Media column version 03.22.15: Hey Verne — The quest for a Lundquist Q-and-A that covers UCLA’s resume, the KY dominance, and a Bowling for Dollars payoff

In 2010, President Barack Obama joined CBS' Clark Kellogg and Verne Lundquist during a college basketball game between Georgetown and Duke at  the Verizon Center in Washington DC.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

In 2010, President Barack Obama joined CBS’ Clark Kellogg and Verne Lundquist during a college basketball game between Georgetown and Duke at the Verizon Center in Washington DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Verne Lundquist, the minimalist maestro of play-by-play, could have run out of words by the time Thursday night staggered into Friday morning.

He had finished captioning back-to-back-to-back-to-back second-round games of the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament from Louisville, Ky., during a 12-plus hour stretch as part of the CBS/Turner TV coverage, and he wouldn’t get to bed until 3 a.m.

“Our producer, Craig Silver, just told us at that point: Sleep until you wake up (on Friday),” said Lundquist.

But the soon-to-be 75 year-old broadcaster with 50-plus years experience in TV has learned about self-preservation. It’s just that a case of chronic bronchitis left him sounding worse for wear just before he circled back Saturday morning to call the UCLA-UAB and Kentucky-Cincinnati third-round games.

In between, he submitted himself to a Q-and-A that was completely unnecessary in his prep work for the rest of this tournament, which might necessitate a trip to L.A. to cover the West Regional semifinals and finals at Staples Center this coming week:

Verne Lundquist and Jim Spanarkal are teammed up for the 2015 NCAA Tournament, calling UCLA's first two contests.

Verne Lundquist and Jim Spanarkal are teammed up for the 2015 NCAA Tournament, calling UCLA’s first two contests.

Q: Does the recovery process from four games in one day ever get any easier?

A: I can certify that it does not. The first time I had to do this kind of thing with a crew was 1999. At the end of the day, that last half of the fourth game you pray that it’s competitive because then that gets you energized.

Q: You may not have any buckets to empty at that point?

A: The buckets are gone. And they’re not even a quarter full.

Q: How do you wind down from such a long process?

A: We didn’t really limp out of the arena until 1 o’clock (Friday morning) because after the last game is over, we have to do a dot-com report, a summation of all four games. And at that point, you almost can’t remember who played in the first game.

Q: That’s today’s media, always bleeding you to do something more for another platform.

A: That’s it. And we’re servicing them all. So then our production supervisor arranged a meeting room for the crew to gather, and we had a little pizza, some beer and wine, just to come down from the day. Again, it’s not just me, Jim Spanarkel and Allie LaForce, but the guys in the truck have been as every bit busy. Think of the camera guys. There’s one – the midcourt mini-camera position– who sits in a chair to the stage manager’s right and shoots all four games carrying that heavy equipment. For all 70 of us, or how many there are, once you’re finished, that’s decompression time. Continue reading

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Media column notes version 03.20.15 — If Verne Lundquist can find truTV on his cable system, then we’re all in

IMG_3139Coming up Sunday:

We have a Q-and-A planned with longtime CBS play-by-play man Verne Lundquist, who called Thursday’s UCLA win over SMU in the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament and will do the Bruins’ third-round game against Alabama-Birmingham at 9:10 a.m. on Saturday from Louisville, Ky., with Jim Spanarkel.
This time, it’s too good to be truTV — it has made it to the KCBS-Channel 2 menu, with the Kentucky-Cincinnati game right afterward.
And no, if both UCLA and Kentucky win, they don’t play each other next. They may be on the same court this weekend, but they’re in different regions.
We’ve allowed Verne to rest up after doing those four games on Thursday and not getting back to his hotel until 3 a.m.

What else we have worthy of notes at this juncture in the week:

== CBS’ Doug Gottlieb, who referred to UCLA’s inclusion in the NCAA Tournament as a “joke” on Selection Sunday, followed up on it with new facts available — the Bruins’ 70-69 win over SMU — when asked about it Friday morning on the Dan Patrick syndicated radio/TV show: “I didn’t think UCLA belonged in the field because they didn’t beat enough good teams. But I also picked them to beat SMU. Now I don’t feel like some sort of champion because they got a lucky call on an airball. But the idea that the team doesn’t belong in, and they win, and that proves me wrong …”
I’m not following the logic there.

== KCBS Channel 2′s Jim Hill will add Cal State Northridge coach Reggie Theus as a tournament analyst on “Sports Central” starting Friday at 9 p.m. and he will remain through the title game on April 6.

== CBS and Turner has added Pitt coach Jamie Dixon, the Notre Dame High of Sherman Oaks grad, as a guest studio analysts starting Saturday from the studios in Atlanta, joining Matt Winer, Mateen Cleaves and Seth Davis. Pitt, which finished tied for ninth in the ACC at 19-15 overall and failed to make the field of 68, lost its first-round NIT game to George Washington earlier this week.

 

thumbNew.php== Last we checked, the Dodgers’ regular-season availability on flagship radio station KLAC-AM (570) was pretty close to 100 percent saturation in Southern California — unless you were driving through a tunnel on the 110 Freeway through Pasadena and Charley Steiner’s pitch for Daniel’s Jewelers suddenly disappeared.
But with the second part of an announcement this week, one that started last September with the team not only renewing a radio rights deal with 570 but also saying it was investing in an ownership stake of the station, the rebranded “AM 570 LA Sports” with a spiffy new logo and the elimination of “Fox Sports Radio” references this week seemed to leave out a piece of news we thought would be included.
727_1426521031That is, if the Dodgers are in now as partners, why wouldn’t there be daily live coverage of every spring training exhibition game from Arizona as an essential part of that deal?
Consider that the Angels carry every one of their exhibition games on their own KLAA-AM (830), interrupting whatever ESPN Radio syndicated coverage that would be blasted out in the midweek afternoons. The Dodgers’ TV carriage deal with SportsNet L.A. continues to stall and, with the latest FCC delay on the Time Warner Cable-Comcast and DirecTV-AT&T mergers likely pushing live local Dodger TV games citywide to perhaps past the All-Star break, the news isn’t getting any sweeter.
This would seem to be a natural entry point to create more buzz going into the season — aside from the revival of the nightly 7 p.m. DodgerTalk show hosted by Kevin Kennedy and David Vassegh.
Instead, the media blackout seems to be even more curiouser and curiouser, no matter how an in-studio appearance at the station this week by Vin Scully tried to frame it.
Senior VP/Station manager Don Martin points out that 570 will be carrying 18 Dodgers exhibition games this year — the most it has ever done. That includes all games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Except that arrangement got some tweaking this week when the Friday window was replaced by Thursday’s Dodgers-Angels game, which awkwardly pushed UCLA’s NCAA Tournament basketball opening game against SMU from its usual 570 home to AM-1150.
billbNew.phpThe Dodgers’ radio schedule is on the station’s home page (www.am570lasports.com) and billboards have already gone up around town promoting the change.
It’s interesting when we recall the days when the Dodgers were on KABC-AM (790) and every spring, station management would cringe at the fact that the obligation to cover every exhibition game (in those days, from Vero Beach, Fla., which meant a 10 a.m. start) took away listeners who wanted to hear the popular Michael Jackson show.
But with today’s technology, if a listener who didn’t want to hear the Dodgers’ exhibition from Arizona at 1 p.m. wanted to keep tuned to the shows by Jay Mohr or Petros and Money, the live audiostreaming either online or via a phone app is always an option.
“We have a commitment to our audience to cover all LA Sports, and I believe that this gives a us a wonderful balance,” Martin said of continuing the regular mid-week lineup.
Dodgers executive VP and chief marketing officer Lon Rosen said the team’s financial investment in the station is “very significant. We have had a number of suitors to work with going forward but we feel most comfortable with KLAC. It’s a perfect association. There is more Dodger Talk now, but really the station doesn’t change except for the logo. It’s a rebranding.”
And also allowing the iHeartMedia L.A. company to better promote the Dodgers on its seven other stations — Real 92.3, KOST-FM (103.5), KIIS-FM (102.7), MYfm (104.3), KFI-AM (640) and KEIB-AM (1150).
But then again, it’s apparently been too many years to count since anyone paid attention to KLAC (570 AM) anyway, according to Jebidiah Atkinson ….

== Via the New York Daily News, from the Sports Business Daily: Will MLB fans finally get video streaming access to local games? It might sound like a way around the SportsNet LA hitch, but it usually means you have authenticate that you have a TV provider that has the channel you’re seeking.

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Play It Forward March 16-22 on your sports calendar — A priest, a rabbi and an NCAA bracketologist go into a bar room to discuss UCLA’s basketball merits … you heard this one?

UCLA coach Steve Alford tries to motivate his team during the Pac-12 Conference tournament semifinals loss to Arizona in Las Vegas on Friday. Despite the six-point loss, the Bruins made the field of 64 for the NCAA tournament. (AP Photo/John Locher)

UCLA coach Steve Alford tries to motivate his team during the Pac-12 Conference tournament semifinals loss to Arizona in Las Vegas on Friday. Despite the six-point loss, the Bruins made the field of 64 for the NCAA tournament. (AP Photo/John Locher)

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NCAA MEN’S TOURNAMENT OPENING ROUND
UCLA vs. SOUTHERN METHODIST
Details/TV: South Region first-round game at Louisville, Ky., Thursday at approx. noon, truTV:
2015FinalFourLogoApparently, the joke’s on us. We’re going to give CBS analyst Doug Gottlieb enough rope to provide the shot-heard-‘round-the-basketball world sound bite of motivation for 20-13 UCLA, which somehow squirmed into the field of 64 – let along skipping past spots 65-68 – when it was announced Sunday that they’ll be locking arms with Larry Brown’s 27-6 SMU squad in the first round of the Big Dance. If our memory is correct, back in December when UCLA went up against No. 1-ranked Kentucky in Chicago, Gottlieb predicted on the air that the Bruins had a great shot at an upset. Seth Davis almost laughed him off the set. UCLA then fell behind 24-0, scored seven points in the first half and lost by 39. So at the very least, if UCLA doesn’t deserve to be in this event, with a 2-8 record against teams in this field, with only one road win against a Top 100 team, then who’ll get the last laugh when Steve Alford uses all the talk as fuel to ignite this team that’s still growing into its own.

SMU head coach Larry Brown, right, talks with  Nic Moore during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Connecticut.  (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

SMU head coach Larry Brown, right, talks with Nic Moore during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Connecticut. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Then there’s Brown, the Hall of Fame coach who spent just two seasons at UCLA, but one them – the 1979-80 team that finished 22-10, has a No. 8 seed in the West, and went all the way to the championship before losing by five points to Louisville. At the very least, UCLA provides some local rooting interest – aside from the Big West’s UC Irvine making the field and having to face Louisville right away. Pac-12 winner Arizona, along with Utah and Oregon, are the other conference representatives.
A UCLA win over SMU would put the Bruins into the round of 32 on Saturday against the winner of the Iowa State-UAB contest.
First-round games (all in Dayton, Ohio on truTV):
Tuesday: Manhattan vs. Hampton, 3:40 p.m.; Ole Miss vs. BYU, 6:10 p.m.
Wednesday: North Florida vs. Robert Morris, 3:40 p.m.; Boise State vs. Dayton, 6:10 p.m.

ALSO:
COLLEGE BASKETBALL:
NCAA WOMEN’S TOURNAMENT BRACKET ANNOUNCEMENT:
Details/TV: Monday at 4 p.m. on ESPN/5 p.m. on ESPNU:
In back-to-back seasons, Big West conference tournament champion Cal State Northridge (23-9) has earned a spot in this field, and ESPN bracketologists project the Matadors as a 14th seed in the Spokane region, forced to travel to Corvalis, Ore., and take on No. 3 seed Oregon State (26-4, 16-2 in the Pac-12) in the first round. Ahlee Guay, CSUN’s career leader in points, assists, steals and blocks, heads a team that’s always been closing – they are 23-0 when they have a lead with five minutes left in the game, yet they’ve played only one game this season that has been decided by fewer than six points. The projected top seeds this year are UConn (32-1), Notre Dame (31-2), Maryland (30-2) and South Carolina (30-2). Note that Gamecocks, a No. 1 seed last year, ousted the 16th seeded Matadors in the first round last season, 73-58. There’s also one unbeaten coming into this year’s bracket – 30-0 Princeton – as first-round games begin Saturday.

