Sound Off: Ranking the Top 40 College Basketball Commentators

Following is a pejorative ranking of the Top 40 national college basketball commentators/analysts:

  1. Jay Bilas — Lawyerly lofty approach serves him well in issue-oriented arguments, providing well-conceived insight most of the time rather than rationing out nescient fluff like too many of his screeching comrades. On the other hand, there are occasions when the political science major/global warming proponent is a predictable “bill ass,” seemingly offering know-it-all legislation every other day to solve a myriad of the NCAA’s woes (example: reducing number of DI affiliates by half). . . . Fails to admit that academic exceptions are a blight on the game and have even tarnished his alma mater's reputation. . . . Extraordinary command of language and forensic-like analysis more than outweighs his somewhat flaky fascination with wingspans and assorted other pedantic musings such as rapper references. . . . Role player himself with Duke (8.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 55.7 FG%) before becoming a fifth-round NBA draft choice by the Detroit Pistons in 1986 comprehends components of an authentic team approach significantly more adroitly than many of his ill-equipped counterparts. In fact, "Mr. Tweet" singularly keeps the Game Day Gang from becoming a gaggle of gadflys because he has "gotta go to work" while his comrades coast. . . . Cognitive style helped him ascend in recent years to a sophist-like pedestal and he could remain there as long as he doesn’t malign mid-major schools fomenting class warfare. If impervious Dookie condescension bias returns, this sardonic sage needs to be reminded that an average of three mid-major entrants annually reached an NCAA regional semifinal or beyond since the field expanded to at least 64 teams in 1985.

  2. Jimmy Dykes – Purposeful former assistant coach effuses confidence as he seems always prepared with a unique ability to criticize without sounding abrasive. . . . Dynamic and dogmatic performances at times leaves him as pick of the litter along with Bilas based on both their playing and coaching insight. . . . Usually displays a valuable “vision” where a telecast should go similar to a fast-breaking floor general “seeing things nobody else does” before delivering a deft no-look pass.

  3. Bill Raftery – Wily and witty former Seton Hall coach (154-141 record in 11 seasons from 1970-71 through 1980-81) and La Salle standout player (team-high 17.8 ppg in 1960-61) doesn’t take himself too seriously. . . . Self-effacing Raftery has “trademarked” several clever phrases in his vernacular including “dagger. . . onions. . . The Kiss” with his distinctive “Send it in, Jerome!” (backboard-shattering dunk by Pittsburgh’s Jerome Lane) extemporaneous commentary likely never to be topped. . . . Unlike many coaches-turned-commentators, he isn’t a shameless shill for the coaching community. . . . His regal repartee with Jay Bilas when they’re paired together adds spice to a quality contest or helps break up the monotony of a insomnia-curing game. Their banter is often better than the luddite Al McGuire/Billy Packer duo’s jousting back in the Dinosaur Age before ESPN ruled the “regular-season” world.

  4. Dan Dakich — Demonstrates he is as comfortable and competent articulating at courtside or in the studio as he was as an underrated DI head coach (156-140 record with Bowling Green State in 10 seasons from 1997-98 through 2006-07; won more than 60% of his games decided by fewer than six points). . . . His father, Tom, averaged 5.8 ppg for BGSU in 1954-55 and 1955-56. That was higher than his son's 3.6-point scoring average for Indiana (class of '85). . . . Dakich shows admirable willingness to take on a challenge as an analyst as much as he did when helping Indiana restrict North Carolina legend Michael Jordan to 13 points, one rebound and one assist when the Hoosiers upset the top-ranked Tar Heels in the 1984 NCAA playoffs. . . . Intrepid individual is already infinitely better as a convincing commentator than his curmudgeon college coach (Bob Knight).

  5. Dick Vitale — Love him or hate him, you’ve got to respect his passion of mythic proportions. Tiresome as some of his acronyms and maudlin messages may have become over lo these many years, ESPN’s leading blabbermouth can’t be ignored due to his indomitable spirit. . . . Vitale's ubiquitous presence previously had him atop this list before age intervened plus chronic overdosing on self-promotion to enhance his profitability and prospects of securing Hall of Fame acclaim. . . . From his debut as an ESPN analyst on December 5, 1979 (less than a month after being canned by the Detroit Pistons) to his latest frenzied foray, Dickie V’s schtick remains pretty much the same—chock full of acronyms and off-the-chart torrential flow mixture of pertinent and irrelevant information. . . . Still falls into periodic pattern of hyper-drive hyperbole, making a listener instinctively reach for the mute button almost as if keeping a wolfhound at bay. . . . Contrived or not, verbose Vitale seems to have a plethora of ways to reach into his idealistic bag of tricks and energize a contest. His ability to “play a room like an entertainer” probably stems from countless speaking engagements over the years as he seemed to go anywhere and everywhere to make a buck. . . . . Name dropper deluxe is consumed with “cash” and “bank accounts,” leaving observers wondering if he contacts his agent and stockbroker during each and every commercial timeout. . . . Circumstantial evidence may be lacking, but odds are his over-the-top delivery and occasional specious arguments likely triggered several homicides when an observer couldn’t “get a TO” from one of his more infantile renditions. . . . Objectivism hasn’t quite been the same since apparently changing his real name to Dook Vitale upon developing a man crush on the Blue Devils, falling helplessly head over (tar)heels in love with them. Grizzled veteran should be immune to criticism; so any pity-party self-defense diatribe for his devilish love fest usually is unbecoming. . . . A total of 40 Duke/North Carolina games should be sufficient basking in the limelight. He could emerge as a revitalized larger-than-life “Rolls Roycer” doing a vital(e) service as his career culminates by possibly becoming a bracketbuster broadcaster of sorts via an emphasis on appearing at mid-major campuses (such as Murray State game this year) and neutral courts promoting non-conference games between mid-major powers and members of elite leagues. Vitale has firsthand experience knowing the rigors of competing against mid-majors, losing his first six games with the University of Detroit against Mid-American Conference members. . . . It would be “Awesome, Baby!” if the venerable Vitale could also be “The Rock” advocate ambassador brokering natural regional rivalries by consistently chiding coaches who won’t compete in must-see blockbusters while focusing on “M&Mers”. And Dickie knows firsthand about schedule mismatches, losing at SIU by 43 points (tying the mark for most lopsided loss in UD history) while also picking on patsies such as Grand Valley State (Mich.), Hillsdale (Mich.), Illinois Wesleyan, Iowa Wesleyan, Kalamazoo (Mich.), St. John’s (Minn.), Wayne State (Mich.) and Wisconsin-Parkside. . . . Dick’s sporting goodies include authentic “Maalox Masher” credentials, winning two-thirds of his games decided by fewer than five points with UD in four seasons from 1973-74 through 1976-77 (20-10 record in close contests). . . . "Writing" more books than Mark Twain (or at least making sure his name was spelled right on the cover), he was a central figure going along on the joy ride right in the midst of an era when bloated athletic departments fostered overpaid, out-of-touch coaches, apparel/shoe company corruption and network excesses. . . . Anyone with a pulse supports finding a cure for cancer (V Foundation), but a classic lack-of-proper-perspective example of the cult-of-personality dynamic is Dickie V’s hero worship of Jimmy V, a PTP (Placed Twice on Probation) coach who had NCAA playoff participation vacated with two schools (Iona and North Carolina State). Dick needs a confessional with the private attorney retained by N.C. State who was convinced that the institution could successfully sue Valvano for failing to ensure the academic progress of his players. . . . ESPN should post a "viewers warning" as we need a “Diaper Handy” to handle the mess when Vitale issues one of his frequent misguided rush-to-judgment reviews hyping recruits beyond reason during their senior season in high school. Forgoing a sedative to control his soothsaying, Mr. Effervescent made delusional declarations such as Delray Brooks (Indiana/Providence) was going to be the next Oscar Robertson, Tito Horford (LSU/Miami, Fla.) was going to be the next Hakeem Olajuwon, Jeff Lebo (North Carolina) was going to be the next Jerry West, ad nauseam. In these specific instances, Brooks, Horford and Lebo went on to become fine college players. But combining for a modest 408 minutes in the NBA, the only thing they had in common with the Big O, the Dream and Mr. Clutch was that they played in the same half century. . . . Vitale’s addiction to mentioning his high school coaching days in New Jersey warrants needling but should help him refrain from doing prep phenoms a sin-tillating disservice infecting the sport by being embarassingly fulsome with his plaudits. Center Leslie Cason, perhaps the nation’s top recruit in the early 1970s, was Vitale’s meal ticket to college coaching. But Cason, a colossal flop as a player and student, went on to be arrested an estimated 100 times for selling drugs. In the spring of 1997 at the age of 43, Cason died of AIDS brought upon by a heroin addiction and infected needle. There are times Dickie V leaves us strung out, too.

