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John Thompson Was A Titan On The Court, On The Air & In Life

“Some people are successful at whatever they do, and for Coach Thompson everything he did, he did with a gravitas, style and class that was unmatched.”

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2020 has been one of the worst years for many of us, and to lose a legend like John Thompson hurts immensely in a year already full of hurt.

There are a few men who walk into a room, and are just larger than life before they say a single word. John Thompson was one of those men. His mere presence was enough to garner respect from everyone, and his death has brought about an outpouring of support from former colleagues and players alike.

John Thompson, the basketball coach, would have been enough to write a massive book about, but when you add his career outside of coaching, you realize very quickly that John Thompson is one of the great people to walk the earth.

John Thompson, longtime Georgetown basketball coach, dies at 78 |  Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Thompson took over a little known program, Georgetown, in the early 70s and transformed them into a national power. This is a story that never should have happened at a place like Georgetown, but it took a once in a lifetime coach like Thompson to elevate the Hoyas to national prominence. From 1972 to 1999 Thompson would amass a .714 winning percentage, make three Final 4s and become the 1st African American head coach to win a National Championship in 1984. Georgetown was the “it” school in college basketball for a long time, and helped usher in the Big East Conference as must watch hoops. 

Bomani Jones said it best on his podcast, “Georgetown was the first Mid Major to be great.” When you stop and process those words, he’s right. Georgetown was never supposed to be a basketball power. Georgetown was never supposed to be in Final 4s and Georgetown was never supposed to be a household name, but John Thompson made them all of that. 

The Thompson story is much bigger than the on court acumen though. What Coach did for kids in the DC area, and kids at that school can not be undersold.

I read an excerpt from Alonzo Mourning’s book Resilience: Faith, Focus, Triumph. In it, Mourning writes that he was hanging out with the wrong crowd his freshman year of college, meaning one of the biggest dealers in the DC area. Thompson would go to the dealer’s house and basically tell him to stay away from Zo, that he wasn’t that type of kid. How many coaches would have the stones to make that visit, or two, have the respect of the community to get the results he was looking for. Coach Thompson never has to worry about Alonzo Mourning being at the wrong house again after that. 

Allen Iverson is another well told story. Iverson was the super prodigy who could’ve gone to any school in the country until he was involved in a fight a bowling alley. Basically every school in the country except Georgetown turned the other way. Iverson would go to Georgetown and have a brilliant career ultimately going to an Elite 8 and becoming the first overall pick in the NBA draft.

Go back and watch Iverson’s HOF speech, watch the tears roll down his face thanking John Thompson and know what an impact Coach had on AI’s life. “Thank You for saving my life” Iverson took to Twitter and said it again on Monday.

https://twitter.com/alleniverson/status/1300433377166843905?s=20

Thompson was more than just a basketball coach, and after retirement he decided to get into broadcasting. His voice shook the airwaves, he spoke with such power and intelligence that you got smarter every time you listened to him. 

What was then Sportstalk 980 in DC gave him a chance just a few months after he retired from coaching and the original idea was to have him as a weekly guest. He was known to be rough with the media, but once he hit the airwaves it was like he had studied all his life to be in radio.

On Monday, the station, now called The Team 980, was filled with tributes both on air and online including morning man Kevin Sheehan sharing this clip.

https://twitter.com/kevinsheehanDC/status/1300599967418118144?s=20
https://twitter.com/team980/status/1300797611700563969?s=20
https://twitter.com/scottlinn980/status/1300442674017828865?s=20
https://twitter.com/980cj/status/1300509463363887107?s=20

Thirteen years later Thompson signed off for a final time but not before bringing in the biggest guests and a barbershop like sound to the airwaves. Rev Jesse Jackson, Spike Lee, Bill Russell, Coach K and many others were always welcome on the show, and what made the show great was he connected with audience members young and old. Thompson was just as successful on the air as he was on the bench.

He would also spend time on the radio row circuit, which is where I got to meet one of my heros. Growing up in South Florida, Miami didn’t have the Heat, and the Canes didn’t play basketball for almost 25 years. Georgetown became my adopted team, because they reminded me of the Miami Hurricanes football team. Tough, rugged and in your face. 

