Billy Packer Out, Clark Kellogg In As CBS Final Four Analyst: Kellogg Interview Shortly After National Final Included

One of the best the biz has to offer. Can’t wait to see him do the Final Four

After 27 years with the network, CBS and Billy Packer have decided to part ways. Packer and CBS mutually agreed to this last year. Packer did a total of 34 Final Fours. Can you imagine seeing that many great games?

In steps a very capable Clark Kellogg…

“With his unquestioned popularity and performance over the years, Clark Kellogg earned all rights to this top spot,” Sean McManus, president of CBS News and Sports, said in a statement Monday. “Like Billy Packer, Al McGuire or any of the most highly regarded broadcasters, Clark is an original voice with his own style and perspective.”

I’ve always admired Kellogg’s work. He sees the game from a player’s vantage point and has a very intellectual and professional approach to his analysis. Since this was announced yesterday (7/15), I have an interview I conducted with Clark shortly after the National Final over the phone after the jump.

Here’s a statement Clark just sent: “I’m extremely grateful for and excited about this wonderful professional opportunity. I’m very much looking forward to it. The NCAA Final Four is one of the premiere sporting events in the world and I feel privileged to be part of the CBS announcing team.”

Thanks Clark. Best of luck to you.

Michael Tillery: It was an honor to finally meet you. I have to say you and Gus are my favorite announcing team. How can I say this? I wish that the network would rethink their National Final pairing because when that game happens, you do want the best team available. In short…to some…you are the best team.

Clark Kellogg: (Laughing) Well, I appreciate you saying that Mike. Gus and I have a great time together when we hang out.

MT: I wanted to talk about your actual basketball career. Being a fan of Michigan, I’ve followed your career since you were at Ohio State. You were the man there, I gotta give it to you.

CK: Michael, you are going back a while. I was there from the fall of ’79 to the summer of ’82. I played three years there and left after my junior year to play in the NBA.

I had a solid career at Ohio State. I produced really well early on and came out of high school highly touted. I was top five on just about everybody’s list. I ended up staying in the Buckeye state. I grew up in Cleveland. Ohio State came at me pretty hard–it was a good fit. I wish we could have won a Big Ten title or two while I was there. We came up short two of the three years I was there. We didn’t have a ton of tournament success. We got to the tournament two of the three years. We got to the Sweet 16 my freshman year and lost in the first round my junior year.

I look back at it fondly. I played at a pretty high level all three years I was there. I was able to move on and pursue that dream of being an NBA player.

MT: Clark what were some of your aspirations coming in–especially being so highly touted coming into the league?

CK: I was excited about the opportunity. I was the 8th pick back in ’82. It was a great chance to come in and start right away. I was a young buck at 21 with all these dreams of playing in the pros. I had no idea what entailed or what it meant, but you find out as you go along. Initially when you get to the league you want to prove you belong. You want to prove your game is NBA caliber. I think most players will tell you whether they are winning or not that they want to prove they got it.

You want to stake out your territory and make a name for yourself. I was no different. I wanted to come in and prove that I was worthy of being a top pick. I was potentially going to be an all star some day and be part of a winning team at some point.

MT: Then the knee problems began to happen?

CK: Yep after my second year. My first year I played pretty much every game and produced at a high level. I was on a poor team. We just didn’t have enough talent to compete consistently at that time. We were one of the worst teams in the league record wise. I showed that I was a player that could be really good over the course of time.

The second year I had a little bout with some knee trouble. My third year I had my first knee surgery. I still came back and played I 77-78 games I think my third year.

Then going into my fourth year I was on my way man. I had a terrific camp. I was really playing well. As a young veteran–if you will–I knew how to get ready for the season. I was ready to take that next step. Early in that season, I had to have another knee operation. Michael, that was really the beginning of the end. I never got back to being able to play consistently after that. That was the winter of ’85.

MT: I definitely remember being very disappointed even though I was drawn to Michigan because of Anthony Carter just a few years earlier. You struck me as that player who was going to be the next big thing.

CK: Yeah that cut it short. I fought through that for a couple of years. I ended up having additional surgery after having that second one. My last surgery was in December of ’86. At that point, I went through the rehab and tried to get ready but, I ended up having to retire in August of ’87. My knee just wasn’t going to hold up to all that twisting, turning, bumping and thumping.

