25 to 30 minutes without interruption, we have a guest who you can learn from."
If Krzyzewski decides to pursue radio or television in the future, he will not lack for suitors. "There would be interest [from us]," said ESPN senior coordinating producer Dan Steir, who oversees men's college basketball production for the network. "How could you not [be interested] in one of the great coaches, educators and speakers of our time? We look for people in the know, who have personality, provide access and discovery, and when Mike Krzyzewski speaks, you learn."
Krzyzewski is by no means a polished radio host, but he was prepared, and engaged his guests with questions that led to an interesting conversation. Edwards and Schwartz discussed the elimination of the middle class and the erosion of trade unions, among other subjects, and Krzyzewski allowed his guests to carry the discussion. His segment with Van Zandt was a standard Q&A, peppered with plenty of praise for Springsteen.
Krzyzewski showed touches of humor, from his take on the newest iPhone ("They have directions even a Polish coach can follow") to wanting to meet Beyonce ("A lot of guys on my Olympic team know Beyonce, but they have never introduced me"). Edwards, who hosts The Bob Edwards Show on Sirius-XM's Public Radio channel, liked what he heard from the coach. "They dropped Steve Van Zandt on him at the last second, and, you know, I thought he did great," Edwards said.
Krzyzewski will decide next month whether to extend his Olympic service. His body language made one think he'd go for it. "I feel younger now and better about coaching than when I took the job," he said.
Krzyzewski said he does not listen to local sports-talk radio, opting instead for Springsteen and Motown while driving his Escalade around Durham. Asked about former coaches he enjoys watching on television, he chooses Doug Collins, Hubie Brown and Bobby Knight, his coaching mentor, who is now on ESPN. "I told him [Knight] his fan base has increased tremendously because he has allowed people to get to know him," Krzyzewski said. "I think he's been fabulous."
"In the National Football League, you're only judged on wins and losses, so my tenure was not good. I mean, it was very poor. And so it's been said, you learn a lot from failures, and I learned a ton. So I can bring that to the table. I view my experience in Detroit as a positive, not in terms of winning and losing but having gone through it. I think that can help in a telecast."
-- New NFL Network analyst Matt Millen, on how his experiences as a general manager will help him as a broadcaster.
"[Virginia Tech men's basketball coach] Seth Greenberg could be the next Jimmy V. He's incredibly witty, sharp, and delivers a great message. The only problem is he has no hair. But he might fit there with [Dick] Vitale."
-- Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl, when asked what college coach could be a breakout star on television. Pearl will serve as an analyst for NBA TV's coverage of the draft Thursday.
Howard Stern: Who is Colin Cowherd?Artie Lange: No idea.Producer Gary Dell'Abatee: This is another ESPN guy. I have no idea who he is.
(Clip of Cowherd talking about Lange, in which the ESPN Radio host compared Lange to Plaxico Burress and called the comic, among other things, "an obese drug user.")
Lange: Could that guy sound like a bigger moron?
-- Members of The Howard Stern Show, listening to a tape of ESPN Radio host Cowherd discussing Lange's appearance on HBO's Joe Buck Live.
NBC Today Show staffer Al Roker has had an excellent two weeks. His interview with Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt (arguably the most insipid couple in America) amplified how low the level of celebrity has fallen in America. Roker was added to the U.S. Open coverage over the weekend and provided detailed, timely and amusing updates of the monsoon hitting Long Island. (Golf analyst Johnny Miller called Roker "Dr. Doom" on Saturday.) When sports networks smartly use trained meteorologists -- NBC had Jim Cantore of the Weather Channel for its NHL Winter Classic -- it's added value for the viewer. And, no, Fox Sports' Jillian Reynolds does not fall in this category.
• I was backstage for Joe Buck Live and can vouch that HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg was troubled by what he saw on stage. I don't believe Greenburg wanted Lange to hijack the show in the manner he did, especially given how limply Buck reacted to the comic's verbal assault. But "banning" Lange from HBO Sports is about as silly as Jimmy Kimmel's short-lived ban from Monday Night Football. (Somehow, we imagine Lange will be able to pay his rent.) The smart television play, from this seat and others, would be to invite Lange back for Buck's second show, which is scheduled for September. It would be guaranteed appointment viewing, and give Buck the opportunity to stretch his talk-show wings with a potentially combative guest. Mostly, it would be interesting television, which is what HBO pledges to viewers.
• Sirius-XM sports host Scott Ferrall's passion for hockey (and his beloved Penguins) is genuine, and it's great that Ferrall focuses attention on a sport that fails to get much traction among national sports-talk radio. Trash-talking Red Wings fans makes for amusing radio, but Ferrall took his victory rant to an awful place by spewing out the following: "How's that taste, Detroit? How's your unemployment rate? F--- you." Perhaps the moment got the better of him, but as someone who drove through Detroit often this year, there's nothing funny about the for-sale signs and foreclosure notices that dot the city's landscape. Detroit's unemployment rate is 23 percent.
Full marks for this well-reported Outside the Linesfeature and accompanying narrative piece on Aaron Stewart, the 20-year-old son of the late golfer Payne Stewart, who died in a 1999 plane crash four months after winning the U.S. Open. The names to know: writer Elizabeth Merrill, producer Lisa Fenn and reporters Tom Rinaldi and Bob Harig.
"Journalists - consider changing your Twitter location to Tehran and your time zone to GMT +3:30 to foil Iranian govt, aid Iranian tweeters."-- ESPN Outside The Lines host Bob Ley, June 16, 8:40 p.m.
"Today is a sad day...Kevin McHale will NOT be back as head coach next season."-- Timberwolves forward Kevin Love, accidental newsman, June 17, 12:50 a.m.
"P.S. I am not a breaking news guy...I had no idea no one knew..I'll tell them I stayed at a holiday inn express last night. Always works...."-- Love, June 17, 2:15 a.m.
"Awfully kind of Fox to read stats from my story on [David] Wright without citing where they got them. Good stuff."-- New York Times sports reporter Ben Shpigel, unhappy with Fox Sports, June 20, 4:36 p.m.
There is no Tiger Woods effect in tennis, no single player who can dramatically affect U.S. television ratings merely by his or her appearance. Venus and Serena Williams probably draw the closest parallel to Woods. For instance, ESPN's highest-rated telecast during the first week of the French Open was a doubles match featuring the Williams sisters. Its highest-rated telecast was the men's and women's quarterfinals on June 3, featuring Serena and Roger Federer. Last year's Wimbledon final on NBC between the Williams sisters drew the highest rating for a women's final since Venus beat Lindsay Davenport in 2005. Good things also happen when Federer plays Rafael Nadal. Last year's epic Wimbledon championship match on NBC drew a 4.6 overnight rating in the States, the best rating in eight years. ESPN2's 15 telecasts averaged an 0.6 (same as 2007) but with a nine percent increase in average viewers.In the spirit of peace, harmony and splitting costs, ESPN and NBC will share the coverage from the All England Club over the next two weeks. ESPN2 will air (in HD) nearly 100 hours of tennis, including one of the men's and women's semifinals, while ESPN360.com will have 650 hours of live broadband. NBC will air coverage during the first weekend as well as the men's and women's finals. The year also marks the debut of a roof for Centre Court (which means no rain delays for the semis or finals).
Of course, the biggest TV story at Wimbledon comes on the other side of the Atlantic, with Andy Murray attempting to become the first British man since 1936 to win Wimbledon. With Nadal out of the tournament, the third-seeded Murray has the best chance of any homeboy in decades.
"The Murray story will be huge -- primetime BBC1 TV coverage with huge audiences," said the BBC's John Cary, who edits the company's Radio 5 Live broadcast. "The nation was gripped last year by Nadal and Federer fighting it out as darkness fell on Centre Court, but a Murray final would be way, way bigger. People think he's a winner, where they always knew in their hearts that Tim Henman was a plucky Brit destined to fall agonizingly short. But he won't have the whole country behind him. He's still not entirely been forgiven for once saying that he'd support anyone playing against England at football. He insists he was just a young Scot having a joke, but it gets dragged up each summer."
Last year's Wimbledon epic between Nadal and Federer saw ratings in England peak at 12.7 million viewers. So who will American television executives be rooting for come the final weekend? Easy. Federer against Murray (and the hopes of a woebegone tennis nation), along with a Williams-Williams women's final.