2023 NCAA Tournament

Does South Florida care enough about College Basketball? Gowdy told me hoops was his best sport

david halberstam rectangular profile
Halberstam

South Florida experienced its most stimulating week of college basketball since Ponce de León landed in this peninsula. But as far the citizenry is concerned, you’d never know it. If their collective pairs of pants were burning, no one would yell fire.

  • To begin with, Nova Southeastern, a DII school in the Greater South Florida area completed a  season sweep, 36-0! On Sunday, the Sharks put on a show across America on CBS-TV. Yes, the real CBS TV.
  • Florida Atlantic University, a DI school in Boca Raton, achieved an impossible feat, proceeding all the way to the Final Four. An astonishing achievement!
  • The University of Miami did it in an amazing fashion. The Canes came from 14 behind in the Elite-Eight game. Joe Zagacki, has been the school’s play-by-player for some twenty years on both football and basketball. He has suffered through plenty of seasons in both sports with unattainable expectations.  Yet, Joe’s enthusiasm is always upbeat, no matter the team results.

No immediate celebration! Emotional restraint is apparently determined individually.

After the NCAA win, Miami’s CBS affiliate, made no immediate reference, apparently due to a program,  called, Sixty Minutes. And a major subject was Charles Barkley. The point is this. Three schools in the Miami Metro area this past weekend, were on real CBS-TV in succession, athletic programs that sparkled like the winter magic we’ve come to love.

CBS owns both the TV affiliate in Miami and the NCAA rights nationally. Let’s hope that the print and TV community churn out more this week in anticipation of Final Four weekend. What’s dispiriting is being ignored. I couldn’t find very much in the digital newspapers this next week. That part is dispiriting. These three schools are all within 50-60 miles under one golden sun.

When the Miami Heat were under the aegis of Lewis Schaffel in the nascent years of the franchise, fans responded immediately. Good tickets were a tough catch. A new franchise under the label of the National Basketball Association caught the attention of the locale. Schaffel, married but childless, put his heart and a team of young horses, aspiring men and women who wanted in on sports employment.

I truly enjoy the entertainment value of Charles Barkley, 60. And please, look at him as nothing more. He’s humble and comfortable, just funny and laid-back by nature. No one is writing any material for him. He brings nothing with him but is never shy. He’ll engage with anyone, including someone on a busy street. It doesn’t matter whether he’s prepared or unprepared. Chuck is also someone whom you have to get to know.

Look. This tournament has gotten off its rails wildly. We’ll see how the ratings do by Tuesday. Saturday’s doubleheader, April 1 in Houston and Monday’s title game will produce numers that can be crunched.

Saturday schedule

FAU (9) vs. San Diego State (5)  at 6:09PM

Connecticut (4) vs. Miami (5) at 8:39PM

The great Curt Gowdy would say this perennially, holding the overpowering NBC mic at the semi-final doubleheader: “It’s the greatest event in sports.” And with those curious eyes of his, he’d look at the camera and say “Where else can you see the four best of anything at one event on the same day!”

Gowdy told me and others that the best sport he did best was was basketball, more so than baseball or football. He noted that he played the game at the University of Wyoming and tips he got from Marty Glickman on hoops’ broadcasting in New York. (Mel Allen and Curt did two seasons together of the Yankees in 1949 and 1950.)

The Connecticut Huskies have won four NCAA tournament championships (1999, 2004, 2011 and 2014), which puts the program in a tie with Kansas for sixth-most all-time. Of course, the most rudimentary of basketball fans know that Coach John Wooden won ten. It will unlikely ever be broken. In 1995, the Bruins won again under Jim Harrick. who’s still hobbling around in his 80s.

Observations:

  • This Saturday’s winners play Monday night for the national championship. Jim Calhoun won three of UConn’s four titles and Kevin Ollie the last. 
  • Who would have believed this? Gone are these among others: Houston, Kansas, Kansas State, Purdue, Texas, Alabama and others.
  • Sometimes, when Clark Kellogg starts talking, I say to myself, “here he goes again.” But imagine what it was like when he did “color?” He’s a yakker. But he knows the game and these teams. Overall, Kellogg’s very good in his role.
  • If I understood Chuck Barkley, he’s okay when there are no bluebloods in the Final Four. (e.g. this year). UConn, they know. It’s the newcomers, SDSU, FAU and even Miami, all good stories.
  • Kenny Smith doesn’t get in anyone’s way. A good mix for this set.
  • Ernie Johnson is a keeper is in so many ways. Funny too and prepared.
  • Nothing to do with him personally, the  Jim Nantz Houston carusel failed when the Cougars bowed owed of the tournament. Jim just had the wrong horse. He got the greenlight from CBS’ production but the Cougars themselves didn’t cooperate. His bosses at CBS let him ride the tail of his alma-mater, University of Houston. Lachrymose eyeballs prevailed. Sadly, Nantz leaves CBS Hoops. It’s the little things that the audience will miss. Best storyteller at CBS.
Share
David J. Halberstam

David is a 40-year + industry veteran who served as play-by-play announcer for St. John's University basketball in New York and as radio play-by-play voice of the Miami Heat in South Florida. He is the author of Sports on New York Radio: A Play-by-Play History and The Fundamentals of Sports Media and Sponsorship Sales: Developing New Accounts.

Subscribe
Notify of
1 Comment
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Michael Green
1 year ago

Gowdy actually did the Celtics for a couple of years, and I remember him saying how interesting it was that Red Sox fans welcomed the down-the-middle approach that he and other legendary announcers took (Ken Coleman and Ned Martin, for example), but Celtics fans loved Johnny Most, who, of course, bled green blood. It’s a reminder of the differences between teams and announcers even in the same market–for example, Chick Hearn was both more clearly in favor of his team and critical of it than Vin Scully was, but of course both became, deservedly, gods in LA.