(Jim Nantz – Photos by Jason Schott – NY Sports Day)
Jim Nantz will be the lead announcer for CBS and Turner Sports’ coverage of the NCAA Tournament.
One difference this year is that the Championship Game will be on TBS for the first time, and Nantz said of that “It’s truly not going to feel any differently to me. I feel so honored that it means so much to David Levey (president of Turner Broadcasting) and that I am going to be there to help document that championship game that they have longed for and we’re going to give them a hell of a broadcast.
“This is not foreign to us. This partnership’s (CBS and Turner Sports) been together for five years, this is our sixth year. How many games have I called on Tru or TNT or TBS, the last three years I’ve called the national semifinals on TBS, and to me, it’s all one. We’re all one. So, good for them, it’s going to be a special day for them to be able to crown a champion. It’s truly, for me, it’s an honor to give them a great broadcast, and I know that Raft (Bill Raftery) and Grant (Hill) and it all starts with Sean (McManus, president of CBS Sports).”
The Final Four is in Nantz’s hometown of Houston this year, and he said he is bringing his family, including his newborn baby boy.
“We’re gonna bring Jameson, it’s time he sees a basketball game, he’ll be two months old, so it’s time,” said Nantz.
Nantz said of any special events he will be hosting while in Houston, “I have a couple of fundraising events, one tied to my university (the University of Houston), another tied to my research center for Alzheimer’s, the Nantz Center. There’s so much to do just in terms of getting ready for the games. I always host, and have for 25 years, the opening ceremony, which will be on Thursday night. Friday, I delve into the four practices of the teams. It’s good, I’ve got a lot of family there, have to figure out little windows to see them, my mom’s there, my sister and her family are there, it’s all good.”
Nantz gave this thoughts on Super Bowl 50, “It was not the most compelling game, it was a great defensive game. For us that get to document these games, you’re looking for big, magnificent plays. We had three touchdowns in the game – one covered zero yards, a fumble recovery in the end zone; one was from a yard out, and the third touchdown was from two yards out. And they went in that order, zero, one, and two, so the longest touchdown play in the Super Bowl was two yards. However, the game was compelling.
“It was the 50th Super Bowl, it’s huge. My son was born six days before the game, which meant now that I was going to stay at home and commute seventy-five miles or so each day up there and back (to Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA). It’s all kind of a blur now, but I will always be able to look back and feel so honored and privileged to be able to call the 50th, that was special, and that my son was born the same week.”
Nantz said of what themes he sees coming into the NCAA Tournament, “Themes, ‘themes’ this year is one of those wacky, crazy, ‘anybody’s capable of getting to the Final Four’ kind of years. We said this from last year, it was all about Kentucky, we had not had an unbeaten team going into the tournament in a long time, and we don’t have anything like that this year. It’s been a revolving door at Number One all throughout the regular season. It’s going to be a fascinating Selection Show Sunday (Nantz spoke ahead of it) because of where and how they bracket these teams and seed these teams because the difference between being a one and being a three and a four is negligible. That’s the theme this year is it could be a different kind of vibe around the Final Four, might not be your traditional powers. Having said that, Kansas and Michigan State are both looking pretty mighty right now, but they’ve run into trouble too when they’ve been at number one, so we’ll see.”
On if he could see Duke repeating, Nantz said, “It’s going to take an awful lot. They just had suffered, (Amile) Jefferson’s out for the year but putting Mike Krzyzewski, or a Tom Izzo, certain guys, when the Tournament rolls around, they know how to get it done, so I never sell them short.”
One tradition Nantz has is that he gives his tie to a player on the championship team. He documented this tradition, which began with Corey Brewer, in his 2008 autobiography, Always By My Side.
I asked Nantz which Duke player he gave his tie to last year, and he said, “I gave my tie last year to Quinn Cook – great question. And I walked up to him after the trophy presentation and one shining moment, I took it off and handed it to him, on the court.
“I explained it to him, what this means, this is a very symbolic thing for me that goes back many years, and I’ve really tried to now not just give it to the Most Valuable Player, but to someone who showed me leadership and a commitment to his teammates, an unselfishness, and Quinn was that guy last year.
“It’s amazing how many of the guys through the years I hear back from about that tie, amazing.
“It’s lost on these players when I approach them, in most cases, but I know like at Duke, the SIDs (Sports Information Director) have had Duke in the championship enough times, they pull them aside and explain what that means,” said Nantz.