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Dave Tepper Just Keeps Going

” I got my first taste of it and it was exactly what I was looking for. It was spontaneous. It was live. It was fresh every time you’d hit the microphone. Off I went into the radio world, man.”

Brian Noe

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Some career paths are far from a straight line. Dave Tepper’s trail resembles Lombard Street, that crazy road in San Francisco. Although the journey has been unconventional, he prefers it that way. Dave started out as a stand-up comedian in Los Angeles. He was introduced to sports radio by fellow comic Jay Mohr, who used to cruise around in a Suburban with Dave and his Rottweiler Shirley while listening to Jim Rome. Come on, how many introductions to sports radio are as colorful as that?

Cool Facts and History About Lombard Street

To say Dave’s sports radio career started out rocky is an understatement. The Newport Beach native tells an epic story about not exactly receiving the red carpet treatment after moving to Austin, Texas for a gig. It’s seriously an all-time horror story. He stuck with it and after radio stops in Houston and Omaha, Dave is now the program director at Altitude Sports Radio 92.5 FM in Denver as well as the operations manager. From dissed to decision maker; it’s been quite the journey. Dave talks about covering more than just the Broncos in Denver, sticking a new antenna on a transmitter, and what he would say to the guy who inexplicably ghosted him. Enjoy!

BN: How long were you a stand-up comedian?

DT: A couple of years. I was doing the whole open mic thing. I did The Comedy Store, the Laugh Factory where you’d wait all day just trying to get on a list. I ended up getting an opportunity to be managed by the owner of the Laugh Factory, Jamie Masada. I was emceeing Friday and Saturday nights for some really big shows, bringing up big comics. You pretty much name it, there’s a good chance I probably brought them up on stage. I was also around a lot of comics I see right now that are successful. Bill Burr was a guy that I would just hang out with in lobbies. It was a good time.

Part of the reason I got into radio was I liked the idea of doing fresh material every night. I was so naïve. I didn’t realize that a lot of comics are like musicians; they hone their material. You work on a joke night after night after night. The owner had me doing that and I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to do like a monologue on a nightly basis. I just really resisted his direction.

In that time a guy named Frazer Smith, who was a long-time radio veteran, he was emceeing shows with me. He’s a long-time comic, he’s still doing it. He got an opportunity to do a Saturday night show on KLSX, which was the Howard Stern L.A. station. It was a real talk kind of a format. He said hey, I can see you’re a little frustrated with how the comedy stuff is going. He said you wanna come in one Saturday night, just kind of be a sidekick, just be yourself, maybe do some sports poetry. He’s like how about you write a funny sports poem based on that week of sports and we’ll kind of do that. I did it once and I maybe did stand-up a couple more times after that at the most. That was how I got into radio. I got my first taste of it and it was exactly what I was looking for. It was spontaneous. It was live. It was fresh every time you’d hit the microphone. Off I went into the radio world, man.

BN: You’re into the technical aspect of the gig, knowing transmitters and things like that. Why does that interest you?

DT: It can really separate you when it comes to the skills that you have. Where now, here I am in Denver, I didn’t come here to do operations, but there was a need. Our chief engineer, Barry Thomas, who was one of the most respected in the business, when I got here he was on the back end of a fight with cancer. I didn’t know that. I remember when he told me, my stomach dropped. Number one for him of course and his family, but also from my time in Omaha I’m going oh my God, if you don’t have a good engineer this could be something. And it has been.

He passed six months into me being here in the first week of December 2018. Our GM, she hired a chief about six months later. It was a challenge. One of the biggest projects that we had here was putting together basically a new antenna on a new transmitter for our FM sports station. The chief engineer that they hired was struggling with putting that project together. My GM knew I had some background on how to deal with engineers, nothing like this, but I was basically the best thing that they had at the time to give it a shot.

I jumped in basically just because there was such a need for someone to go in and spend some time with the engineer, be a second kind of ear and eye on what that project was. That evolved into me really learning a tremendous amount about it. Even more about engineering, more than I really ever wanted to know, but I knew that someone needed to kind of learn it. We ended up parting ways with that engineer and in between him and the current engineer we have now, I was basically like the interim engineer. My God.

I just knew if I didn’t learn this stuff then we didn’t have anyone else. We have a contract guy who helps out in town, but he wasn’t able to help out all the time. Look, I don’t know the ins and outs of a transmitter site, and I don’t want to know. I don’t want to be an engineer. There were times I’m like man, when the station would be off the air, if we had to switch it to a backup, my stomach dropped every time. There’s so much stuff inside these systems that you just know if you hit the wrong thing, my God. But fortunately, it didn’t happen.

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I took copious notes. The amount of engineering notes that I have now, it looks like Egyptian writing. Half the stuff you don’t even know what it is. But I was able to follow it enough to be able to keep it together until now we have ourselves a really solid chief engineer again.

I say all that because trust me there are times when I am literally responsible for switching over radio stations, and I think back to my days of sitting there on the stage at the Laugh Factory, like oh my God you guys, we’re really at a point where you’ve got some former comic who’s basically just an old sports fan, who spent many years as a talk show host, and is now literally piecing together switching over to a backup to stay on the air. Boy, we must be desperate. But you do what you have to do for your radio station and for your cluster. That’s why I took a lot of this stuff on.

BN: Denver sports talk was all Broncos for so long. Your station is owned by Stan Kroenke, so you’re going to talk about the Nuggets and Avs as well. Were you worried about those expectations when you first got to town, knowing what you did about the market?

DT: I was curious because obviously, you listen to a market before you come into it. You listen to the competition. I know Armen Williams pretty well. He’s become a radio buddy of mine from back when I was in Houston. He was in Albany. He and I stayed in touch when I was in Omaha and he was here. I’ve listened to our competitor. I knew what they were. At the time there was also another outlet, Orange and Blue 760; they were very heavy on the Broncos. If you have radio stations where the majority of their content is focused on the Broncos, in order to compete you need to be able to be in that space.

I asked in this process early on, our general manager as well as the executives at Kroenke Sports Entertainment, are you guys comfortable with that? If this is just meant to be a hardcore Kroenke-owned sports-driven station where you’re just going all-in on the Avs, the Nuggets, and the Rapids, let me know that. It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t still be interested. This is a great city and a great market but the ratings out here are obviously dictating that there is a heavy Broncos interest. That’s why the competitors are doing it. I believe in order to compete out here you do have to serve up a certain amount of that. Because if you completely go away from that, I think you’re seeking a different mission. 

To their credit they said no, we want to be a full-service sports radio station out here. Of course they love our teams and it’s very important that we talk about them. We’re fortunate because all three of those teams are competitive so it makes it even easier. Our competition right now is finding ways to get into that space as much as they can too because there is an interest for it. People do want to talk about good teams.

It wasn’t a concern; it was something that I had to know because, as you know, Nielsen is not cheap. My belief was if we’re paying to play this contest, the strategy is going to need to involve some football and some Broncos talk in there. They agreed. They said we don’t disagree that you have to mix that in too. I had their support with that.

My philosophy behind sports radio was basically look, we’re going to get to everything that’s relevant if you go with the vision that I want to bring you guys. I don’t think if it doesn’t include Broncos and NFL, it’s going to make things all that easy.

People forget too, not you, but we are an NFL group with Kroenke and the LA Rams. He is an NFL owner. We are an NFL company. We may not be an NFL company here in Denver obviously, but this company very much understands the value of the NFL, which I think certainly helps make sure that we get some of that content in there.

BN: Correct me if I’m wrong, it was you or another guy. There was a job I want to say in Austin. The guy drives all the way over there and then he couldn’t get ahold of the dude that said he had the job. Is that you or is that somebody else?

DT: [Laughs] Oh my God, I hope that’s not somebody else because it absolutely happened to me. I pray to God it doesn’t happen to anyone else. Wow, you heard that story?

BN: Yeah, I think you did an interview with Jason Barrett a while ago. I randomly thought of that story and I’m like I think it was Dave, but I’m not positive.

DT: Oh my God. Yes, when I was trying to figure out my next step, I couldn’t get into L.A. sports radio. It just wasn’t meant to be. 1300 The Zone was the flagship for the Longhorns. When the Aggies still played Texas the day after Thanksgiving, I reached out to them and I said hey, I’m coming to Austin. I’m just a young dude. I have a little bit of experience at KLSX; I’m trying to get into sports radio. I’m coming out, can we meet up? The PD said sure. So we did. He was great. He gave me a tour of their old facility. He drove me to the new facility they were building out, a gorgeous layout of a place. The guy says to me yeah, if you want to come out here I’ll get you some hours doing promotions and I’ll get you an opportunity on weekends doing some fill-in stuff.

I remember flying out there and picking out an apartment. I say to the guy hey, I’m coming out to look for an apartment. Is this still happening? Yeah, it’s absolutely happening. Let me know when you get here. Okay. All right man, I found an apartment. I’m going to take it. Are we still good? Yeah, we’re still good. All right, I’m quitting my job out here in L.A. at KABC. I was doing that and I was driving around movie scripts at the time for Jerry Zucker. It was okay. It wasn’t a bad life. He was like yeah, come on out, promotions hours, we’ll get you going on weekends. I said okay. Off we went.

I packed up my U-Haul. My dad helped drive me out. He drove the U-Haul; I had my truck. I get to Austin, Texas and the guy would never return a phone call. He never returned a call. I remember going and sitting up in that lobby and being like hey, is so-and-so here? They’re like who’s asking? I told them and they’d come back up and say yeah, he’s busy. I’d be like okay, can I wait? Ehh, we’d rather not, he’ll reach out.

I remember going to some of their live events. Kevin Dunn and Chad Hastings had an afternoon drive show; they’re still doing it out there. I remember thinking am I crazy? I was losing my mind, man. I’m deep in the heart of Texas knowing nobody but my wife and some of her friends because she went to UT. My family’s like you idiot, I told you. What have you done with your life? I was losing it. I’m like I don’t know, but I’m out here for a reason.

I was like did this even happen? I’m like checking emails and like yeah, he says come on. I went out to one of their events and I said hey, is so-and-so here? They’re like well no, he’s not here, but why are you asking? I was like I’m supposed to be out here for a job with you guys and I cannot get ahold of this PD. They said oh, are you that guy that moved from San Diego? I was like, yeah kind of, Southern California. He goes yeah, we heard about you. We heard that you were somebody from Southern California with some radio experience and might be helping out on the weekends.

I’m like all right, so I’m not insane. Yeah, that’s me. I’m like where is your boss? He’s like he’s not out here at the remote, but we’ll tell him that you’re looking for him. I’m like great. Never ever calls me. Never once. I just kind of accepted, like look I’ve got a year lease here. I love this city. I still love it. I believe I’m here for a reason, I just have faith in that. I guess I just need to figure out my radio resume.

BN: What did you do once it was obvious your initial plan didn’t work?

DT: My wife who was my girlfriend at the time, she found this random hosting for a news talk station that was looking for an unpaid intern for their morning show. I’m like well this is talk so I applied for that. I go in to interview and a guy named Jon Madani is looking at my resume like how in the world did you get here? What’s the deal? I gave him a little bit of the background. He goes well, what if I told you that we were going to be flipping this station to sports in a month? And we’re looking for people to get their foot in the door. There are no sports people in this building for the most part. You could be coming in here at just the right time. If you’re worth a darn, it could be nothing but opportunity here for you.

I said man, I will take whatever you’ve got. I started working with their morning show. I was there when it flipped and I was really one of the closest things to a sports guy that they had. Off I went. The host Paul Pryor broke his hip. I remember getting a call 15 minutes before the show, it’s Jon Madani going hey, you ready? I’m like what do you mean? He goes Paul can’t come in. He had a co-host named the Rug Man who was a sports guy out of Cincinnati. This crazy, long-haired dude. It was Pryor and the Rug Man.

He’s like you need to jump in with the Rug Man and don’t screw up our morning show. I jumped in. I did it once. I did all right. Paul came back and then a couple of weeks later because of his hip injury he like fell in the shower and he was never able to come back. They said in the meantime why don’t you try Tepper and the Rug Man in the morning and see what you can do. Within months man, I’m doing morning drive in Austin, Texas after that. I guess you can’t tell the story without it being a little bit long. I wouldn’t change a thing.

BN: Wow, man. Did you ever run into that guy that didn’t return your calls?

DT: No, never. Never once.

BN: What would you have said back then if you bumped into him, and what you would say to him right now?

DT: What happened? You know? What happened? I always believe that there’s another side to it. I know the guy remembers doing it. In the moment when I was younger, I’m sure I would have had a lot of angst in my voice. If I saw him now — and he’s still around — I’d probably thank him. It was a lesson in perseverance that I would probably not wish upon others, but one that really tested my faith and my instincts and what I was trying to do. It really made me dig deep. It really, really tested how bad do you want it? But I mean it; I’m grateful for it. I wouldn’t change it a bit because it’s helped make me a lot of who I am. I know that I’m in this for a reason and that good things are ahead even when things can be a bit tough and aren’t going your way. I’d ask him hey man, what happened? But I would thank him for it.

I read the Phil Knight book Shoe Dog, the Nike book. He’s got this great thing when he was young and just started coming up with this whole concept, it was just keep going. Don’t stop; just keep going. That’s kind of what it felt like then. This is a mess. This is crazy. But something just told me, just keep going.

Amazon.com: Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike eBook : Knight, Phil:  Books

That’s something where I read that book a couple of years ago, it’s really stuck with me because I remember feeling that way then, and that’s how I feel now in this current adventure that I’m running here in Denver, which I believe is for a reason. It’s tough. It’s tough to start a station out against such a really respectful competitor, but I believe we’re all here for a reason and you just keep going.

BSM Writers

What Tom Brady Needs To Know Before His First Fox Broadcast

“Our panel includes a fellow player-turned-analyst, a legendary play-by-play man, and a broadcasting coach.”

Demetri Ravanos

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Tom Brady announced he is retiring from the NFL today. It happened literally a year to the day since the last time he retired.

The last retirement lasted just 40 days. Before the end of March of last year, Tom Brady had decided he was done pretending to be happy about embracing life off of the field and announced he was returning to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a third season.

I guess we cannot rule out that that will happen again. The difference this time around, at least for Tom Brady’s professional life, is that he has a plan for his future. Now that his playing days are over, it is time for him to start his ten-year deal with FOX to be the analyst in the network’s top NFL booth.

Audiences do not know what to expect. No one can deny that Brady brings star power. He is the GOAT after all, but we cannot say for sure if he will be any good.

The pressure is tremendous too. Not only is Tom Brady embarking on a new career, but football fans seem to have taken a liking to the guy he is about to unseat. Whether Greg Olsen gets kicked back down to the number two booth or he is forced to share the spotlight in a three-man booth, plenty of people will look at Brady as the reason we hear less from the guy regarded by many as the best analyst on TV right now.

Brady does not have much room for error here. Since that is the case, I thought I would get some perspectives from people that can help him out. I asked three people to give me their best advice for Tom Brady.

Our panel includes a fellow player-turned-analyst, a legendary play-by-play man, and a broadcasting coach.

THE PLAYER TURNED ANALYST: ANTHONY BECHT

In 2000, the New York Jets used the 27th pick of the NFL Draft to select Anthony Becht. He played for five different teams during his twelve NFL seasons.

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Courtesy USA Today

His broadcasting career began in 2013. Becht worked on ESPN for eight years as an analyst on the network’s college football games. He has since abandoned the booth to return to the sidelines. He will be the head coach of the St. Louis Battlehawks when the XFL starts its third first season this month.

I texted and asked him to look back on his broadcasting career. What does he wish he knew before he started? Here are the three pieces of advice that he had for Tom Brady.

1. Less is more. Folks want to watch the game and just know the “why”. Providing tangible information in a five or six second window is key.

2. Fans want to know about your personal experiences as a player – information and stories they can’t get or wouldn’t even know about because they never did it at the level we did. Share those when the time comes in a game.