  6. Dan Bonner – Straightforward former women’s assistant coach at his alma mater demonstrates superior understanding of the ebb and flow of a typical game, which is more vital than shtick but prevents him from ascending to super star status. . . . Bovine Bonner is as workmanlike off the court as he was as Virginia’s Academic All-ACC captain in the early 1970s (4.2 ppg and 3 rpg). . . . Staunch supporters of his Stepford-like announcing should have been seething after Johnny-come-latelys Steve Kerr and Reggie Miller virtually nudged him aside in the announcing pecking order last year.

  7. Bucky Waters – Backup player for N.C. State (43 points in 28 games; class of ’58) coached West Virginia and Duke four seasons each (133-96 overall record). . . . Forte was offering soothing words of wisdom rather than brusque dialogue, but his best days of coherent commentary probably are behind him. . . . Difficult in an intransigent era of political correctness to recover from euphoric on-air slip-up when he described a staggering nine steals by a single player thusly: “I bet there weren’t any hubcaps left in the parking lot,” he said, adding later that the UConn guard “just stole everything—fillings, hubcaps, the works” and “it was a holdup, it was a mugging, and I don’t know if he’s going out after this and hit a couple of convenience stores or not.” UConn has had its share of suspect student-athletes, but plucky Bucky’s exuberance got the best of him in this instance.

  8. Reid Gettys – Other than the fact the “set up man” for Houston’s Phi Slama Jamma (UH’s all-time assists leader finished third in the nation with 8.4 apg as a junior in 1983-84) wasn’t weaned on the ACC or another premier conference, it’s an enigma as to why Gettys hasn’t made a bigger name for himself as an analyst. . . . Holds UH single-game record of 17 assists against Rice. . . . Dependable demeanor probably stems from his experience as an ExxonMobil attorney.

  9. Bob Wenzel – As doughty as an announcer as he was as a player (13.6 ppg and 3.5 rpg with Rutgers). . . . Fortitude exemplified in remarkable recovery from an operation for a brain aneurysm. . . . Level of humbleness might stem from losing overall record in 15 years coaching Jacksonville and his alma mater (215-222 from 1981-82 through 1996-97).

  10. Clark Kellogg – Knee problems ended his playing career and this winsome well-educated talent with superior clear delivery is occasionally knee deep in trite transmissions. Rather than terse tidbits, he probably coins a few too many make-believe phrases such as “spurtability.” . . . Adroitly maneuvers through the "mind field" on sensitive issues but will eventually need to exercise a mite more vocal backbone similar to his recalcitrant predecessor (exiled Billy Packer). . . . Occasional flummery aside, his artistic repertoire is as versatile as he was as splendid all-round player for Ohio State (14.9 ppg, 10.1 rpg). . . . It must have been the quintessential magnanimous public relations gesture with the gentle giant “intentionally” budgeting his ability in an orchestrated segment losing a game of HORSE against President Obama. In addition to pickup games, golf and singing, perhaps that is one of the reasons why POTUS never had sufficient time to put a real budget plan on paper. Plagiarizing loose cannon VP Joe Biden, President Obama probably could describe Kellogg the same way Biden did him as “articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.”

  11. Doris Burke – Doesn’t seem to realize she has got “it”—rare commodity of consistently accurate and fair perspective without unnecessary embellishment. . . . She resembles a promising American Idol/X Factor/America’s Got Talent contestant who would fare far better with casual onlookers by lightening up a mite and flashing smiles every now and then. . . . Hard-to-find eloquence among analysts in general surfaces from time to time as she seems unfazed from competing for air time in an old boys’ club comprised at the highest level by peripatetic personnel.