Thompson was on radio row in Dallas in 2014, and we got the scheduled interview. For anyone that’s been to any radio row, you know that it’s a cattle call of sorts. You get 10 minutes or so with a big name guest, then they move to the next station. When Coach Thompson came over, his handler brought a taller chair for him to sit on, which was different than anyone else who sat on the normal chair that was provided. John Thompson is the type of guest who you just allowed to talk, and don’t rush his answers. As I sat literally feet from my favorite college hoops coach ever, that one bead of sweat was pouring down my back. Honestly I don’t know what I asked, but for ten minutes it was me and a legend. His voice overpowered my headphones and I was mesmerized by every word he spoke. After the interview I thanked him, we shook hands, took a picture and he moved to the next table.

John Thompson, Legendary Georgetown Basketball Coach, Dies at 78

A year later in Atlanta, once again I got to speak with Coach Thompson and much like the year previous I enjoyed every second of getting a chance to speak with an icon. Very rarely in 16 years of radio have I been intimidated by a guest, but two times Coach JT did that too me. 

Some people are larger than life. Some people have a purpose on earth to do better for others. For John Thompson, whether it was Allen Iverson, Dikembe Moutombo, Alonzo Mourning or countless other Hoyas, he helped make them better men. Some people are successful at whatever they do, and for Coach Thompson everything he did, he did with a gravitas, style and class that was unmatched. I’m truly humbled to have had the opportunity to spend 20 minutes of my life talking to him, and he will be forever loved and missed. RIP to a legend who will never be forgotten. 

BSM Writers

Sam Mayes Got A Raw Deal But Tyler Media Made The Right Call

“You are being naive if you think a company should stand behind an employee that has put themselves in this situation.”

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I do not envy whoever at Tyler Media had to make a decision about Sam Mayes’s future with the company after audio of a private conversation in 2016 was leaked to the media. Mayes and now-former co-worker Cara Rice made a few racist jokes at the expense of Native Americans.

The recording, according to Mayes, was made without his knowledge and leaked illegally. He says in a recorded statement that he should have been given the opportunity to address the recording on air and make amends.

OKC Radio Host Sam Mayes Fired After Racist Audio is Leaked

Maybe that is true, maybe it isn’t. I hate for Sam to lose his job as the result of an illegal recording of a private conversation, but the fact is, that conversation isn’t private anymore. Tyler Media didn’t really have an option here. Sam Mayes had to go.

Someone had an illegal recording of the conversation and created an anonymous email account to send it to people in the Oklahoma City media. I was shown a copy of the email. The author states clearly that their goal is to see Mayes and Rice out of a job. There is nothing fair or just about that person getting exactly what they want. It feels slimy. I can’t say that it feels like it wasn’t the right call though.

We have debated whether or not someone should lose their job over comments made in a private conversation many times before. It happens in every field. It wasn’t long ago at all that we were having this same debate about Jon Gruden. His emails to Bruce Allen and others were sent in private. Is it fair he had to go when they were made public? No matter what horrible things were in there, they were said with the understanding that it would stay between friends.

I am going to say the same thing about Sam Mayes that I did about Gruden when that story first broke. You are being naive if you think a company should stand behind an employee that has put themselves in this situation.

You read that right. The circumstances of how the conversations in these examples came to light are absolutely unfair, but the conversations came to light. How it happened is irrelevant. Any sponsor or boss that stands behind Sam Mayes or Jon Gruden would be endorsing the language they used, either inadvertently or very much on purpose. Try explaining that to a sponsor.

People at Tyler Media may know Sam Mayes’s heart. He doesn’t seem like a bad guy. The fact of the matter is, once the audio became public, their hands were tied. There is no mistaking what was said or who said it.

How can any seller or manager take Mayes to advertisers now? How can they put him in front of the Lucky Star Casino, one of the station’s biggest advertisers? They can ask for an audience to let Sam explain himself and try to make amends. The Cheyenne and Arapahoe Tribes, who own the casino, are under no obligation to forgive or even listen.

