Monday, January 15, 2018

Rich And Bones

TigerBlog's introduction to doing radio for Princeton Athletics came back in 1989.

The station then was WHWH, a small station in town, located at 1350 AM. TB was covering the men's basketball team as a sportswriter, and at some point, he connected with the play-by-play man back then, David Brody, who invited TigerBlog to join him to do games on the road.

There was already someone else who was the color commentator for home games, but he didn't travel with the team. At some point, TigerBlog also started doing the home games, creating a rare three-man radio team for basketball.

For the first time in somewhere around 25 years, two-thirds of that team was reunited on the radio for Princeton basketball. It was Friday night, Princeton-Columbia, and TigerBlog saw Rich Simkus in the stands.

When TB does games, one of the first things he does is try to find a halftime guest. He's never failed to find someone, and very, very few people have ever turned him down.

TB loves to do the halftime interviews. It's an opportunity to bring in people from many different parts of the Princeton Athletic world - former basketball players, athletes from other teams, prominent alums, media members, pretty much anyone.

The key to a good interview is not to go by a script. Instead, just have a conversation and let it flow naturally. TB thinks he's a decent interviewer, and he certainly has enough experience doing it.

This weekend, TigerBlog had two great guests.

The first was Simkus, the third (technically second) member of that three-man team all that time ago. They would sit up in the south stands, where the press section used to be, and talk about the games. The three-man booth worked because the offense could have the ball for 45 seconds back then, so there was a lot of time for everyone to talk.

Simkus, who stands around 6-9, was a center on two Ivy League championship teams before graduating in 1983. His senior year Princeton won two NCAA tournament games - against North Carolina A&T and Oklahoma State - before losing to Boston College.

He's a local guy now, and he's stayed very close to Princeton Athletics through the years. And there he was Friday, back on the radio with TB at halftime.

TB's questions were about how Princeton basketball has changed since Simkus played, especially how the center position has changed. Simkus' answers were very thoughtful and analytical.

He talked about the rule changes, about the huge difference of playing with no shot clock as opposed to a 45-second shot clock. He talked about the skills that it took to be a center at Princeton in the early 1980s and which ones are still evident in today's much-faster offense. He also talked about how close he's stayed with the guys on his own team and how he's interacted with the current players.

He was really good. So was Saturday's guest, Sean Gregory, a basketball player in the Class of 1998. Sean was part of three Ivy League championship teams, including ones his sophomore year and senior year that won NCAA tournament games.

Sean, whose nickname is "Bones," talked about some of the same things about what Simkus did, specifically how his team from 1998, which went 27-2 and ended the year ranked in the top 10, would have matched up against the current team. It's a question TB has asked others.

Sean is also a writer for "Time" magazine, a career path that TB helped encourage, dating to when Sean wrote a diary of the team's trip to Spain in the summer of 1997. TB asked him about covering sports at the magazine, especially about Sean's experiences covering the Olympic Games, something that will soon take him to South Korea.

TB also asked him about Usain Bolt, about whom Sean had nothing but good things to say. Come to think of it, TB only has nothing but good things to say about Sean Gregory as well. They don't get much better than Bones.

The weekend, of course, was about more than just the halftime interviews. There were four games at Jadwin, two women's games and two men's games, and Princeton went 4-0, sweeping Columbia Friday and Cornell Saturday.

In fact, short of some incredible second-quarter shooting by the Cornell women (an 8 for 9 10-minute span that made it 36-34 Princeton at the half), the games were pretty much over from the start. In all, Princeton won the four games by a combined 96 points.

The games were the final ones before first semester exams, which begin today. The women enter the break at 13-3 overall and 3-0 in the Ivy League. The men are 2-1 in the Ivy League.

It's impossible to build any momentum out of the weekend before exams. It's just about winning, that's all.

As for the men, it's hard to tell what was better, the offense or defense. Princeton got out to an 8-0 lead against Columbia and a 19-0 lead against Cornell, and the two games combined saw Princeton shoot 25 for 58 from three.

On the other end, Princeton held Columbia and Cornell to a combined 41 for 122 weekend, including 13 for 50 from three. That's 33.6 percent from the field and 26 percent from three.

If you want to add the women in, then the four opponents were a combined 74-218 from the field, and 21 for 79 from three. That's 33.9 percent overall and 26.6 percent from three.

Those are winning numbers.

And it was a winning weekend. During the game, and at halftime.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Is it possible for you to put onto the GPT website your favorite halftime interviews?