  12. Marques Johnson – Doesn’t back down from controversy, but also augments “been there; done that” playing brilliance with pleasing light touch balancing praise and criticism. . . . It’s difficult to comprehend why the two-time UCLA All-American (14.4 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 56.8 FG%) isn’t held in higher esteem nationally as an engaging analyst. Is it some perceived hoop hubris or the fact he was a bit actor? . . . Entertaining Marques mimicked Blake Griffin by celebrating his 55th birthday with a dunk over a toy car.

  13. Stephen Bardo — Similar to what occurred to him as a heart-and-soul disciplined player with the celebrated Flying Illini, this consummate pro is overshadowed by some of his colleagues. . . . Despite his good looks, easy-to-understand deep voice and articulation, it’s difficult to comprehend how he can be a convincing motivational speaker. Blueprint for a role model needs to look in the mirror and take some risks emphasizing his theme “Dare to be Great” so he isn’t pigeonholed as having more style than substance. At least he offers a down-home flyover country perspective rather than the never-ending more “progressive” coastal commentary from most of the ACC-, Big East- and Pac-12-affiliated analysts. . . . He is developing a niche with occasional music-related references, connecting with a certain segment of the overtly music-influenced audience.

  14. Doug Gottlieb — Features a feisty flair, but his impudence when facing criticism makes him the most-likely candidate to eventually be immersed in deep spit from spouting contentious claptrap he shouldn’t utter. . . . Offers appealing snarky combativeness and unbounded candor to some observers while other viewers might deem him a disheveled egomaniac who can’t properly assemble a tie akin to Odd Couple’s Oscar Madison (Jack Klugman). . . . Seems to be obsessed with point guards probably because he was a pugnacious playmaker (led nation with 8.8 apg in 1998-99). . . . Unless Gottlieb precedes a flippant zinger with a “do-as-I-say; not-as-I-did” retort, he shouldn’t be too critical of struggling players due to his lifetime membership on the All-Gang That Can’t Shoot Straight Team (anemic 45.3% free-throw marksmanship with Oklahoma State). . . . His pedigree coming from a respected basketball coaching family (father Bob coached Jacksonville and Wisconsin-Milwaukee) and extensive exposure to various regions of the country enables him to avoid being categorized as too provincial. On the other hand, that background coupled with a healthy self-esteem made him think he was the next Pat Riley and qualified to become Kansas State's bench boss sans any coaching experience. . . . Argumentative “card” deserves credit for his prolific pontification, but coach Gottfried occasionally needs a chill pill as the ultimate risk taker left Notre Dame as a player under a cloud stemming from credit card theft racking up in excess of $1,000 bill.

  15. Len Elmore – Second-team All-American as a senior doesn’t need to barge in with an elbow like he did as a rugged rebounder for Maryland (11.8 ppg, 12.2 rpg). . . . The erudite 6-9 Harvard law school grad has a penchant for introducing a thought-provoking nugget or two but occasionally resorts to sounding like a professor talking down to his class while peering down through his glasses. . . . Passive approach striving to put everything in proper perspective probably stems in part from drug-overdose death of his younger brother, Bob, while playing in Rome after the three-time All-MVC first-team selection posted higher career scoring/rebounding averages and field-goal percentage with Wichita State than his more famous sibling.

  16. Mike Gminski – Cerebral outlook occasionally doesn’t blend well amid those contemporary scholastically-challenged teams that might include a starting frontcourt with collective SAT scores lower than he managed by himself. . . . Right when you begin to think he’s a strikingly impartial maven, he can occasionally become too much of an armchair quarterback. . . . Two-time All-American (19 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 53.1 FG%) with a cranium making you think of a Macy’s parade was only 17 when he enrolled at Duke en route to becoming the school’s finest center in history.

  17. Fran Fraschilla – Cool and calm on-air demeanor belies bush-league move of dropping his pants to drive home a coaching point as he allegedly did in St. John’s locker room. Must have attended Get-a-Clue School after sophomoric episode suggesting his players might be challenged in the manhood department. . . . Whether it’s a hobby of sorts or a byproduct of supreme preparation, fasedious Fran boasts a comprehensive handle on foreign players that the vast majority of commentators don’t come remotely close to duplicating. . . . Listen closely and you can learn something new each game he covers. Nonetheless, ethical questions linger about his recruitment of St. John’s guard Erick Barkley and double-deal flirting with Arizona State and Texas while negotiating an extension from the Red Storm.

