Close calls as a season winds down

ON THE AIR

March 27, 1995|By MILTON KENT

Observations, salutations and condemnations near the end of the college basketball season:

* Once upon a time, Pat O'Brien was refreshing, clever and polished. At some point, however, he became trite, unctuous and, well, slick. What's the difference, you ask, between polished and slick? That's hard to say, except O'Brien, with his cutesy phrases, pseudo-El Lay hipness, and just all-around, well, slickness, has moved from one to the other, and that's a shame.

* The best announcer pairing of the tournament was Verne Lundquist and Quinn Buckner. "On the Air" already is on record as being a big fan of Lundquist, who can make any analyst better because of his inquisitiveness and sense of humor. During the two weeks they were together at the Southeast subregionals and the East finals, Lundquist drew out Buckner's obvious basketball savvy and his not-so-obvious "just folks" quality and made him human.

* Rick Majerus and Jon Miller: Separated at birth? Maybe not, but the Utah coach, who was in the studio yesterday, will be a great analyst someday. In the span of three minutes, Majerus, who is, shall we say, a tad on the heavy side, got off two wonderful quips -- one on the off-color side -- on that subject at halftime of the Midwest game yesterday.

* You get the great and not-so-great with Al McGuire, who did the West Regional this past weekend. McGuire, the former Marquette coach, was laugh-out-loud funny making two church references about miracles and hymnals during Saturday's UCLA-Connecticut game, but he was less so, in the same game, when he made a crack perceived by some to be a slur on Asians. McGuire did apologize on air.

* Note to CBS executives: Next year, when you're thinking about what to do with Dick Stockton, let the thought and Stockton pass.

* It was awfully nice to hear some female voices Saturday as CBS' Ann Meyers worked the Division II men's final with Stockton and six women did play-by-play or color for ESPN's coverage of the women's regional championships.

But haven't we reached a point where a woman can do play-by-play for a men's tournament or regular-season game, rather than be pigeon-holed as only being able to do women's events? Is there something about the male voice that makes it the only kind that can describe men's athletic competition, or are the networks just slow to react?

Goodness knows there are qualified and talented women who can and have called basketball on lower levels. It's about time they got a shot at the big time.

* Finally, for next year, can we get rid of the following hoary tournament cliches, each of which have long outlived whatever usefulness they might have had: "March madness," "on the bubble," "the big dance," and "the road to the Final Four."

A Coach K sighting

Joining O'Brien, Buckner, Jim Nantz and Billy Packer at the men's Final Four next weekend will be Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who took most of this season off to deal with the aftereffects of a back ailment.

Sailing, sailing

The challenger and defender semifinal series in the America's Cup finish up this week on ESPN2, with same-day, tape-delayed PTC coverage at 8:30 tomorrow night and at midnight Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights. Fear not, city residents, for the challenger and defender finals and the championship series will air on ESPN in mid-April.

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