All About the Lucky Star Casino in El Reno, Concho
Courtesy: TripAdvisor/Adam Knapp

Maybe the day will come where Sam Mayes bounces back. I hope it does. I hope he gets the chance to address his comments with members of Oklahoma’s Native American community and listen to what they have to say in response. I do think it sucks that this is how his time at The Franchise comes to an end, but I get it.

If I have to explain to you why not to say dumb, racist shit, then I don’t think we have much to talk about. But, it is worth noting that the recording of Mayes and Rice’s conversation is proof that privacy is always an assumption, not always a fact.

In his audio statement, Mayes admits it is his voice on the recording. He also says that he was uncomfortable with Rice’s comments and he tried to end their conversation. I’ll take him at his word, but I will also point out that before he tried to end the conversation, he joined in on the jokes. Maybe when someone says that Native Americans are “too drunk to organize” it isn’t a great idea to respond. All it leads to is proof of you saying something dumb and racist.

Again, I’ll reiterate that how these comments came to light is unfair, but they did come to light. That is Sam Mayes’s voice on the recording. He is joining in on the jokes about Native Americans being drunks and addicts. At the end of the day, the only thing that was done to him was the audio being released. He fully and willingly committed the firable offense.

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What is the response to a client or potential client when they bring that up? All Tyler Media can do is try to recover and move forward. The company cannot do that with Mayes on the payroll.

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BSM Writers

Stop Prospecting, Start Strategizing!

“You cannot put a price tag on authenticity. It’s very rare and hard to find these days.”

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Struggling to get new business appointments? Dreading making prospecting calls? Having trouble writing creative emails that seemingly never get a response?

Generating responses to new business outreach is easier than you think. Just make sure you do your homework first and keep it “Simple Stupid”.

To do that, start with asking yourself these (3) simple questions:

#1: Did I do my home work on the business itself, their competition and those I plan on reaching out to?

#2: If I were on the other end of the phone and/or email with myself would I want to engage in conversation and/or reply to that email?

#3: Am I prepared to make a one call close given the opportunity to?

If the answer to any of these is “No”… do NOT pick up the phone and by all means do NOT hit the send button on that initial outreach email! Doing so will all but ensure you fall flat on your face. On the off chance you do happen to get the decision maker on the phone you won’t make that great first impression that sometimes can be so crucial. First impressions are always important… ALWAYS!

Skipping over these critical steps is a sure-fire way to ensure your email is completely ignored and will not generate the engagement from the prospect you’d hope for. Successful prospecting is all about the front end digging and research. Do your homework first then strategize a plan of attack for your call and/or email. Taking these extra measures on the front end is absolutely “Mission Critical” and will set you up for much more success with your prospecting endeavors.

Now once you’ve answered “Yes” to all of the above, you’re ready to attack with the knowledge and confidence that should set you a part from your competition. It’s all about the Game Plan, and if you don’t have one, you’re destined for failure time and time again. Incorporate these (5) things into your prospecting Game Plan for your next call/email and watch your results dramatically improve:

#1: MAKE IT PERSONAL & CASUAL – Be informal, find out something interesting about them.

#2: MAKE IT SHORT & CONCISE – Be straight forward and to the point, people are busy.

#3: MAKE IT TIMELY & RELEVANT TO THEM AND/OR THEIR BUSINESS – Give them a good Valid Business Reason.

#4: MAKE IT INTERESTING, COMPELLING & INFORMATIVE – Be the expert they’re missing.

#5: MAKE IT FUN – Fun people are easy to do business with and make it less like “work”.

Lastly, and most importantly, Be Yourself! You cannot put a price tag on authenticity. It’s very rare and hard to find these days. When clients do find it trust me, they value it and appreciate it way more than you’ll ever know!

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BSM Writers

Good Producers Can Teach The World A Lot About Christmas

“A lot has to be accomplished in the lead-up to Christmas. So much of it happens in the background without much recognition.”