So at the ripe ole age of 26, I had to tearfully say it’s over–that part anyway.

MT: So what happened next? What happened between that time and becoming a broadcaster?

CK: I retired in August of ’87 and in September of ’87, the Pacers hired me to do some of their radio.

MT: Wow, that was quick.

CK: Yeah, it was a quick turn man. It was a real quick turn fortunately because I got a chance to stay involved in the game with the organization that drafted me.

Really that was the beginning. I started doing games on radio and some local radio updates for flagship stations for the Pacers. Then I did TV games for Cleveland State University, which you know was a college in my hometown.

So I jumped right into it and saw that I could be good at broadcasting if I worked at it.

MT: What was your major?

CK: I was a marketing major but I always took communications seriously. My Mom was really adamant about me communicating well. She planted a seed in my head early on to be able to handle an interview if I was going to be a basketball start that I thought I wanted to be.

I took that to heart man from the time I was in 9th and 10th grade. I started being interviewed in high school and all through college. I actually was preparing for what I do now. I knew and understood the game a little bit so all of that helped me land a job with the Pacers in broadcasting.

MT: Do you remember the first time you were on the radio?

CK: Not the first time, but I remember the first year where I would interview the opposing coach or I would try to add commentary during the game. When I was doing television, I noticed how different that was. I had to learn the nuances of TV. I knew basketball and was a pretty good communicator, but that doesn’t mean you are going to be a good broadcaster.

You have to understand how to get in and out, how to work with a number of different partners, and figure out what’s important when you are studying information. Finding out what’s good information and what would be useful during the course of the game. All of those things takes a while to grasp. I had a pretty good aptitude initially–showing some promise–but obviously I wasn’t as good as I am now. Nobody is for that matter. I had a strong desire to get better so I watched a lot of tape and asked a lot of people who I could get better.

I worked at it because I wanted to be outstanding and not just average.

MT: I’m trying to get and indication of how you rose in the ranks.

CK: Well I started with the Pacers, did the TV games with Cleveland State. In ’89, I put together a little package together and started doing some regional games for the Atlantic Ten Network.

That led to a game a week there and that’s how ESPN saw me. I think they caught a game or two or heard about me. So in ’89-’90 I started doing some work for ESPN. I started doing TV for the Pacers as well and that’s when things started to kinda pick up.

I think Dick Vitale might have heard me somewhere and mentioned me to ESPN as someone who was an up and comer.

I spent eight years at ESPN from ’90 to ’97 doing games and studio stuff.

Obviously, CBS noticed me from ESPN, liked what I did and got me involved in some tournament games in the mid ’90’s–’93 and ’94. Then I switched full time to them in ’97.

MT: You were seeing some great basketball around this time. From those great UNLV teams to Duke and then on to the Fab Five of Michigan.

I always wanted to ask you and Dick Vitale about when you are seeing superior individual talent and teams do you see an ascension of basketball from previous years?

CK: Yeah of course. There is always terrific talent in every time period. I was born in 1961 and fell in love with the game at 9 years old. So, in the late ’60’s to the time I went through high school, I had the guys I read about and watched…Lew Alcindor was my guy even though I grew up in Ohio and he played at UCLA and grew up in New York. I knew everything about him. Watched his grace and got a sense of his intellect. I really enjoyed seeing how he carried himself and how he produced on the court.

Julius Erving was obviously a high flyer at the time when I was coming through high school. Magic and Bird were doing their thing.

So every group…everybody had their guys that they watched and emulated when they wanted to be a pro player.

Over time the game has obviously become a lot more athletic. Players see more. There wasn’t that much on TV in the ’60’s and ’70’s as there is now. It’s over saturation now. There’s too much on. It’s good because you get to see a lot more and the kids see what they might be able to become.

You factor in conditioning and training that enhance an athlete’s performance and what you have is really dynamic athleticism. Players are becoming better earlier. Kids specialize in one sport more. I was one of the only guys in my high school that only played basketball. Most kids at that time played 2 or 3 sports. Now, because of the challenges of getting scholarships and what have you, kids to their detriment sometimes, get channeled into one sport super early.

Initially, I played just for fun. When I got to tenth grade was the first time I began to think of basketball as getting a way into college. Now kids think about trying to grab a scholarship at 6, 7 and 8 years old. In some ways that’s good, but in a lot of ways it’s bad. Kids end up being burned out. People try to professionalize kids 11,12 and 13 years old when they are not ready to be that intense about their game. So I see both sides of it.