3. Have a strong opinion about what you agree or disagree with, but be able to voice it without being demeaning towards players and coaches. It’s an art form and takes time to articulate that in a way that’s done right. I never bash any player or coach because a lot of work goes into be a professional athlete and coach. That needs to be respected but critiqued appropriately.

Anthony Becht via text message

THE PLAY-BY-PLAY LEGEND: TIM BRANDO

Tim Brando has worked with a lot of people. That happens when you have been calling football and basketball action on TV for as long as he has. When I called him on Wednesday to discuss what is ahead for Tom Brady, he drew on his experience with another Brady.

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Courtesy FOX Sports

Brando was working with Jole Klatt in his early days at FOX, but he and Klatt were not going to be an exclusive team. He remembers Brady Quinn coming in to their booth shortly after his NFL career had eneded. Quinn was about to make his debut for FOX. Before they were ready to turn him loose, the network wanted the former quarterback to get a feel for the pace and atmosphere of a broadcast booth.

I do think it’s important that you have a new talent understand what that workplace is like in the booth – the choreography that takes place, because there is choreography. If the ball is deflected, your spotter’s hands are coming together like a bad clap. If there’s a hit, who caused the hit? Who stripped it? So there’s a hand signal for stripping the ball and then recovering the ball with the arms closing together. So who got the recovery? Who caused the fumble? Those things are always helpful.

There are things that are going on frantically in the booth, but you as a broadcaster have to remain calm, understand it, and sound succinct and confident. That just takes time and it takes reps. 

That’s one of the great things I think that Greg (Olsen) probably had an advantage in, as do a lot of analysts that get better over time. They do games of lesser importance that maybe the whole world is not watching. 

Tim Brando via Telephone

Tom Brady won’t have the luxury of time or of reps under the radar. He may get to do a few practice games, but the first time he will be calling a game on live television, it will be one of the biggest of the week.

Brando says in that case, it is really important that Brady use his instincts to his advantage in the booth the way he did on the field.

I don’t know Tom well, but I know him well enough to know that he prides himself on preparation. I don’t doubt for one minute that he will be prepared. He’s obviously an incredible competitor. You know, this is a this is a business of competition too. 

If you’re a great player, just like a coach, you love the ecstasy of victory. You don’t want to admit it, but you love the agony of the defeat as well. That feeling of defeat is something we feed on to motivate you for your next performance. In television and sports television, you don’t get that in terms of winning and losing, but you do get it if you look at it as a great performance, 

I believe that all great broadcasters are performers at heart. It takes a certain level of of a theater. It’s live. It’s not scripted. 

I think some players that get in the booth that are looking to have that same, you know, euphoria that they have after playing and winning a game. Some of them get that and understand that in broadcasting and get out of that the same thing and others don’t.

Tim Brando via Telephone

THE BROADCASTING COACH: GUS RAMSEY

Plenty of broadcasters turn to Gus Ramsey for critiques and advice. The Program Director for the Dan Patrick School of Sportscasting at Full Sail University is also a broadcasting coach working with clients at all levels of the business. They trust his opinion because of his professional experience.

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Courtesy Full Sail University

In a prior life, Ramsey was the producer of SportsCenter on ESPN. He has worked with a number of incredibly talented people and been tasked with taking newbies to new heights, so I asked him what he would be thinking if it were his job to get Tom Brady ready for his first FOX broadcast.

Sometimes great athletes forget that most humans don’t know what the athletes know. Things that are basic or simple or even mundane to the athlete are incredible pieces of wisdom or insight to the average fan.

When I was at ESPN we had Tony Gwynn in for an episode of Baseball Tonight. In our show meeting, Tony was explaining why a hitter was slumping because we was cupping his wrist. He went on explaining it for 30 seconds or so. The room was in total silence, eating up every word. The greatest hitter of our generation was doing a deep-dive on hitting. It was amazing.

Tony suddenly got a little self-conscious, stopped explaining and apologized for “going on too long” and we were all like “No!! Keep going!” Tony thought is was boring. It was just the opposite.

Athletes can think things they’ve learned and repeated their whole lives are common knowledge so sometimes they don’t share that info because they think “everyone knows this.”