  18. Seth Davis — Mix of boyish good looks and incisive analysis has served him well. . . . Weekend warrior probably would rank higher if he had as much visibility during the week as counterparts from ESPN’s entourage. . . . Detail-driven duties with SI enable him to collate essential cold hard facts, making Davis more sagacious in his role than those former luminary players who do little more than live off their previous on-court endeavors. . . . Can be picayune on some topics but at least he doesn’t irritate conservative viewers like his father (lawyer/lobbyist Lanny Davis) does from time to time during petty political debates. Lanny wrote a book about civility in the dog-eat-dog political world and his son seems to also have an admirable aversion to “gotcha” journalism. But Big Apple-based Seth would probably be known as “Mossad” upon securing all of the inside scoop on Jewish players if there were as many of them earning national acclaim as they did in a 30-year span from 1933-34 through 1962-63 when New York area schools CCNY, LIU, NYU and St. John’s each had three different Jewish All-Americans.

  19. Larry Conley – Craven contributor doesn’t boast the antics found in many of his colleagues. . . . Cagey star of one of Kentucky’s most beloved squads (“Rupp’s Runts”) was a three-year Academic All-American who led the team in assists all three varsity seasons. Assists viewers because he is chock full of keen observations and authoritative analysis.

  20. Andy Katz – Kudos to former inked-stained wretch for successfully crossing threshold from frumpy beat writer to the sanitized boob tube. . . . Pithier on paper than codifying comments on air, but his pristine knowledge offsets modest audio awkwardness (bulging "discs" not dic_s). Wish he would be a little more tendentious. . . . His network (ESPN) transitions into the Extra Sensitive Pious Newsmen when it assigns him to go politico at the White House conducting B.O.’s less-than-entertaining presidential tourney picks that always seem to stink despite the President’s avowed interest in the sport and background as a JV player with Occidental (Calif.). ESPN relishes this segment but should label it the "Audacity of Hype" unless giving equal time to a Republican Senator - Scott Brown (Tufts) and John Thune (Biola) were varsity players.

  21. Jim Spanarkel – Pragmatic practitioner frequently sounds as if he is giving a monotone presentation from his full-time vocation as a financial advisor. . . . Perhaps as a byproduct of his affluence with Merrill Lynch, he seems to be significantly more relaxed than many of his counterparts—akin to a confident free-throw shooter at crunch time (two-time All-American with Duke/17.6 ppg, 4 rpg, 52.7 FG%, 80.6 FT%).

  22. Dino Gaudio – Unlike many former head coaches capable of returning to the sideline, he is willing to cross that tenuous threshold and make occasional critical comments. . . . Neither gorgeous nor vibrant, but his remarks frequently are “spot on” enlightening. . . . Wish he wouldn’t cover his butt by couching so many of his observations with a qualifying “but” this and "but" that.

  23. Sean Farnham – Fresh face from UCLA appears to offer off-the-chart communicative skills which could enable him to blossom into the next meteoric rise up the analyst food chain if everything falls into place. . . . Compared to the promising forecast for Farnham, most of his fledgling peers look as if they are going down a yellow-brick road in a seemingly never-ending search for a heart, a brain and some courage.

  24. Adrian Branch — Seemingly devoid of cogent commentary, he seldom recognizes poor play or decision-making. . . . Not quite good enough to be a standout NBA player (6.4 ppg in four seasons) and might not be brazen enough to have a distinguished career as a quality commentator, either. . . . Hoopdom would have been eternally grateful for his insight if the moribund motivational speaker could have inspired Maryland teammate Len Bias to clean up his act before the ACC Player of the Year’s cocaine-induced death just four days after the 1986 NBA draft. . . . Two-time all-league second-team selection (16.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg) outdueled UNC’s Michael Jordan for highest scoring average by an ACC freshman in 1981-82. Now he needs to raise his on-air presence in a similar fashion.

  25. Bob Valvano – Clearly superior as a commentator than he was as a DI head coach (38-74 record with St. Francis, N.Y., in four seasons from 1984-85 through 1987-88). . . . Actually, he’s a better analyst (sans the panache) than his exceedingly more famous brother (Jim).

