The Final Four career of Jim Nantz has come full circle.
Nantz, who worked his first Final Four in Dallas in 1986, will be working his 29th this weekend at AT&T Stadium in Arlington for CBS Sports, calling the semifinals Saturday on TBS and the title game on CBS.
Nantz, 54, won Emmy Awards for outstanding sports personalty and play-by-play in 2008 and ’09.
The Star-Telegram recently caught up with Nantz, who will be broadcasting his 24th consecutive Final Four from the sideline. He worked his first five as a studio host.
What do you remember about the first Final Four you worked for CBS? My first Final Four was in Dallas at the old Reunion Arena. I was 26 years old and I hosted the broadcast from a little set right in the corner of the court at the old Reunion Arena. [Brent] Musburger and (Billy) Packer called the game, I brought us on the air, I did a little pregame, I did the halftime and I did the postgame. That was the last year, by the way, before One Shining Moment, which we go off the air with every year. That debuted the next year in 1987. Anyway, it’s full circle for me coming back to North Texas after having started my 29 years of Final Four broadcast here.
Of your Final Fours, is there one which left an indelible impression on you? That’s a tough one. There’s been so many buzzer-beaters, last-second shots that leave you with really good warm memories. There was that sad situation when [Chris] Webber called a timeout in ’93 down in New Orleans. That was not a good feeling when that game ended on that note. It’s kind of hard to say that one tops the other. I do know this, in 2010 we had Duke against Butler up in Indianapolis. That was the game when Gordon Hayward of Butler launched that midcourt shot directly in front of our announcer’s table. I had the perfect angle on it and I thought when it left his hands that it might go in, and it very nearly did. If that had gone through for the win it would have been arguably the greatest finish in the history of the game. You can’t come up with a bigger game-winning shot in the history of the game had Hayward made the shot. National championship for a mid-major to beat a program like Duke.
Do you like the Final Four games played in the huge football stadiums, or would you prefer they be played in a more intimate setting in the regular basketball arenas? I’m anxious to get over to AT&T Stadium and get an idea of what this is going to look like. It creates an atmosphere that this event is off-the-charts big.
Other than the games themselves, what’s the one must-see event this week which you would tell fans they need to go see? I think one of the great bargains is the Friday shootaround at the Final Four. It’s open and it’s free. Get there early, and they’ve made it even a little bit more fan friendly on the practice day. It’s a great chance to catch the fever. The Friday open practice, through the years, depending on the city, I’ve seen 40,000 people at the practice. I think people don’t really have the awareness that Friday from noon until 4 local time, the AT&T Stadium is going to be open to the public. Come on in. You can get close. You can hear the coaches running the practice. It’s a great way to get the weekend started.
What are your thoughts on the one-and-done college basketball players? Are they hurting both the college game and the NBA? There’s no question it’s not helping either one of us. And the thing is, what I believe would be a solution is right there in sight. If you think you’re ready after high school, go. Go. But if you’re going to commit to college basketball, you’ve got to have two years of college.