I want to walk away from a broadcast feeling like I learned something. Sometimes the ex-athlete doesn’t realize how much educating they can do in a broadcast.

The other thing I always encourage former athletes or coaches to do is to take the viewer where they’ve never been; on the field, in the locker room, in a contract negotiation, etc. If you can get that viewer to fully appreciate the feelings and emotions of what goes on in those places, you enhance the experience for us.

Terrell Davis was an analyst on NFL Network for a bit after his career. He once described Champ Bailey running back an interception 100 yards by saying as Bailey got to the 50 yard line “right here it feels like someone put sandbags on your ankles.” I’ve never run 100 yards in a football uniform in Denver’s altitude, but Terrell’s line helped me better understand what it feels like.

Gus ramsey via text message

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BSM Writers

Mark Packer Loves Reading Your Memories & Tributes to Billy Packer

“I’ve heard from all kinds of coaches. I’ve been blown away. It’s just another reminder of the impact Billy had on so many different people, not just the world of sports.”

Tyler McComas

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It still stands today as one of the most iconic moments in the storied history of Arizona basketball. Three simple words said it all as the Wildcats celebrated an overtime win over Duke to win the 1997 national championship. “Simon says championship.” Those were the words of legendary broadcaster Billy Packer as Miles Simon fell to the floor with the ball in his hands. It’s one of many lines his son, Mark Packer, has been reminded of recently.

It was the perfect three words after the country just watched Simon carry Arizona to college basketball glory. Packer captured the moment perfectly, just like he did during every Final Four for 34 years.

Packer passed away last Thursday at the age of 82 but his legacy and impact in sports broadcasting will never perish. He was heard during every NCAA Tournament from 1975 to 2008 and was on the call for some of college basketball’s most iconic moments, including Michael Jordan’s shot to win the 1982 National Championship, Bird vs Magic in 1979, and even Kansas completing an improbable comeback to win the 2008 championship in his last broadcast. And the best part of it all was that Packer did it his own way, with his own unique style.

“It has really been remarkable,” said Mark Packer. “When Billy passed Thursday night we put it out on Twitter and it took off but I didn’t really know what to expect on Friday and Saturday as far as reaction. But the tributes have been fantastic and our family has loved it.

“I have heard from just about everybody and their brother. Folks I never thought I’d hear from, I’ve heard from them, such as commissioners, whether it be the NBA, whether it be other Power 5 leagues, I’ve heard from all kinds of coaches. I’ve been blown away. It’s just another reminder of the impact Billy had on so many different people, not just the world of sports. To me, that’s been comforting to all of us. It just reinforced all the stuff we knew he was about and brings back special memories.”

Packer’s style of broadcasting has been well-documented over the years. He was honest about what he saw and always spoke his mind. Granted, that didn’t always sit well with college basketball fans, but Packer wasn’t concerned about that. He was honest because he cared. 

“He wanted the game of college basketball to be the best it possibly could be,” said Mark.  “When he saw things he did not like, the one thing he always did was speak his mind. He ruffled feathers and he didn’t care. His intent was to make the game the No. 1 priority. You realize now he didn’t have it out for your team, he was just speaking his mind.”

That style meant fans would often yell at games, ‘You hate Duke! You hate North Carolina!’ Packer’s honesty was often taken by fans as he hated their favorite team. He used to laugh at that, just as Mark does know when he thinks about those moments. That’s because Mark can remember feeling the same way as other fanbases as a kid growing up rooting for NC State. 

“When he was calling an NC State game I thought he was always out to get my team,” laughed Mark. “He’d be doing a game in Raleigh — we grew up in Winston-Salem — and the next morning after the game I would be eating breakfast before school and I would say ‘Man, Billy, you really got on so-and-so last night, what’s your problem with NC State?’

“He used to just laugh, because I thought he had an agenda against my team. Of course the funny thing is, we’d go on trips with him to other games and you’d hear fans say, ‘Billy Packer hates my team!’ It almost became a laughing joke, even amongst the family members, that Billy Packer was out to ruin your team’s day when he does a ballgame.”