Back when I played, you didn’t see as many high flying, dynamic and precocious athletes as you do now.

MT: This past year seeing Michael Beasley, Derrick Rose and Kevin Love–those types of talents–do you see any one tournament being more special than another or do you just see your job professionally?

CK: You know what? I’ve never viewed it that way because each year the tournament brings some unique stories. Stars that rise up and perform at a high level–be it for one game or throughout the course of the tournament. This year you had a kid like Stephen Curry from Davidson. Those of us who cover college basketball, knew he was an outstanding scorer and player, but for him to do what he did this year on a grander stage captivated everybody–the avid as well as the casual fan.

Glen Rice in ’89. The run he made through the tournament. I know you remember that.

MT: Of course!

CK: He was phenomenal. He averaged close to 30 a game and maybe a tad more if I recall.

MT: I think it was around 30.6, but I could be mistaken.

CK: You ought to know! He just carried that team unbelievably. He was ridiculous game in and game out through that championship run.

Those Duke teams of ’91-’92–their brilliance. The Kentucky teams of ’96,’97, ’98. They were in a position to three peat. That team in ’96 was unbelievable. That team was one of the most outstanding college teams to win it. They were terrific. Then in ’97 they were a different team. Derek Anderson got hurt, but they got back and ended up losing to Arizona in overtime.

So Michael, I kind of look at it one year at a time. I look at it for what it is. It’s exciting. You get some unexpected surprises. Often times you have star players rise to another level.

I can’t say one particular tournament stands out more than others since I’ve been broadcasting. They all have their unique place in basketball history. I enjoy seeing how they unfold each year.

MT: Could you talk about this past NCAA Tournament? Especially the Final Four?

CK: You know what Mike, throughout the tournament we only had a handful of what I would call exciting and dramatic games. Maybe fewer that we’ve had in the past over the course of the whole tournament. As much as we’ve looked forward to having all #1 seeds in the Final Four, the semi final games weren’t as competitive as anticipated–or as hoped for.

Memphis pretty much controlled their game with UCLA–almost from start to finish. There were some periods in the first have where it was close and competitive. You just never got the sense UCLA was going to be able to put any real pressure on Memphis. There was a real mismatch on the perimeter. The size of Derrick Rose, Chris Douglas-Roberts really bothered Darren Collison in particular. Josh Shipp as well. Russell Westbrook was the only one to get off in that game. We can’t forget about the defense inside. That game fell short of what I hoped it would be.

In the second game, North Carolina stumbled out of the gate. Kansas probably played its best fifteen minutes of the season in that first half and really jumped on Carolina in a big way. North Carolina made a nice run, but in the end Kansas threw the ball inside, got the shots they wanted to get and pulled away comfortably.

Those two games, quite honestly, were a little flat based on what I was hoping for in terms of the match ups. The championship game was terrific. It was an outstanding championship game. You are always happy for the team that wins and there’s a part of you that’s sad for the team that loses because you never know if you’ll get another chance.

The way Memphis let it slip away made it even more so sad for that group. They had game. They had nine fingers around it, but couldn’t get that last finger on it.

MT: Could you envision CDR going down in the annals of something similar to Freddie Brown?

CK: I’m sure some people will put that twist on it. CDR and Derrick Rose both will be thinking about the one foul shot they could have made that really would have made a difference. That’s part of sports. I tend not to dwell on it from that perspective, but I know in many circles that will be something that’s brought up.

More will be placed on the shot that Mario Chalmers hit. That’ll be the shot we’ll see on many video montages of the tournament. Even though the free throws would have made it a moot point, The fact that he stepped up and hit a fade away three in that circumstance is part of the reason why the tournament is remembered for as well.

Everyone on the floor will remember this shot until the end of their days

MT: People also failed to mention Joey Dorsey fouled out…

CK: Aw, that was a huge factor. That’s why you have to try to squeeze it in during regulation if you can. Not having him in the extra session clearly was a major factor.

