New partners CBS and Turner Sports unveiled their lineup of announcers for the NCAA tournament on Thursday, sparking questions regarding how TNT's NBA-centric analysts will fare calling college games for the first time.
To address that topic, I spoke with TNT's Steve Kerr, who will team with Marv Albert for the first two weeks of the tournament before joining joining Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg in the Final Four booth.
Kerr, who helped lead Arizona to the Final Four in 1988, said he's "fired up" to return to his college roots. The former Chicago Bulls guard and Phoenix Suns general manager spoke about how he's preparing for his new gig, what the biggest challenges will be and why he expects plenty of surprises in this year's NCAA tournament.
JE: You've obviously spent a lot of time in the NBA as a player, an executive and an analyst. Will it be a nice change of pace to call some college basketball this March?
SK: "I'm excited. I love the college game. I've followed it forever. I was a ball boy at UCLA in the late 70s. My dad was a professor there and I really grew up a college fan more than an NBA fan. I have great memories not only playing in Arizona and getting to the Final Four but even just growing up watching the tournament and seeing UCLA win national titles. Those were great days in my life.
JE: Take me through how this happened. I assume once the partnership between CBS and Turner became official, they contacted you?
SK: The way it worked is CBS and TNT have been planning things together collaboratively. That's included sharing the broadcasters and figuring out who's going to do what. Jeff Behnke, who's my boss, talked to me several months back and asked how I'd feel about doing college games. I told him I'd love. He surprised me. I figured I'd do some games. I didn't think I'd be doing the Final Four. He called me and gave me the news, and it's pretty exciting. I'm fired up.
JE: How difficult will the learning curve be going from being an NBA analyst to doing the college game?
SK: I've done three college games for Fox in the last six weeks or so in anticipation of doing the tournament. I am following the college game more closely. And the last three years with the Phoenix Suns, I was attending college games all over the place scouting. I feel I've got a pretty good handle on players and the game itself. I'm confident I can do a good job.
JE: Which three college games did you do with Fox?
JE: Are there any major differences calling a college game versus an NBA game or is it pretty similar?
SK: Well, the rules are obviously a little different. But in terms of the broadcast, it's basketball. As a color guy, you're still really talking about what you're seeing unfold in front of you and what you anticipate happening. That part comes pretty naturally. The work comes at the collegiate level in the preparation and in knowing the players because there are so many teams out there. Whereas in the NBA, there are 30 teams and a lot of them are the same year in and year out, in the college game, there's more preparation involved. And I have a good network of friends around the country I can call to get opinions on teams and scouting reports.
JE: Working with Marv will probably be pretty comfortable for you I would think, but will it be any different with Clark and Jim since you haven't worked with them before?
SK: I haven't worked with them, but I will get a chance to once before the tournament starts. I think we'll do a game once along the way. It's always different with a new crew. You adjust and you adapt. The biggest thing for me is just fitting in, trying to add what I can to the telecast without stepping on their toes because those guys do an incredible job. This is just about fitting in and helping out where I can.
JE: Just one last question for you. Looking at the college season so far, has anything stood out or surprised you?
SK: The thing that jumps out at me is just how much parity there is. I think some of that is the early departures to the NBA that have really become routine. You're rarely seeing teams mature over a three or four-year period and seeing teams with senior superstars. It's great in a lot of ways because you can have a team like Butler take advantage of the current landscape and use its experience to make a huge run. I think you'll see more surprises in the coming years.