Monday, November 15, 2004

Radio Days: Marquette vs. Western Carolina

Last night, rather than attend the Marquette-Western Carolina game, I listened to it on the radio. In my reflection on it, though, I’d like to focus on the Marquette post-game show. Over the years the Marquette post-game show has lost some luster. I think this is attributable to several factors, which I will expand upon below:

1) Previous coaches were inordinately good interviews.

–The format of the Marquette post-game is basically an interview and wrap-up of the game with the head coach. The past two coaching regimes brought great interview. Mike Deane was solid, and always known as a guy who didn’t shy away from obscene language on the sidelines. He could be surly in post-game interviews, but who wouldn’t be if they had Abel Joseph playing big minutes? Even Deane was no match for Kevin O’Neill, however, who was straightforward and sometimes openly hostile to questions. I doubt I’d like O’Neill much as a person, but I loved him as an interview.

2) Tom Crean is a great PR guy.

–Kevin O’Neill was a stellar recruiter. Mike Deane sucked at recruiting, but could coach pretty well. Tom Crean is fairly good at all aspects of running a college basketball program, not the least of which is working as a PR guy. He sells the program well, from his pre-game JumboTron messages, to his post game recognition of the Marquette student section. When he steps off the court, though, he continues to measure his comments and try to keep a shine on the program. While great for the program, his lack of the loose tongue possessed by his predecessors keeps his interviews from becoming classics.

3) Tom Crean refuses to face up to bad games.

–You’ll rarely see me openly attack a coach or player here (though I may make fun of them a lot), but here’s one area where Tom Crean really pisses me off. For years, the Marquette head coach has come out after the game to talk to hosts Steve "The Homer" True and George Thompson. Last year, however, on occasion, Crean wouldn’t make it out of the locker room to talk, and would send an assistant instead. When would this happen? After crushing losses and poorly played games. Seems to me that after a 25-point loss, Crean would rather send Bo Ellis to be his patsy than face the music himself. That’s truly weak. This season, George and Homer no longer promote their post game show with Head Coach Tom Crean, instead it’s always "Head Coach Tom Crean or a member of his staff." Three wins in meaningless games this year and Crean’s been out to talk. How much to you want to bet that if they lose to Arizona by 30 or drop a game in next week’s Blue and Gold Classic that Bo Ellis will shuffle out to the broadcast. Either do the show on the high and low points of the year, or don’t do it at all, Tom.

4) The show no longer consistently takes callers.

–Back when Kevin O’Neill was on, this was one of the things that made him the best–ripping fans calling in. He would never directly rip a fan, but his style was to ask a sarcastic question back. Usually, he was right on point, since most people who call sports talk shows are asses. The exchange would generally go something like this:

Homer: We’ve got Jim from Waukesha on the line. Jim, what’s your question for the coach?

Jim: Hi coach, great game tonight. I just wanted to ask why you didn’t play McIllvaine more tonight? He had 6 blocks in only 18 minutes, and he could have dominated if you had let him play the whole game.

O’Neill: Well let me ask you this, Jim, if you had Damon Key scoring at will every time down the floor and a 7-foot center recovering from mononucleosis who had three fouls 1 minute into the second half, who would you play? You see what I'm saying?

Homer: Thanks for the call, Jim, we’ve got Bill in South Milwaukee on. Hi Bill.

And so on. O’Neill was great a ripping callers who couldn’t see the whole picture. And he was in the great position of usually being right, too. I’ll always miss that. That wouldn't happen these days, and that's probably as much a compliment to Tom Crean's civility and tact as it is a rip on his entertainment value.

So that’s the radio show. And for the record, Marquette pulled out a game against Western Carolina last night, based on a strong second-half effort, and the leadership of, as usual, Travis Diener. At least Marcus Jackson grabbed a few rebounds to help out tonight, and it sounds like Dameon Mason continued closing in on his inevitable place as the next Marquette star.

I closed out the night reading this month’s Milwaukee Magazine article on Bruce Pearl–a good read if you can get your hand on it. And I recorded The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh, so perhaps I’ll weigh in with my thoughts on that when I have a spare moment to watch it. Tonight, however, brings Chris Paul and Wake Forest kicking off ESPN’s broadcast season.


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