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Alfred Williams Wants To Make Denver Laugh, Cry, and Think

“My biggest strength is I tell the truth. The truth is painful most of the time in sports.”

Brian Noe

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Dane Brugler is an NFL Draft Analyst for The Athletic. “When scouting 300-pound defensive linemen, some show explosiveness in their lower body while others explode with their upper body,” Brugler once wrote. “The rare ones do both.” The observation made me think of sports radio. Some hosts make you laugh. Other hosts make you think. The rare ones do both consistently.

Alfred Williams is one of the rare hybrid hosts in sports radio. He can make you think with his wide-ranging opinions on sports, politics, and beyond. The former Denver Broncos two-time Super Bowl champion can absolutely crack you up as well. I went out to dinner with Alfred and his former co-host Darren “DMac” McKee roughly two years ago. Alfred’s laugh is infectious. It’s a laugh that not only lights up the room or building, it lights up the entire block of your general location.

Alfred Williams keeps making magic in Colorado – The Denver Post

A sports radio veteran of more than 16 years, the Colorado Buffaloes product now has a new gig alongside JoJo Turnbeaugh on KOA NewsRadio 850 AM & 94.1 FM in Denver. Alfred talks about the transition from his decade-long partner DMac to his current role on Big Al & JoJo. The Houston native also talks about his past experience with Oklahoma State head football coach Mike Gundy and the best advice he’s received throughout his radio career. Enjoy.

Brian Noe: You were off the air for six months during the transition from The Fan to KOA. What was that time like for you?

Alfred Williams: It was absolutely bittersweet. It really was. I kind of wanted a break. I needed a break. I had been going for about 15 years in a row. To have a little break was good, but my mom was dying. I got to spend that time with her. She ended up dying in July. I started back in September last year. It wasn’t as sweet as I thought it was going to be because my mom passed away, but it was a good break. It was needed.

BN: Has getting back to work helped you get your mind off things a little bit?

AW: It helped me with my grieving process. I’m thankful I have a good partner because he kind of talked me through it. He lost his father and he could kind of walk me through some of my internal rifts. When I’m talking, it just builds up frustration and anger — a lot of questioning why. You learn to hate things like the word cancer. All of the emotions, they come in waves. You just never get used to it. You just never get used to not being able to hear her voice.

BN: What has it been like for you to transition from DMac to your new partner JoJo?

AW: It’s been actually great. I still talk to DMac maybe once a week or so. But I love working with JoJo. He was the guy that I picked to work with. He was the number one guy. I had heard JoJo on 102.3 ESPN years ago and I liked the way that he handled the gravity of the show. I was a fan of it. He was not doing radio. For about six or seven years he was in management. They kept asking me who do I want and I just said give me JoJo because I just liked his vibe. That was an obvious choice for me.

BN: What was his reaction when he found out that you wanted him to be your partner?

AW: He was like no way. [Laughs] They told me I could pick anybody in the city that’s not under contract, or anybody in any one of our stations in Denver, or nationally if we wanted to go pick somebody up. We could get it done and try to make a go of it. I had JoJo in mind and he was like oh you got to be kidding me. You’re kidding me. I was like nah man. I heard him and he’s just got this great laugh. He’s got this fantastic laugh and his demeanor is in line with mine. It’s a good mix for me.

BN: You’ve got a great laugh yourself, man. When you guys start laughing together they probably hear you in Nebraska.

AW: [Laughs] I’m telling you, man. I’m telling you. I’m not going to lie; I’ve had moments on the show when I was in tears. We’ve had plenty of moments when we’ve laughed and it’s just been — man, what a roller coaster of a year for people who are in this business. Not everybody can handle all the things that are going on right now or they choose not to touch on it because maybe that’s not their format or maybe it’s not their expertise and they just ignore it. I’m so happy that I’m able to talk about the things that make us laugh, that make us cry, that make us think twice about situations.

BN: Have you been doing the show remotely at all during the pandemic?

AW: We started off and I think we did like 16 shows, but because we’re a news station we had essential workers permits. That gave me the opportunity to travel back and forth to the studio.