There was also the deflation a team like Memphis would feel after having it slip through their hands. There’s a totally different psychological outlook when you’ve had the game and now you have to go out there in the extra five minutes to try and get it back versus Kansas. They thought it might have been over–but they didn’t quit. Now they are energized. It’s like having a good nights rest…you are ready to get up at 6:30 As opposed to being out until 2 in the morning and 6:30 rolls around. You might get up, but you aren’t nearly going to be as energized as the person who went to bed on time and got up early.

That’s the same kind of feeling Kansas had. They were pumped and excited. This is ours now they most likely said.

They were once lost, but now have been found. That kind of feeling, so you can’t discount either side of the equation. Then, like you said, you factor in Joey Dorsey fouling out then you are playing an extra five minutes without a full army.

MT: I wanna talk about your broadcasting inspirations and also Dick Vitale being inducted into the Hall of Fame.

When you see Vitale going in, being one of your peers, is that something you envision down the road for yourself being you are one of the top broadcasters?

CK: Not really. My desire is to strive for excellence on a day to day basis to year to year basis in whatever I’m doing. I feel that’s what God calls me to do is be a light wherever I am because of his light in me. That’s as a Dad, as a husband, as a man in my community and certainly as a broadcaster.

Wherever that leads or whatever that brings in terms of honor or attention I give it up to God. So no, I don’t aspire but whatever comes I graciously receive as a bonus. I just love what I’m doing.

To see Dick go in…he’s obviously been a tremendous contributor in terms of college basketball. His passion, enthusiasm and excitement–all that he embodies–is special and good for the game. That he has been able to get to that hallowed hall is really quite impressive and remarkable.

MT: Was there someone you followed when getting into the game that helped with your development?

CK: Not really. I’ve always noticed and enjoyed certain commentators and appreciated the work that they do. I’ve always been one to realize we’re all a little different. There’s nothing wrong with seeing whose doing it right and taking bits and pieces to apply to your own personality and style. That’s how I’ve always approached it. There’s some analysts that I enjoy listening to. Doug Collins and Hubie Brown. They are outstanding. Billy Packer has been as good as anybody over the last three decades.

Packer and Nantz have been a fixture on CBS for years

He’s as sharp and analytical as anyone out there. He never seems to miss what’s going on with any game–trends or strategic moves that were important.

So I’ve enjoyed a lot of broadcasters. Dick has a different style, but he does a good job. Lenny Elmore…there are a lot of guys who I think do a good job. Bill Raftery…but I never set out to pattern myself after anyone in particular. I have my own kind of unique flair. I like to play around with words to come up with different ways to say things, but you can’t take yourself too serious.

MT: What else are you doing outside of basketball? Is there anything you have in place to help a certain community?

CK: Yeah I’m involved. I’ve been involved in Big Brothers, Big Sisters for a number of years. I’ve been a Big Brother to a kid for a while. Ryan is 22 in June (obviously 23 now). I’ve also been involved in United Way in Central Ohio both financially and through volunteering. I’m very involved with our local church. A couple of Christian outreach programs–Ministry of Police in Action and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. We do clinics and camps and I’ll get up and speak.

I want to get into a lot of areas and make sure I do my part to reflect the glory of God and have a positive impact on those I have a chance to influence–primarily with my wife and three children.

I want to always make sure I can lend my name and do my part in reaching out to other folks.

MT: There’s a 12 year old kid watching you do your thing in the tournament. What could be the best advice you could give him so he could possibly reach the level of success you have achieved as a broadcaster?

CK: One you have to be able to do the work no matter what you are doing. You have to prepare, read and watch the game to get an understanding of the game. You also have to be yourself in how you present what’s going on in the game. Then you have to get as much broadcasting experience as you can–as soon as you can. It could be radio or TV. Hands on experience is one of the best teachers.

You have to remember to do the work. Sometimes kids look at the finished product–whether it be a player, broadcaster, teacher or whatever profession they are looking at–and don’t realize there’s a process of work that’s involved to get the best you have to offer out of yourself. If you are not willing to do that work you are always going to shortchange yourself.

3 Responses to “Billy Packer Out, Clark Kellogg In As CBS Final Four Analyst: Kellogg Interview Shortly After National Final Included”

  1. rashad says:

    Great interview sir. He has big shoes to fill, but he can do it.

  2. Carolyn says:

    Special K is special again.

  3. Mizzo says:

    You can’t replace Kellogg’s experience and knowledge of the game. He’ll do just fine Rashad.

    Thanks for the link Carolyn. You’re sweet 🙂