Mark has always referred to his dad the same his television partners did. That goes for his two other siblings, as well. “Dad” was rarely, if ever, said in the Packer household. Instead, the legendary broadcaster was called by his first name.

“The fact they called him Billy on television, we never called him dad,” said Mark. “We just called him Billy.”

As you can imagine, ‘Billy’ had a lot of stories. That’s normally the case when you’re around the game’s greatest players and broadcast the legendary games we still talk about today. Packer was always quick to share those stories with his family, which made for an entertaining childhood.

Out of the hundreds of messages Mark has received since his dad’s passing, he says he hasn’t heard any stories he’s never heard before. But that doesn’t mean people haven’t been telling him stories about his father.

“We’ve heard them all, quite frankly,” laughed Mark. “Maybe the thing that was so funny about it was that it reinforced some that we thought were total BS when we heard them the first time.”

Packer will always be synonymous with college basketball and the NCAA Tournament. He was the voice of the sport during its golden era and helped bring the magic to TV sets across the world. If Mark had to guess what his dad is most proud of regarding his broadcasting career, he says it would be just that. 

“From a broadcasting standpoint, probably the Final Fours,” said Mark. “When you, I think the number was 34 I heard, and he did so many of them, for us, we kind of took it for granted. It was just something he did. It was March and Billy is about to go do March Madness. It was just fabric for not only him personally, but also the family. He just loved the sport and wanted it to be good.”

Mark has carved out an incredible broadcasting career of his own. He’s hosted both radio and TV shows with outlets such as the ACC Network, WFNZ in Charlotte, and ESPNU. Having a front row seat to one of the most iconic careers in broadcasting, undoubtedly helped shape his career. Mark is very forthcoming as to what lesson he took from his dad the most. 

“Oh, that’s easy,” Mark said. “That’s prep. He always studied. He was always coming up with notes and angles and facts. I have always done that with the radio and TV shows, that you constantly prep, you constantly read and make notes. You may not use but 10 percent of whatever you’ve been studying, but somewhere down the road you’ll use it again.

“When we were cleaning out his closet I ran into an entire box of old notes that he had from games from yesteryear. I kept every one of them and I can’t wait to look at them and relive those games and see his prep work and point of detail for all those games.”

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Anatomy of a Broadcaster

Anatomy of an Analyst: Doris Burke

“Doris Burke has an ease about her. A quiet confidence if you will.”

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Basketball and Doris Burke have been synonymous for many years. At the age of 7, she started to play the game that would eventually get her to the top of her profession. Along the way she’s recorded many firsts for women in this field which I’ll detail later. Burke has also become an inspiration to other women already in broadcasting and those thinking about a career in media. Pretty impressive. 

Burke was raised in Manasquan, New Jersey. She was the youngest of eight children, and started playing basketball in the second grade. She starred at Providence, where she was the team’s point guard all four of her years there and made an impact immediately. 

During her freshman year, Doris Burke led the Big East in assists. She was a second-team All-Big East player once and twice made the all-tourney team of the Big East Women’s basketball tournament. Burke held seven records upon graduation, including finishing her career as the school and conference’s all-time assists leader, a record that has since been broken. She served as an assistant coach for her alma mater for two years from 1988-90.

From there it was time to embark on a Hall of Fame career.

ROAD TO ESPN/ABC

Burke began her broadcasting career in 1990 as an analyst for women’s games for Providence on radio. That same year, she began working in the same role on Big East Women’s games on television, and in 1996 she began working Big East men’s games. 

Doris Burke has been working for ESPN covering basketball in different roles since 1991. It has also allowed her to do other things along the way that were unchartered for women in the business. In 2000, Burke became the first woman to be a commentator for a New York Knicks game on radio and on television; she is also the first woman to be a commentator for a Big East men’s game, and the first woman to be the primary commentator on a men’s college basketball conference package.  In 2017, Burke became a regular NBA game analyst for ESPN, becoming the first woman at the national level to be assigned a full regular-season role. 