We were together when it was the beginning of coronavirus. We went to the Super Bowl together and then we went to the country music radio awards. Since we were together at the Super Bowl and 10 days later we were together, we were just like hey man, we’ll just do the show from the studio. We’ll put our masks on and go in and just do it from the studio. It’s not the same energy when you can’t see the person or talk in the breaks. All radio people understand it’s just smoother when you’re in person.

BN: How did you initially get into sports radio?

AW: When I was a player we had a one-hour show when The Fan first started up. I was playing for the Broncos. They wanted to do a one-hour show and I was okay with it so we just did that one-hour show. After football was over, Tim Spence, who was my boss who hired me, asked me to come do radio. At the time I had a technology company that was growing. I told him I couldn’t do it. That went on for four years. Then I came back and said okay I’m ready to do sports radio. He was like you’re not serious. [Laughs]

So I had this two-hour show with Scott Hastings. We had a blast, bro. We had a blast. Every day was silly and funny and we talked about sports and life and locker rooms. It was great. Then they wanted to move me and Scotty in the drive-time position, but Scotty was gone with the Nuggets. They put me with this shock jock DMac.

Big Al and D-Mac's Darren McKee Interview About 104.3 The Fan ...

I’ll never forget, man, I got married on May 23rd. It was Memorial Day weekend. I got married on Saturday. I go in on Monday. I was 40 years old and I’ll never forget what my partner said to me. He said why did you get married? They’re going to make another 25-year-old next year.

At that moment I wanted to kick his ass all over that studio. I told them there was no way I was going to work with this guy. I told them no way. He started to court me, bringing BBQ and sandwiches, and just making sure everything was smooth. Eventually we worked it out and it was a good really run, man. We had a 10-year run. I worked with Scotty for five years, and then DMac for 10, and now JoJo for a year.

BN: Was it hard to move away from The Fan and DMac after you’d been working together for a decade?

AW: Yes, it was really tough because I was comfortable and familiar with everybody. When you change radio stations or you change jobs the grass looks greener on the other side. I had overtures, I’ve had at least three or four overtures in the past but this one felt like it was right because it was also the home of the Broncos, the home of the Rockies, and we can talk about anything. Not just sports, but anything that is hot and topical, whether it’s finances, weather, politics, or COVID-19.

BN: What would you say is the general vibe of doing a show in the Denver market?

AW: I’m going to be totally honest with you, man, it’s really uplifting. I am on a station that was a Republican station and still leans hard to the Republican side. We were the home of Rush Limbaugh for 25 years or more, so my audience wasn’t necessarily aligned with me politically, but what I found is there can be a middle ground. Conversations can be had and we can agree to disagree without being nasty, which is always preferable.

When you start talking about things that affect somebody and their political party’s ideas and you’re not on the same page, trust me it can be three or four hours of rough conversation. It’s okay that you have them as long as you can say okay I can understand your point. You can get to a middle ground. Maybe you won’t always agree but we can agree to be gentlemen with each other.

BN: What do you think is your biggest strength as a sports radio host? 

AW: My biggest strength is I tell the truth. The truth is painful most of the time in sports. Especially if you’re from the home of the team that you’re covering. Maybe this is because I played for the team and I’m good friends with most of the guys that are over there with the Broncos in particular or with my CU Buffs, they know I’m coming from a good place.

If I say that they didn’t play a good game because of coaching or players, and I can say that’s not going to cut it, it’s not what we need to win, most of the time it’s a hard lesson if you are over in that building and you’re coaching one of the teams that I’m talking about. There have been some coaches in the past that didn’t appreciate it. I tell them to pound sand because I know what I’m looking at.

The problem with football is that it’s really complicated and it takes time to explain why somebody is good or why somebody is bad. You just have to keep telling people every day that this is why they are good, this is why they aren’t good. You have to do that every single day if you’re not on the popular side. I remember the conversations I was having about Tim Tebow. I was saying he’s not a good quarterback. You can’t even imagine how popular Tim Tebow was. After they won that game against the Steelers I was like, well this was the best win of his life. John is not going to have him back here as quarterback. 