  26. Jay Williams – Certainly was more efficient driving to the basket by a wide margin than insipid former national player of the year is at driving home an oral viewpoint or driving a motorcycle. . . . Needs to exhibit a little more abandonment with his remarks similar to what he excelled at while driving down the lane but not to the extent he did with the cycle. . . . Irresponsible actions on motorcycle make it nearly impossible for him to have any critique credibility. . . . Too many oblique remarks leave a truculent viewer hanging much like wondering how good Williams could have been as a pro (2nd pick overall in 2002 NBA draft after finishing career with 19.3 ppg and 6 apg) if not for crashing a motorcycle into a streetlight on Chicago’s North Side the summer following his debut season. He severed a main nerve in his leg, fractured his pelvis and tore three ligaments in his left knee while not wearing a helmet, not being licensed to drive a motorcycle in Illinois and also violating the terms of his Bulls contract by riding a motorcycle. . . . Why did the Bulls give him a whopping $3 million in a buyout when they legally did not have to pay the inconsistent rookie anything? And why does ESPN pay a media rookie such homage via prime air time while severing our nerves with inconsistent comments that don’t have a leg to stand on, frequently fracturing the English language and leaving a portion of the audience needing a helmet to beat their heads against a wall?

  27. Jon Sundvold – Former Mizzou standout (12.5 ppg, 3 rpg, 84.8 FT%) is much more astute than his “reserve” status may indicate. . . . Savvy NBA single-season record holder for 3-point field-goal percentage might have generated more of a buzz within the industry if he had chimed in with some “long-range bombs” but that simply doesn’t coexist with his easygoing salient style.

  28. Miles Simon – First-team All-American as a senior with Arizona (14.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 37.4 3FG%) appears to exhibit the most potential among ESPN’s “young guns.” . . . Needs to work on eliminating occasional trite tidbits and provide more persuasive punditry.

  29. Mike Kelley – Talks an even better game than he played as a heady no-frills point guard for Wisconsin’s 2000 Final Four squad. . . . No verbal excesses—just get the job done competently--is precisely what an observer would expect from a Bo Ryan playmaker.

  30. Hubert Davis – ESPN’s virtual carbon copy of CBS network nabob Greg Anthony — earnest and affable but frequently appears to be in over his head at the major-league level without first earning his spurs via proper grooming in the minor leagues. . . . All-ACC second-team selection as a North Carolina senior (11.8 ppg, 43.5 3FG%) has an infectious laugh that seems as if it is forced at times solely to mollify his elders. . . . Did he really say that Butler could make another return to the Final Four this year?

  31. LaPhonso Ellis — At first glance, he appears to boast all of the raw essentials a network seeks due to his commanding stage presence. But can elegant Ellis shed his bromidic language, elevating his analytical game to enlighten and entertain the viewer by amplifying on the obvious? . . . Lingering in the background is the fact this underachiever had the talent to become an All-American in college (15.5 ppg and 11.1 rpg with Notre Dame) and NBA All-Pro (11.9 ppg and 6.5 rpg in 11 seasons) but he also fell short of expectations there.

  32. Greg Anthony – Deserved or not, this hardy soul seems like damaged goods because of previous suspect affiliations. He simply is tainted by Sin City playing days with UNLV’s Runnin’ Renegades program and infected by waning-moment frivolity during the New York Knicks’ colossal collapse in the closing seconds of a memorable playoff game against Reggie Miller’s Indiana Pacers. . . . There is no “there there” for the lethargic lefty despite how hard Anthony strives to contribute “One Shining Moment.” . . . Lefty is a conservative "righty" who occasionally gets treated like Clarence Thomas by "open-minded and compassionate" liberals. . . . He resembles a promising player promoted to the majors prior to securing sufficient seasoning in the minors—ready for the University of Portland (where he began his collegiate career—12.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 37.9 3FG%) but not the bright lights of Vegas, let alone Live-from-New York punditry.

  33. Mark Adams — More often than not, the mid-major expertise supplied by former Central Connecticut coach is illuminating. But would the ace “Voice of the Mid-Majors” be equally as impressive if issued more plum assignments featuring the big boys? . . . Will the author of several books ever summon sufficient respect from his superiors to secure such an opportunity on a regular basis?