ALSO:
NASCAR SPRINT CUP: AUTO CLUB 400
Details/TV: At Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Sunday at noon, Channel 11:

Kurt Busch races on the 64th lap during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race on Sunday in Avondale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Kurt Busch races on the 64th lap during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race on Sunday in Avondale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

The Busch Factor creates an interesting storyline here. Defending champion and three-time Fontana winner Kyle Busch, who outlasted rookie Kyle Larson by .214 seconds to win this race last year, continues to recover from a compound break of his right leg and a fracture of his left foot during a wreck at Daytona last month. So he’s not coming out. David Ragan has been replacing Kyle in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, and he finished 21st in last week’s Sprint Cup event in Avondale, Ariz. And then there’s older brother Kurt Busch, who came back from a three-race suspension and made it to the No. 5 spot last week. Maybe it’s just more relief for him that he’s not facing any criminal charges over the alleged assault of an ex-girlfriend last September. Kevin Harvick, winners in two of the first four races this season, already has a sizable lead over Joey Logano in the Sprint Cup standings, while Danice Patrick (we knew you were wondering) is back in 23rd place without a top 10 finish yet.
Also: NASCAR Xfinity series Drive4Clots.com 300
At Auto Club Speedway, Saturday at 1 ;p.m., Fox Sports 1.

THE REST OF THE WEEK INCLUDES:

The men’s and women’s final of the BNP Parabis Open in Indian Wells (Sunday at 11 a.m., ESPN) could led to a every emotional ending for Serena Williams … The Kings have already dropped three of the previous four meetings against the Ducks in this Foaming Frozen Freeway Furious Frenzy, but there’s the last one of the regular season (at Honda Center in Anaheim, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., NBCSN) … The Clippers’ most important game of the week is against Washington (Staples Center, Friday at 7:30 p.m., Prime TIcket) … The Dodgers and Angels are on Fox Sports West — take advantage of it (Thursday at 1 p.m.) … More events at this link.

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The Joe McDonnell Experience: How his sports-talk angst came from the giant-sized heart to make things happen

In the mid '90s, ESPN LA radio issued a Joe McDonnell bobblehead. Photo by Jeff Lasky.

In the mid ’90s, ESPN LA radio issued a Joe McDonnell bobblehead (with partner Doug Krikorian on the other side). Photo by Jeff Lasky.

It was many years ago, as we were talking while scraping together a pre-game dinner in the media room at Staples Center. Or maybe we were jammed into a lunch booth at Trani’s restaurant in Long Beach. It could have been while we waited for the valet to find his car at one of his favorite Chinese restaurants in the Valley right around closing time.

“When I die,” Joe McDonnell once told me, “I want to be cremated and then have a plane spread half of my ashes over Dodger Stadium and the other half over the Forum.”

I actually thanked him for that important information. Knowing how many boxes of ashes McDonnell would have created at that moment in time, based on my rough estimation of his bigger-than-life size, I figured that result would be in a huge, dark cloud blocking out the sun and lingering over the entire city on whenever that awful day happened.

And now, it’s here.

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Joe McDonnell: 1956-2015

Joe-McDonnellJoe McDonnell, unapologetic in the way he created his  larger-than-life persona in the Los Angeles sports media for the greater part of the last four decades, died Friday afternoon at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles. He was 58.

McDonnell may have worked at more than a dozen local radio stations in Southern California during his career –  most importantly as one of the first hosts in 1991 at the inaugural all-sports station in L.A. when KMPC-AM (710) began the format — but loyal followers always knew where to find him during his career that included a return to 710 in 2000 when KSPN launched, also working as an assistant program director.

The longtime San Fernando Valley resident who started at the local KGIL-AM (1260) doing sports updates for the Dick Whittington show, McDonnell hustled to become a correspondent for Mutual Radio Sports as well as AP Radio and UPI Radio. He got involved in sports talk when Chris Roberts, the longtime UCLA broadcaster who is retiring this year, hired him to produce and report for his show on KFI-AM (640), eventually becoming a replacement host in the late ‘80s.

