OFF THE TOP OF MY BALD HEAD

Barry Warner: A truly humbling interview with Jim Nantz of CBS

UH alum Jim Nantz covered a variety of topics with Barry Warner. Rob Carr/Getty Images

Former Houstonian and now CBS lead announcer Jim Nantz and I have been friends since his freshman year at the University of Houston. On last Friday’s Reality Check Jim granted me an exclusive interview.

I started of asking about all of the behind the scenes preparation. ‘‘ In Charlotte last week, I did four games in one day noon-to midnight. That was followed by two games on Sunday.  Six games in 48 hours. What the public does not see are the hours of preparation, the work behind the scenes, that’s the grind. You cannot worry about being live and focused on every syllable that leaves your lips.  But that’s not a complaint, I love the process,” the man with the blazer told our listeners.

‘‘It’s part of what makes March Madness so special, trying to dig up stories no one has heard of before that may or may not make the telecast.  The University of Maryland-Baltimore County biggest upset in college basketball history, beating Virginia 74-54, the first No. 16 seed ever to beat a No. 1 seed in the men's NCAA tournament. You can’t make up drama like this.’’

Has Nance ever seen anything like Sister Jean Schmidt? “No, what a special story that has turned out to be. I’ll be in San Antonio next week and so looking forward to meeting her.’’

A couple weeks ago, Nantz finally checked something off his bucket list when he did his first ever Cougar game.  What was that like? “It was a real wish list for my career. When I was rooming with Freddy Couples and Blaine Mc Allister, masquerading as a golfer, coach Dave Williams knew I always wanted to be a broadcaster. So, he called the legendary Guy Lewis ,who pulled some strings. I became the Public-Address announcer for games at Hofheinz Pavilion, that led me to being the host of Lewis’ weekly television show on KPRC-TV, the NBC affiliate.

‘‘Several years later, with my former roommates, we endowed the first basketball scholarship to a UH player.  This year it was Armani Brooks played on our scholarship. I got to call two of Kelvin Sampson’s exciting games in March and I’m thrilled the direction the program is going.” 

I asked Nantz to relive the gut-wrenching 1983 NCAA championship game at the Pit in New Mexico where the Phi Slamma Jama team lost the heartbreaker final to Jim Valvano’s North Carolina State team.

“I did not have a ticket, but rode into the Pit on the team bus. I sat right next to the set where Brent Musburger was broadcasting.  I literally was so close it was possible to reach under the table and tie his shoes. My next thought was how cool it would be to wear the blazer and broadcast the game.  Three years later I sat in the set in Dallas wearing the blazer as the studio host.’’

In 1991, Nantz replaced Musburgur to become CBS' play by play voice. He is now broadcasting his 27th Final Four for CBS.

The only thing that has changed since first meeting Nantz is the size of his bank account, not his ego.

He does not forget his friends.  Humility should be his middle name.

Originally, we were told by his assistant that Jim had only eight minutes for the segment. On his own volition, the interview lasted 12:30 and is available on last Friday's podcast/arena.com.

But there was one more pertinent question I thought our audience would enjoy. Since his first days at the network he has enjoyed a unique relationship with

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.   What are some of the things he learned from the Duke legend?

‘‘When I’m around Coach K there is always something new to be learned. Yesterday he came over to talk about when he got hired. The all-time winningest coach in college basketball talked to me about the power of believing in someone — the gift it is.

“It was a faith and belief system instilled in him by then AD Tom Butters. It’s the power of believing in someone.  And it is not something he uses lightly. Now, 1099 wins later at age 71, he talked about the power of believing in someone. What a gift that is!

"I got to thinking as I’ve gotten older about giving back to young, aspiring broadcasters. But here’s my point. It reminded me of when I was a young kid just starting out, the power of someone believing in you.  That was you to me,’’ he stated.

“I met you and you believed in me and it made a huge difference. The power of someone believing in you – that was you believing in me. It made a huge impression in my life and career. It took someone like Coach K to put it in the right context. Yesterday, it was about the gift of believing in someone.  And I thank you for that.’’

Talk about getting blindsided, this floored me.  I was damn near speechless, gathering my senses to thank him.

Humility has never been a word to describe me over the years.

After that interview, I am truly humbled.

Chirp!

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Houston can win series on Sunday

Timely hitting helps Astros edge out D-backs to even series

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The Astros had two losses over the last 24 hours; one a game against the Diamondbacks in the series opener on Friday night, the other the news that their recovering ace, Justin Verlander, announced Saturday afternoon that he is opting to undergo Tommy John surgery. The decision and surgery will likely sideline Verlander through 2021 when his current contract with Houston ends.

With that, the Astros headwinds continued to increase, meaning a win to even the series with Arizona on Saturday would be a much-needed pick-me-up. Here's how they did:

Final Score: Astros 3, Diamondbacks 2.

Record: 26-26, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Enoli Paredes (3-2, 2.84 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Luke Weaver (1-8, 6.51 ERA).

D-backs score two on Javier who is pulled early

Kole Calhoun, who drove in four runs, including a home run in Friday's game, would start the scoring on Saturday with a solo home run off of Cristian Javier in the top of the second, giving Arizona an early 1-0 lead. Javier allowed another run in the top of the third, giving up a leadoff single that would move to third on a groundout then score on a sac fly, doubling the lead to 2-0.

Javier finished the third and tossed a 1-2-3 fourth, but whether it be due to a pre-determined pitch count or other situation, he would not go any further, ending his night there on just 77 pitches. His final line: 4.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HR, 77 P.

Astros grab a lead in the sixth

The Astros were able to cut the lead in half in the bottom of the third, getting a leadoff single by Josh Reddick, who would move to third after a walk and fielder's choice before scoring on an RBI-groundout by Jose Altuve, making it 2-1. Enoli Paredes was first out of Houston's bullpen, taking over for Javier in the top of the fifth and retiring six straight batters for two perfect frames.

Houston would get to Luke Weaver in the bottom of the sixth, getting a leadoff single by George Springer, who would score from first on an RBI-double by Altuve to tie the game. Altuve would come around as the go-ahead run later in the inning on an RBI-single by Kyle Tucker, knocking Weaver out of the game as the Astros took their first lead of the game, 3-2.

Houston evens the series and moves back up to .500

Josh James was the next reliever for Houston in the top of the seventh, and despite getting into a jam by issuing a one-out walk and hitting the next batter, he was able to get out of it. It was thanks to a great play by Michael Brantley, who started a double play by catching a lineout and throwing a runner out at second to end the inning.

Brooks Raley had the eighth and erased a one-out walk by retiring the next two batters to maintain the one-run lead. After a scoreless bottom of the eighth, the Astros turned to closer Ryan Pressly to get another save and finish the one-run game. Pressly would do so, as Houston would move back up to .500 and even the series 1-1 heading into the rubber game on Sunday.

Up Next: The finale of this series between Houston and Arizona, and Houston's last regular-season home game of 2020, will get underway at 1:10 PM Central on Sunday. Madison Bumgarner (0-4, 8.53) ERA will be on the mound for the D-backs, while Jose Urquidy (1-1, 2.70 ERA) will start for the Astros.

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