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Who is Carl Christmas in your house? Who is the one that makes sure everyone that needs to get a card does? Who comes up with the plan for the lights? Who takes the reins on the shopping?

Chevy Chase, aka Clark Griswold, to light up stage in Berks | Berks  Regional News | wfmz.com
Courtesy: Warner Bros./National Lampoon

Every home needs one and in my house, that’s me. December (including the last week of November) is my time to shine, baby!

One thing I have tried to impress upon my mom and wife this year is that shipping and supply chain delays are real. So, if you are planning on procrastinating on your online shopping this year (you know, like usual) someone (me) is going to have no presents under the tree.

Veteran producers are used to operate this way. Young producers, listen up. Your job involves the most delicate balance of any in sports radio. You have to help bring your host’s and PD’s visions to life. That means you have to be able to take their direction. But you also have to keep the host on target. That means you cannot be afraid to be forceful and lead when the moment demands it.

There’s no value to being an unrepentant asshole to people, but you do have to hold them accountable. Look at that Christmas shopping example again. If you want to get what you want, you need to keep on task the people you know aren’t paying attention to the potential roadblocks. It isn’t selfish. It is making sure everyone gets the holiday W they are expecting. Sure, you would be disappointed if your gift doesn’t arrive on time, but so will the gift giver.

Being a stickler for the clock or moving a host off of a topic that has no value is the same thing. Of course there is something in it for you, but you are also helping the host do his or her job better. They may get annoyed with you now, but if you save them from an ass-chewing from the bosses or slipping ratings, then they have reaped the benefits.

I guess the unfortunate difference here is that there may be no acknowledgment of what you did or helped them to avoid. Oh well. Every producer has to expect a certain level of thanklessness.

Producers have to take on that Carl Christmas role in dealing with sales too. Remember, just because the producer’s name isn’t on the show doesn’t mean that isn’t every bit his or her show that it is the hosts’.

It’s like decorating your house for the holidays. You may have a certain design in mind. Maybe you have a traditional look you stick to every year. If your spouse or your kid comes home with a giant, inflatable Santa Claus in a military helicopter that they want on the lawn, you have a decision to make. Are you going to say no and suggest an alternative that aligns more with your goal or are you going to let your plan get run over?

25 Best Christmas Inflatables - Top Inflatable Christmas Decorations

Sales has a job to do. It is to make sure their clients’ messages are heard and to make money for the station. Both can be accomplished without sacrificing your show’s quality.

If a seller comes to you and says he wants his client to come in for five minutes and talk about now being the time to book an appointment to have your garage floors redone, you have to speak up. You have an obligation to make sure that the seller knows that even five minutes of that will hurt the show and have listeners diving for the preset buttons on their car stereo. That isn’t good for the station or his client.

Instead, offer to work with the seller and the client to come up with a piece of content that the client can put his name on and a 20-second ad read behind. Will the audience stick around to listen to some dude named Jerry talk about garage floors or will more people listen to you talk about the NFL playoff picture in a creative way and then still be there to hear Jerry’s message about garage floors? The answer seems obvious.

A lot has to be accomplished in the lead-up to Christmas. So much of it happens in the background without much recognition. If the background work wasn’t done though, the problems would be right out on the front lawn for everyone to see.

“Gatekeeper” is a term I really hate. It implies that someone is telling others what they are and are not allowed to enjoy. It is a necessary term though to properly describe what it is that a great producer and a great Carl Christmas do.

We don’t shut people out from being able to enjoy or be a part of what it is we are creating. We set or are handed down expectations and we block anything that can get in the way of achieving them. Sometimes, that is more thankless work than it should be. It is necessary though.

Kevin Anderson on Twitter: "Just noticed that I've been blocked by the  international civil aviation authority @icao Have others working on  aviation emissions also been blocked? Appears to be that their commitment

As my home’s self-appointed Carl Christmas and a former producer, let me give my countrymen the thanks others forget. We are the ones that make it possible for everyone else to be mindless. Wear it as a badge of honor. We may not get the kind of recognition we deserve everyday, but when plans go off without a hitch, we are usually the first to be recognized for making it happen.

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