  34. Pete Gillen -- Vibrant views occasionally bypass observers as the 20-year coach (392-221 record with Xavier, Providence and Virginia) struggles to carve a niche. . . . Probably would be held in higher esteem by being more provocative but that is not what makes him tick. . . . Noted for his thick Brooklyn accent and wit including his PC team’s defeat of Duke in the 1997 NCAA playoffs when he said: “Certainly Duke is Duke; they’re on TV more than Leave It to Beaver reruns.”

  35. Digger Phelps – Supercilious master of the run-on sentence must be gunning for Guinness Book of World Records acknowledgement regarding most times bloviating with coach-speak clichés such as “bring to the table” and “getting it done” and "payback." He also overdoses on the pedestrian word “solid,” using it more than a chemistry instructor. . . . Running away from controversy faster than Usain Bolt, the self-absorbed potentate dug a permanent credibility grave via deplorable defense of Bobby Knight during his buddy’s sordid swan song at IU. When a colonoscopy is conducted on somnolent General Knight, they’re gonna find Private Phelps’ head diggin’ it there. . . . Immaculate attire frequently is obscured by obstinate presence of highlighter matching color of his tie and obsession with the inside game and rebounding. . . . Socialistic coach with Notre Dame (seeming equal distribution of playing time and point production despite vast differences in potential) suppresses interest at times almost as much as he did the Irish output of Bill Laimbeer (7.4/17.5), Kelly Tripucka (15.3/26.5) and Orlando Woolridge (10.6/25.1) when comparing their college career scoring averages to their NBA career-high marks. . . . Seven victories over nation’s top-ranked team notwithstanding (upending UCLA ’74, San Francisco ’77, Marquette ’78, DePaul ’80, Kentucky ’81, Virginia ’81 and North Carolina ’87), he defeats the #1 objective of a commentator because brevity isn’t his trademark. . . . Let it go in one ear and out the other when Phelps weighs in on any "X Factor" it takes to win a rival game or tight tilt. Despite directing the Fighting Irish to numerous spotlight victories, he compiled a modest 14-18 record against UCLA and was shaky in close contests (45-54 worksheet in games decided by fewer than four points). He also combined for a paltry 15-46 mark (.246) with the Irish against heavyweights Duke (2-9), Indiana (5-13), Kentucky (5-12), Michigan (1-6) and North Carolina (2-6).

  36. Bob Knight — Lecturing public peons from Mount Olympus as if he is the marquee attraction at an overpriced coaching clinic, fuddy-duddy Knight mumbles much of the time resembling a cantankerous coach who doesn’t want a rabbit-ears referee to clearly catch any of his caustic comments. . . . The TV analyst bloom is off the former Baron of Bloomington as his broadcasting ability resembles the last 13 seasons of his coaching career when he won a total of only five NCAA playoff games. No cheating and majority of players graduating notwithstanding, it’s a Knightmare that a surly old bomb thrower is assigned so many upper-echelon games at the expense of ESPN investing sufficient time seasoning its brood of promising young guns. . . . Firsthand exposure to so many legends and historical moments should enable him to prosper, but his austere portrayals fall on deaf ears while totally out of apoplectic character unable to unleash churlish salty language. . . . If one of his former players had been as ineffectual as he is as a bellicose announcer, the autocratic Knight would have excoriated him and revoked his scholarship after pulling him off the court, choking him, asking if he had a pair, kicking/slapping him, hurling a vase at him and throwing a chair near him. . . . Detractors can’t start kissing Knight's "buried upside down" ample posterior because his sullen time on earth isn’t finished. But since “The General” seems incapable of providing extemporaneous dialogue other than stating the obvious, he could salvage his TV career by focusing on well-edited, marinated pre-game, halftime and/or post-game meaty vignettes on a variety of germane subjects. If not, it might be time to post a sign outside his office reading: “Gone Fishin’ (Permanently).” . . . His son Pat, based on the Lamar coach's recent postgame press conference audition, would be infinitely better than Father Bob at an announcing gig. Pat was Mr. Candid almost to a fault with the following descriptions of senior players he inherited: "Kids need to be accountable. . . . infestation of guys. . . . they're going to be homeless in the real world. . . . no-heart tin men. . . . we have to clean things up. . . . kids are stealing money by being on scholarship."