Sure enough I got, oh man, you’re talking about vitriol. You’re talking about people who just did not understand what I was saying and they just wanted Tim Tebow for other reasons. It had nothing to do with football. I think it was because of his religious beliefs that people we’re clinging to him. But as a broadcaster you just have to tell people what’s going on. If he’s making a good play or making a bad play you’ve got to be able to explain why he is good or why he is not.

BN: What type of feedback have you gotten after the story resurfaced of Mike Gundy calling you the N-word [in a game back in 1989]?

AW: You know it was weird. The best part about Twitter is that you get a national and international field. I’m not just talking to people in Colorado. I had some people who started following me and say “Way to jump on the bandwagon now, Alfred, after 30 years you’re bringing this up.”

They don’t know the context. They don’t know that I brought it up 30 years ago. I just learned not to argue with people that don’t leave their name. If you’re bold enough to leave your name and you can be found easily, then I’ll respond to you. But if you won’t leave your name, then I think it’s just not a good deal for me to even respond to you.

I was really pissed off that people looked at it like I was piling on. Shannon Sharpe called me about this incident at Oklahoma State 31 years ago. He said he got a phone call from somebody from Oklahoma State that said that Gundy was not a gentleman with me. I said you got that right. I told him what happened. He went on TV the next day and he started the conversation about Mike Gundy and what happened. I’ve been doing radio a long time. If I wanted to bring that up I would have brought that up years ago.

I didn’t bring it up because I brought it up 31 years ago and nothing happened, what would make me think that bringing it up today would make anything else happen? He hasn’t apologized yet so I guess he’s not going to apologize.

BN: Did that sort of thing happen a lot on the football field to you?

AW: First and only time. In all of my football career — high school, college — it happened once with him. In the pros, never once.

BN: Have you experienced any racism as a sports radio host?

AW: No, and that’s one of the reasons that I say it’s been uplifting. It’s different when you text in because when you text in your phone number is there, right? You can actually pick the phone up and call the person who texted you if they say something nasty. If they’re bold enough to call, then maybe they have something that they want to get off their heart.

Maybe I haven’t thought of a perspective that was different. I love people to call in. We read the text messages whether they’re good or bad. We read them because I think the audience is judge and jury when it comes to what should be talked about and what shouldn’t be talked about. I don’t back down and I don’t back away from it. We’re just talking. Let’s talk it out.

BN: What’s an area that you would like to be better in as a host? 

AW: I’d like to be a better driver. I’ve driven well over 300 shows but I’d like to be a better driver. Every show has a feel and the driver is the person that gives that show that feel. I was told by Tim Spence years ago that I could be the John Madden of the show and look at it like this guy opens up and I give the perspective. I thought that was a great way to describe how impactful not driving can be. John Madden never drove and he worked with a lot of different guys over the years. He was a professional broadcaster. I kind of look at it like that. I just want to be the John Madden of my show, but I’d like to be able to have the skill set to set us back to the original sound when the co-host isn’t there.

BN: What’s some other advice you’ve gotten that has made a big difference for you as a broadcaster?

AW: This is the best advice I’ve ever gotten and it came from Tim Spence. This was at a time when I was doing TV and doing radio. He said either you’re a radioman or you’re not. At that time it was such a strong statement that I just stopped doing all the color analyst stuff and just stuck with doing radio. It’s made my life. I can have a sharper focus and it’s made my life more compartmentalized so I can just put things in the right place. I’m a radioman.

BN: I like it. That could be your nickname — Alfred “The Radioman” Williams.

AW: [Laughs] You know what? All people who are in radio that do this get pumped up every day so that they can have a good time to talk with their audience, and greet them, and bring some interesting points. The people who are not excited about having their show every day, man they’ve got to get the hell out of radio.

Alfred Williams on alleged Mike Gundy racial slur: "Why would I ...

BN: Is there anything that you would like to do before your broadcasting career is over?

AW: No, I just want to talk to the people in Colorado and thank them every single day for giving me a chance. Every day I want to thank them for giving me a chance to be me. I want to thank them every day and tell them how proud I am to call myself a Coloradan.

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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