His career also took him to hirings, suspensions and dismissals from XTRA-AM (690), KMAX-FM (107.1), KWNK-AM (670), KTLK-AM (1150), KABC-AM (790) and KXTA-AM (1150). He also recently wrote for and did podcasts for FoxSportsWest.com. During his career, he was most proud of breaking the story of Magic Johnson’s return in 1994 to coach the Lakers, as well as Wayne Gretzky’s trade to the Kings in 1988.

“When I was at KFI, shortly after I arrived in L.A. to stay in 1988, Joe had the scoop that Wayne Gretzky was coming two days before it was announced and as a result, I got two killer seats on the ice at the Forum before the onslaught of new season ticketholders — Joe made that possible,” said Tom Leykis, the legendary syndicated radio show host. “He literally knew everyone in L.A. sports. People trusted him. It’s hard to believe he’s gone.”

Joe20and20DougAffectionately known as “Big Joe” but dubbed “The Big Nasty” by longtime broadcast partner and former Long Beach Press-Telegram columnist Doug Krikorian, McDonnell was asked in a 2004 Daily News story if he considered himself to be irascible, irrepressible or irrational, or whether he was simply bullheaded and played the part of a radio bully.

“I’m all of it,” he said “At one time or another, I’m all those things.”

McDonnell told AllAccess.com that he wanted to be a newspaper reporter and columnist and never thought of getting into radio because “I had one of the world’s truly bad voices – nasal and scratchy.”

But after his first day as an intern at KGIL – the day Los Angeles police tracked down and arrested heiress Patrica Hearst – McDonnell arrived at 5 a.m. stayed long after 10 p.m. answering phones, cutting wire copy and falling in love with the radio world process.

Lon Rosen, the Dodgers executive vice president and chief marketing officer, worked as McDonnell’s agent at points in his career.

“Joe was all about sports and loved the Dodgers,” he said in a statement. “He was a fixture at Dodger Stadium and will be terribly missed by players, management and fans.”

gallery_1_4_28203851_zps0ffac01fIn a move that is somewhat extraordinary for someone who was not a staff employee, the Lakers sent out a statement that included reaction from team president Jeanie Buss: “For more than 35 years, Joe has been a regular at Lakers games and press events. Known for his quick wit and strong opinions, Joe’s love of and support of the Lakers has always been appreciated. Over all these years, our players, coaches and staff have enjoyed working with and knowing Joe. He will be sorely missed.”

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak added: “Although Joe was opinionated and brutally honest with his coverage, I always felt he was knowledgeable and fair. He … had a presence at every major sporting event. As both a player and executive I enjoyed working with Joe since I arrived in town in 1981. I will miss seeing him at our games, practices and press conferences.”

Mike Thompson, the current program director at 710-AM, once had to dismiss McDonnell from a job, but Friday he called him “an icon here in Southern California radio. This is very sad. Joe and Doug’s show was the show of record in the first sports incarnation on this frequency.  Although I at one time contributed to his troubles — we made amends — I could relate to Joe on many levels.  Forgotten was that Joe was not just confined to the sports pages – I thought some of his best moments were when he was doing talk on KFI.”

i-69576887b492b3dd2843a8ef246c8f48-0724klacThe cause of death was not officially given, although McDonnell’s wife, Elizabeth, said he had been hospitalized in the intensive care unit for the last two weeks.

mcdonnelljoeelizabethMcDonnell’s health had been an issue for years, some of it a direct result of his battle with obesity that began as a teenager at Alemany High in Mission Hills. McDonnell was born Aug. 30, 1956, in Upper Darby, Pa and also attended L.A. Valley College.

In 2004, McDonnell underwent gastric bypass surgery that eventually led to him losing about 400 pounds from his frame that at one time carried in excess of 700 pounds. He also had been in an out of hospitals in recent years to treat flesh-eating bacteria.

Funeral services are pending.

Our extended media column on McDonnell’s passing will be in Sunday’s editions of the LA News Group

ALSO:
== Please view or sign a memorial guest book
== Listen to Joe McDonnell during a 2013 podcast
== More Twitter reaction at LAObserved.com
== A remembrance from former Daily News columnist Steve Dilbeck

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