McGuire climbs back to top of hoop heap

The TV Repairman

April 02, 1993|By PHIL JACKMAN

Now that most of the hardwood orators are home watching, let's review some of the work turned in by the legion of play-by-play and commentator people CBS used during the "Road to the Final Four."

Verne Lundquist, Mel Proctor and James Brown were best calling the play with Mike Gorman, Sean McDonough, Dick Stockton, Tim Ryan and Greg Gumbel solid. But they're the pros, the guys who work all the time, they should be good.

Some of the analysts didn't add much to the chatter, however. Digger Phelps, Dan Bonner and Larry Farmer get no better than a C for their efforts, Ann Meyers, Derrick Dickey and Clark Kellogg check in with B's and Al McGuire (surprise) gaining top honors.

Years ago, Al was as good as they come, having fun as he roared along, always keeping in mind that basketball is, after all, simply a game. But, with less work at NBC, he seemed to fall out of touch with what was going on in college hoops (he's not even a cable subscriber) and he leaned pretty much on the things he used to say during his heyday with NBC partners Billy Packer and Dick Enberg. I once vowed if he said "French pastry" one more time, I was going to go to his house and flatten the tires on his car.

Assigned to the Southeast Regional where Kentucky held sway, the knack was back and Al delivered as well as he ever had.

"Watch now," he warned, "Florida State will sit Bob Sura down. It has to, the kid doesn't know the difference between a good shot and a bad shot. As soon as they calm him down, he'll be back out there."

Imagine Packer being so glib.

A Kentucky player missed a dunk. "Hey, forget all that Globey [Globetrotter] stuff, the hot dogs, mustard and sauerkraut and put the ball between the rim," McGuire said.

He hit the strategy points deftly, chided gently and it all came across in language hoop fans enjoy and are comfortable with. Too many of his colleagues attempt to be almost scholarly, or discuss strategy as if viewers have never seen a game before.

Bill Raftery had a good tourney at the game sites, too, especially when, as a camera moved in on an apparently upset Indiana coach Bobby Knight, he asked, "How would you like to come home late in his house, those BB eyes hitting you in the chest?"

The reason Raftery isn't part of the studio klatch discussing NCAA hoops on CBS tomorrow (1:30-6 p.m.) and Monday (9 p.m. to whenever) is he's doing the game on CBS Radio with John Rooney and Marty Brennerman.

For the pre-game and intermission shows, Pat O'Brien will have far too many people to work into the mix (James Brown, Lesley Visser and Mike Francesa), considering the time some network genius decided to take away from tired, old studio grin-'n'-gab. Super Doming it as CBS's lead guys are Jim Nantz and Packer, of course. Both could lighten up a bit, but otherwise they're easily up to the task.

* Of all the game analysts the net utilized during the tourney, and they numbered 10, among the best was Ann Meyers. What's delightful about the former UCLA All-American and Hall of Famer is she speaks her mind.

For example, while the NCAA women are talking about changing their tournament dates in hopes of not being lost in the shadow of the men, Ann says, "Running the men's and women's tournaments at the same time is not a problem. In a lot of places, women's basketball programs have established their own fan base. The support is there, it just has to be developed. The sport also needs to be marketed better."

While some women coaches feel compelled to constantly complain about things, like the semifinals and final of their tourney being on successive days, Meyers sees it as "no issue. Most teams play pre- and postseason tournament games back to back. Let's stop arguing about it and play the games."

Ann will be doing the women's Final Four from Atlanta tomorrow (noon-5 p.m.) and Sunday (4-6 p.m.) with partner Tim Ryan. The "At The Half" show will have Mary Carillo in its cast, which should make it interesting.

* It's going to be tough scaring up an audience tomorrow, but "Superstars" returns to "ABC's Wide World of Sports" at 4:30, commemorating the 20th year this often popular series has paid its way. Clear to mind is the first one in 1973 when Joe Frazier jumped into the pool in the swimming race and went directly to the bottom.

John Unitas was in that inaugural, too, and easily won the barrel-straddling contest. Bob Seagren was the winner, the people running the show obviously overlooking the fact that the Olympic medalist pole vaulter also ran a leg of Southern Cal's two-mile relay team yet still allowed him to compete in the half-mile run.

The Santa Anita Derby is also on tomorrow's show.

* Unlike its big brother (TV), CBS Radio will have a baseball game Opening Day Monday, Jerry Coleman and Johnny Bench checking out the Dodgers and Marlins, beginning at 1:50 p.m. . . The Eye doesn't start its TV schedule until April 17 (Mets-Reds or White Sox-Red Sox). Of course, when you've got the NCAAs and the Masters in early April, who's in a big rush?

Hereabouts and before the Orioles take on the Rangers in the afternoon (1:35 p.m.) Channel 2 will have its cameras at the ready in Camden Yards from 4 a.m. on with pre-game shows starting shortly after dawn.

* USA Network will do the first two rounds of next week's Masters golf tourney, adding something new this time around: It will repeat the broadcast that night (9-11 p.m.). . . All Baltimore Spirit NPSL playoff games will be carried on WTMD Radio beginning with the opener against Harrisburg Monday (7:05 p.m.) at the Arena.

* Good fight on USA's "Tuesday Night Fights" next week, Olympic champion Oscar de la Hoya making his first start outside Los Angeles. If ever a guy looked headed for a world title in short order, it's de la Hoya, who hasn't been extended while winning his first five pro fights. He'll take on Mike Grable (13-1) in Rochester.

De La Hoya, a gangling 5-11, thinks he'll be comfortable and competitive all the way up to middleweight.

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