If that wasn’t enough, from 2009 to 2019 she served as the sideline reporter for the NBA Finals on ABC. I mentioned it was a Hall of Fame career and it was officially deemed as such in 2018. Burke was selected to enter the Basketball Hall of Fame as the Curt Gowdy Media Award winner.

AS AN ANALYST

“Doris Burke has an ease about her. A quiet confidence if you will.” Relying on her past experiences in the game as a player and coach, the information she brings her audience is relatable. Some analysts struggle to bring home a point in a way that a casual fan will understand. Burke has no trouble with this. Her ability to spell it out, concisely and conversationally sets her apart from most analysts, male or female. 

Burke attacks her job, knowing that some will question her authority when it comes to commentary on the NBA. She doesn’t mind steering into the skid.

“I am mindful of the fact that I have not played or coached in the NBA,” Burke said to Sportscasting.com last year. “It doesn’t mean that I can’t do a very competent job. I think I try to do that every single night, and I’m never afraid to ask questions.” 

It’s all about the information to Burke, and has nothing to do with the fact she’s a woman covering the NBA.

“If you enhance a viewer’s experience, it doesn’t matter what your gender is,” she said. “As long as you are competent and put in the work … you’re going to be accepted.”

Doris Burke learned the ropes so to speak from several women that came before her. In an NBA.com piece from January of last year, she outlined how much she enjoyed watching former ESPN SportsCenter anchor Gayle Gardner. Early on in her career at ESPN, Burke got to work with Robin Roberts on WNBA and women’s college basketball broadcasts along with Ann Meyers Drysdale and Nancy Lieberman. Roberts was Burke’s inspiration as she started her career path. She admired the professionalism that each displayed. 

“Working alongside Robin Roberts … the one thing I would tell you is the most powerful means to change or impact somebody is by your actions,” Burke said. “She was the epitome of professionalism and competency and garnered the respect of the people around her because of the work habits she had. Watching Robin early on let me know that the basis for everything is the work you put into something.”

While Roberts may have been influential to Burke, Burke has been a beacon for other woman that are getting opportunities in broadcasting.  When asked about their role model, YES Network analyst Sarah Kustok, 76ers play-by-play broadcaster Kate Scott and former WNBA player and current Miami Heat studio analyst Ruth Riley Hunter all mentioned Burke by name.

“Burke is the best example for anyone — male or female,” Hunter told NBA.com. “I love the way she describes the game. She adds so much to every broadcast, and when I was playing in the WNBA I was always really inspired by her work.”

Burke is popular amongst her colleagues at ESPN/ABC, thanks to a tireless work ethic an ability to adapt to whichever sport she may be calling that day. Count Jeff Van Gundy among her biggest fans.

“She’s the best, most-versatile analyst and commentator at ESPN,” Van Gundy said of Doris Burke in 2017 via Deadspin. “She does it all—great interviewer, commentator, studio analyst—everything. And she is an expert at it all—women’s and men’s college basketball, the NBA and the WNBA. She’s the LeBron James of sportscasters. There’s no better broadcaster out there right now.”

Burke is equally a big fan of Van Gundy and the top broadcast crew for ESPN/ABC’s NBA coverage. That includes Mike Breen and Mark Jackson as well. 

“We are talking about three of the best to ever do it. Mark, Jeff and Mike have held down the NBA Finals for over a decade with commentary that is the best of the best. Hubie Brown is a living legend. All of those men have been nothing but gracious and supportive of me,” Burke told the Athletic. 

Doris Burke is considered one of the best NBA analysts around.  Her bosses at ESPN made sure to re-sign her to a multi-year deal and promised she will be involved in “high profile” NBA games in both the regular season and playoffs. Burke will also call finals games on ESPN Radio and appear on the NBA Sunday Showcase program on ABC.

Good for her and good for fans of the NBA on ESPN/ABC.

DID YOU KNOW?

In 2010, she was featured as the new sideline reporter for 2K Sports ‘NBA 2K11’ video game. She has appeared in every version since, including the latest ‘NBA 2K23’.   

As a senior at Providence in 1987 she was the school’s Co-Female Athlete of the Year.  

Her basketball idols growing up were Kyle Macy, Kelly Tripucka and Tom Heinsohn.  

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