  37. Kara Lawson/Carolyn Peck – Looking over their shoulders as if anticipating a double team, they don’t seem nearly as comfortable critiquing men as they do so assertively with women. If they shed this inferiority complex, the sky is the limit for their future. Peck's outgoing personality could quickly enable her to catch up with Doris Burke as the premier female doing guy games.

  38. Tim McCormick -- Steady and reliable but doesn't leave much of an imprint with preponderance of safe and sound remarks.

  39. Stephen Howard – Don’t really understand why the former DePaul frontcourter (13.4 ppg and 7 rpg) hasn’t made a bigger splash.

  40. Dave Kaplan – Seems to boast much more that he could offer. Regret that he is spread too thin with myriad of duties in Chicago to be able to flourish nationally with his scouting background.


  • Did age discrimination throw witty Tom Brennan, docile Joe Dean Sr., workmanlike Gary Thompson and boisterous Billy Packer out the door? It’s not as if they showed signs of Alzheimer’s disease or something. Perhaps some looks-obsessed executive suit with the hoop IQ of a make-up artist thought they were more suited for a Columbo trench coat.

  • It’s disconcerting how much the vast majority of sniffy newbies possess little more than a rudimentary knowledge of history or tradition outside the conference where they competed. They should brush up on their amateurish hoops history rather than spending all of their waking hours in workout facilities or make-up rooms trying to impress poobahs otherwise bogged down by anxiety over some deadly Deadspin website essay.

  • Unadulterated mendacity is easier to digest than listening to hapless sideline blooters more qualified to appear in a Hooters commercial poking Dicky V in his one good eye than be so terminally jejune alongside him consuming precious space on press row. The blah lack-of-info babes basically are irrelevant while fostering their abject drivel. Just ask candid Coach K, who almost always dispatches one of his minions to endure such aimless interrogation torture so he doesn’t reinjure his back wincing at their incurable futility.

  • Resembling standard bearer Billy Packer, the common denominator among Bilas, Bonner, Dakich, Dykes, Gettys, Raftery, Waters and Wenzel being among the Top Ten are resumes including firsthand experience at both playing and coaching for big-time programs—positioning them to be able to provide lucid and logical dialogue from both sides of the clipboard about a wider range of pertinent topics.

  • They aren’t charlatans bogged down by being little more than shoe-shining apologists for the coaching community but well-worn ex-coaches should return to the coaching profession where they still hold some promise similar to equally TV-feckless Mark Gottfried. Until they leave the coaching ranks for good, coaches such as Tim Welsh have a tendency to aid and abet suspect conduct by their peers.

  • Duke boasts incredible inside insulation for a university without a journalism major or broadcast school. If Dicky V’s incessant fawning over Krzyzewskiville isn’t enough, you know player alums Bilas, Mike Gminski, Jim Spanarkel and Jason Williams are rarely, if ever, going to admonish the Blue Devils let alone take them to the press pooh woodshed. Neither will former Duke coaches Bucky Waters and Bob Wenzel.

  • College carpetbaggers Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal combined for a losing record in the NCAA playoffs and are “losers” in their futile attempts to disseminate data on college basketball. The reluctant role models know as much about contemporary college hoopdom as they do about playing golf and singing/acting, respectively. However, they could be useful in making public service announcements - Barkley about gambling/drinking and weight loss while Shaq could issue warnings about running around too much with the rap/hip-hop crowd and possibly avoiding respectful cheating on a spouse.

  • Cacophonous or not, circumspect commentators should be implored not to vacillate and settle for becoming the latest inane gutless wonders. There is no good reason to make incendiary comments or sound like Skip Baseless, Keith Overbite or Screaming A. Stiff, but go ahead and stake a rational position and deal head-on with any fallout.

  • Perpetual self-promoter Dick Vitale instinctively knows Billy Packer is also a Hall of Famer and V should use his bully pulpit to “spread the love” and bring Billy into the fold. Packer was the most efficient analyst at directly dissecting action and trends on and off the court.

  • Where is the diversity of thought at ESPN? It seemed as if all of its younger commentators parroted the same theme that Lamar coach Pat Knight was out of bounds with "accountability" public criticism of senior players he inherited on the Cardinals' roster.