Monday, November 21, 2011


ESPN trio a treat


— ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas, an integral part of the best broadcasting trio in the business, is so good at his job because he’s talented and prepares obsessively. But he’s even luckier than he is good.

Bilas and Sean McDonough have the best seats in the house. No, not their court-side seats. They get to sit next to the most colorful man in the business on airplanes and airports, in restaurants and bars. Lucky men.

Bill Raftery and Bilas flank play-by-play man McDonough and demonstrate a great team truly is greater than the sum of its parts and the parts happen to be solid gold. The Maui Invitational always is among their assignments.

They never stray too far from the game they’re calling, yet never treat it as if it ranks with world peace in importance.

McDonough already had developed terrific chemistry calling NCAA Tournament games for CBS in the 1990s, so bringing in a third man was a gamble.

“I felt like I was being inserted into a 30-year marriage,” Bilas said. “I felt like, ‘What am I doing here?’ It was like (former HBO Series) ‘Big Love.’ I felt uncomfortable.”

Not for long. The first game they worked as a trio was Notre Dame at UConn in the middle of the 2002-2003 season.

“Notre Dame had a kid named Danny Miller, who had transferred from Maryland,” Bilas said. “So Miller makes this great play, and we show a replay, and Raftery is talking over the replay, saying, ‘Oh, it’s Miller time, and you know how I love hearing that.’ And McDonough, without missing a beat, says, ‘Except on Big Monday, which is brought to you by Bud Light.’ And I lost it. I thought, ‘I’m home. This is great.’ We hit it off from the beginning and became great friends.”

All three bring spontaneous humor to a telecast. To listen to them is to recall sitting in a college dorm room with fellow basketball nuts, shooting the breeze deep into the night. Wasn’t there always a guy laughing at himself for putting his elbow through a tough workout the previous night, tossing them back? Raftery is that guy.

“Raftery eats the same stuff at every meal,” Bilas said. “A bowl of steam, a piece of old chicken and 12 drinks. The whole thing is a celebration of the game. Raftery knows everybody.”

Knows them so well his calls get answered no matter when they’re placed.

“We did a Villanova game,” Bilas said. “It’s snowing. The weather’s horrible. We’re driving to the game, and he calls (Villanova coach) Jay Wright. ‘Hey, Jay, get your galoshes. We’re going out after the game.’ This guy’s got a game in an hour.”

In the college basketball world, Raftery is the equivalent of a modern day Rat Pack star. He’s Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin rolled into one, minus the smokes.

“He enjoys every minute of it,” said Bilas, who impersonates Raftery superbly when quoting him. “He’s the best. He doesn’t understand this whole Twitter thing. So one of the things I do, when he says something real funny, I put it out there. So now he’ll be telling me a story. and he’ll stop in the middle, ‘Don’t tweet this, will ya?’’’

So Bilas doesn’t tweet it. Still, he never finds himself short of Raftery material.


rockchalkchampionship 10 years, 8 months ago

I love Raftery. So excited for these next three days!

lifetimeJay 10 years, 8 months ago

Seriously guys? This is just meant to be entertaining and I think it is. Pull the pine cones out your a$$e$ and lighten up.

Dee Shaw 10 years, 8 months ago

Or even better. Game is beginning to start. Tip off. G'Town gets the ball. Classic Raftery, and "Jay Bilas KU starts in Man to Man." CBS needs to get a clue and swallow some pride and get these guys on there Final Four broadcast team. Love Clark Kellog. Jim Nantz stick with golf. Clark and Jim can't even compare to Jay, Sean and Raft.

Kevin Huffman 10 years, 8 months ago

I actually Hubert Davis. Seems like the most objective one of all of 'em when it comes to KU.

John Mueller 10 years, 8 months ago

hey, nwhawk. it was written to entertain. And, it did.

I love Raftery, he is the best because he is authentic. He is exactly who he is and makes no apologies, but he actually knows ball and doesn't spend the whole game name dropping and promoting his next event like Vitale.

After the galoshes remark, i am ready to buy his book!!

jaybate 10 years, 8 months ago

"Drinks Raftery Likes with Different Teams"

~Duke: A Krzyzewski Shillelagh (aka A Polish Cudgel)--two cheap shots of Bushmills garnished with a wedge of kielbasa.

~UNC: A Weepy Roy (aka Gaelic Secondary Break)--a triple of bootlegged Irish white lightning potato alcohol with a squeeze of onion juice and a garnish of yellow onion sufficient to make you tear up before and after you sip.

-Georgetown: An Innisfree Onion (aka A Paranoid Shamrock)--two jiggers Jameson 18 Year Old Limited Reserve, a jigger of Colt 45, a couple of drops of licorice liquor garnished with a black eyed pea.

~Chaminade: A Trade Wind Saint (aka A Pineapple Blarney)--10 jiggers of Knockeen Hills 140, one half jigger of sea water, garnished with a marlin kidney carved in the shape of a Dole pineapple.

(Note: All fiction. No malice.)

741hawk 10 years, 8 months ago

Over-educated or just nuts? No malice.

jaybate 10 years, 8 months ago

Inadequately educated, or a brain the size of a non pareil caper? :-)

XEPCT 10 years, 8 months ago

how cute, Keegan is stargazing and lamenting about his dream profession.

that George Clooney, he's so handsome, and he knows everybody! And after a shoot, he sometimes goes out for drinks ... even when it's snowing, with girls!! what a cool guy.

Displayhawk 10 years, 8 months ago

I never have liked Raftery, but then I don't like Duke Vitale either! Bilas and McDonough are good though. You guys remember when George Raveling was doing broadcasts??? Talk about LAME! He was the worst!

actorman 10 years, 8 months ago

Best color guy I ever heard was Rick Pitino: straightforward, to the point, and I learned something new every time. As great a coach as he is, it was a shame that he went back to that.

One of the best things about Pitino is that I can't ever remember him saying that something was a "two-possession game." In other words, he understood that most people over the age of 6 know how to add.

I do love Bilas too, though. And I enjoy Raftery.

Ann Oneill 10 years, 8 months ago

I don't for a minute believe Keegan wrote this. Not his style, and WAY too many big words.

John Boyle 10 years, 8 months ago

Raftery is just a poor man's Vitale and we really don't need either one of the bags of wind. They are the announcer's version of trash talking players. Please, Just call the game and add in some insight every once in a while. Don't spend the whole time trying to come up with the next catch phrase (i.e diaper dandy, that dog will hunt, gimme the rock baby, etc., etc., etc., etc.,) I actually liked Bobby Knight doing the games. Other than him butchering up the names of the players, he has a lot of knowledge and shares it during the games by explaining why teams are doing what they are doing. Just my opinion.

SaltLakeHawk 10 years, 8 months ago

Bobby Knight has no credibility.

Digger Phelps... now there's a proven winner who is gracing ESPN with his valuable insights.

Rock_Chalk_NYC 10 years, 8 months ago

Great article and so true!

Was worried at first that Richard "Dick" Vitale would be mentioned... He's the worst. Still waiting for him to retire somewhere in ACC land... Or somewhere near Roy or Coach K's posterior.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.