There are few sports announcers that I actually like. Most of them seem incredibly self-absorbed and more focused on kitschy little catchphrases than the game itself. Yet, once in a while, an announcer comes along with the perfect mixture of knowledge, humor, and humility that makes you want to hear more. Over the past two years, for me, that announcer has been Ian Eagle. Eagle, a 22-year veteran of the broadcasting industry, actually has performing in his blood, as both of his parents were entertainers. His father, Jack, was a comedian and commercial actor and his mother, Monica, was a singer. Ian got his start by doing play-by-play for Syracuse during his college years, and later moved on to work for various radio stations in New York before landing his first big gig as the play-by-play announcer for the New Jersey Nets, a job he maintains to this day. That is, when he isn’t calling college basketball, NFL (yes, that is him you hear on Westwood One’s radio coverage), tennis, golf, boxing, and even track and field.
More importantly, Ian Eagle also has that wonderful quality we love in sportscasters here at KSR: he likes us. Or, at least he claims to. He’s been a guest on the radio show several times, and may account for some of the most positive show threads in KSR history. Eagle is consistently thorough, thoughtful and thankful, a rare combination in this day and age. Plus, he’s one hell of a chair dancer, a skill I like to think we both share. Happy birthday, Birdman.
News? Views? Let’s do it.
— Wednesday was a great day to be a Kentucky fan. I don’t know about you, but when the Cats are rolling, there’s nothing I enjoy more than poring over game recaps. And judging by the plethora of material available, Tuesday night was the Cats’ coming out party with the national media. Sure, we’ve been number one several times this season, and have enjoyed exposure on just about every television network, but a 20-point win over a top ten team seemed to be just the right bait for the national scribes. Heck, Dickie V was still raving about the Cats during the Carolina/Duke game Wednesday night. And with good reason: Kentucky looked like downright unstoppable against the Gators. They are, by far, the best team in college basketball. Point blank period. With the Cats in championship form, 8pril can’t be far away…
— It’s been said over and over again, but you’ll never tire of hearing it: Anthony Davis is an absolute beast. We all knew Davis was going to be a special player when he stepped on campus, but with each game, we realize the sheer enormity of his potential. I’ve come to the conclusion that the basketball gods formed Davis to be the ideal defensive basketball player, except instead of DaVinci sculpting, it was Dr. Seuss. It’s been a long, long time since college basketball has seen a player capable of completely changing the game like Davis. As Dick Vitale said on Tuesday night, Davis gives Kentucky 15 points before the game even starts because defenses are forced to alter their game plans. Can you imagine creating plays to score against him? Even thinking about it makes my head hurt.
— Hang on, Dickie V’s still talking about Kentucky…
— Oddly lost in much of the discussion about Kentucky’s brilliant play as of late is the brilliant coaching by John Calipari. Maybe it’s because they were too busy fawning over Davis, Gilchrist and others, but few national writers mentioned Cal’s game plan to defend the three and force Florida to drive inside (and into Anthony Davis’ fly trap) that proved so effective. In fact, some columnists didn’t even mention Cal once in their recaps (cough, Pat Forde, cough). #numberoneteamproblems? Jim Rome, a Cal supporter and friend, addressed the topic on his radio show on Wednesday:
“Say what you want, he has a lot of detractors, but he’s probably the most underrated coach in America. He’s not intimidated by having to replace his team every, single year. He knows he’s only going to have them for one year, so he coaches them really hard … and it works. Calipari is playing the game on a different level. He’s out in front of it.”
Sounds familiar, no? Despite a few outbursts at Terrence Jones early in the first half (including a hilarious little jig that I really need a gif of), Calipari was downright giddy on the sidelines, even more so in the postgame presser. Then again, taking jabs at Kevin Stallings is always good for a laugh…
— Isn’t it? After the game Tuesday night, Cal snuck in a few one-liners about the Vandy game, saying that only having “one day” to prepare for the Gators due to the Saturday/Tuesday turnaround was just “awful,” but somehow, the Cats managed. Oh, and the Gameday festivities on Saturday? “Is it (ESPN) GameDay up there? It’s nuts, doesn’t need to be GameDay. I heard they changed the benches to the sides. Did they? They didn’t. See, that’s a problem.” [Insert smirk here.] Cal’s jabs at Stallings further cement Vanderbilt as Kentucky’s primary rival in the SEC. With Bruce Pearl happily perched upon a pyramid of melons in the grocery business and Billy Donovan being entirely too magnanimous with his praise of the Cats after Tuesday’s shellacking, the Cats need a new villain. And Stallings is the perfect fit, the ideal combination of whiny and pathetic, with the added bonus of an uncanny resemblance to both Bill Dauterive and that guy from “The Office.” A loss to the ‘Dores in the Opera House of Doom would be far from the end of the world, but you’ve got to think that a win would have Cal grinning like a Cheshire Cat.
— That reminds me: #OccupyMemorial
— Word came out Wednesday night that the athletic department is in the process of approving a contract extension for women’s basketball coach Matthew Mitchell, calming fears that Mitchell may head to Tennessee once Pat Summitt retires. The extension is a wise move for Mitch Barnhart, as UK Hoops is enjoying its best season in history, and it’s a much deserved reward for Mitchell, who has transformed the program into a legitimate national contender. I hope Mitchell is here for years to come, if only to keep seeing him bust a move during Midnight Madness.
— Proving that the man never takes a break, Cal traveled to New Hampshire to watch Nerlens Noel play on Wednesday afternoon, according to Adam Rubin of Crusader22.com. Billy Donovan was also in attendance…maybe they flew together?
While you nibble on that little nugget of knowledge, I’m going to retire for the night. Don’t worry, we’ll be back soon. In the meantime, enjoy this recreation of the now infamous Anthony Davis poster…
UPDATE: Think your life sucks? Imagine being Tyler Zeller right now…wow. Here are the cheerleaders at the moment the shot went down: