Greg Buckner broke into broadcasting by happenstance.
Last year, a friend put the idea of becoming a broadcaster in Buckner’s head, and after a few emails, he made it through the audition process and was hired as an analyst for Fox Sports Southwest. A personable type, Buckner’s job is to be the pregame, halftime and postgame analyst on Dallas Mavericks games.
Those who have worked closely with Buckner during the past months or so are calling him “a natural” who should have a long and prosperous career in broadcasting.
“He’s approaching it like I assume he did as a player or a coach, which is so great,” said Dana Larson, the FSSW host on the Mavericks’ broadcasts. “He wants to be great at it — he’s a natural to begin with — but he’s not taking that for granted.
“He’s not just acting like, ‘Oh, I can show up and talk, because that’s easy.’ He works so hard, he prepares all day long to get ready for it, he shows up before I do, he gets there early and he stays late. It’s just like you picture him as a player.”
Buckner played in the NBA from 1999 to 2009 — four of those years with the Mavericks. He also was an assistant coach with the Houston Rockets from 2011 through last season.
Buckner’s acute playing and coaching skills give him a huge advantage when it comes to analyzing games. Especially because he has coached against, played with, played against or coached the majority of players in the NBA today.
Jeff “Skin” Wade, an analyst on Mavericks broadcasts, said of Buckner: “Because of his role on the Houston Rockets, his knowledge of the players is great, his knowledge of other coaches in the league is great, and it’s funny because when you play against guys, you think about them in a certain way, and when you coach them, you start thinking about them in a different way. And so because he’s sill a relatively young guy . . . he offers a lot of knowledge.
“If he was just a player going straight to the (TV) set, that’s one perspective. If he was just a coach going to the set, that’s another perspective. He’s actually both.”
Buckner, 40, can’t explain why he’s made the transition from coaching to the broadcast booth appear so seamless.
“It was something that I always wanted to do, but I just never had the opportunity,” said Buckner, who was a second-round draft pick by the Mavericks in 1998. “People say I’ve done a great job, but I’d like to think I’m getting better.
“I don’t think I’m obviously a finished product.”
Actually, Buckner is doing double duty for FSSW, because he also performs pregame, halftime and postgame duties every month for six of the network’s New Orleans Pelicans games. That comes with specific challenges.
“The Mavs are easy because I do all the Mavs games,” Buckner said. “One reason it’s been difficult for the Pelicans is because they’ve had so many injuries, so their guys are in and out, playing well, you’re out of the rotation — because of their injuries or because somebody else comes back — so it’s been a little tough with the Pelicans.
“Fortunately, the Mavs have either played the team (the Pelicans are about to play) before, or are about to play the team that they’re playing. So it’s been a little tough with the Pelicans, but it’s still just talking basketball.”
And talking basketball about two teams in two different states has been a whirlwind for Buckner.
“I remember Buck as a player,” said Erin Hartigan, the host on the Pelicans’ broadcasts. “He never got too high, he never got too low, and so I feel he’s the same Greg Buckner under the studio lights that he was under the arena lights.
“He’s a natural in front of the camera. I was joking that he’s going to be taking my job.”
Buckner did admit he has aspirations of one day being like Michael Strahan, who is part of the Fox NFL pregame, halftime and postgame show, and also is a co-host on ABC’s Good Morning America.
“I want to be Michael Strahan,” Buckner said, “and I want the audience to be jealous of Dana, Erin and myself because we are having so much fun when we are doing our jobs.”
That “fun” apparently makes for a more productive and enjoyable show.
Hartigan even acknowledged that Buckner is so appreciative of his job that he purchased 20 gift certificates from Target worth $25 apiece, and passed them out to the broadcasting crew as Christmas gifts.
“I played college softball and I feel I have that same camaraderie with Buck that I had with my teammates,” Hartigan said. “We keep it light and we keep it fun, we’re dishing it back and forth on the set.
“But when the red light goes on, it’s like he’s the star of the show. My job is to get him the ball and let him do his thing.’”
It’s a similar job Larson has in regards to Buckner on the Mavericks’ broadcast.
“For him it comes very easily to just be conversational, and he’s so likeable and I think he’s just a really affable guy,” Larson said. “He’s got this giant smile, he laughs at everything, and he makes everyone comfortable around him.
“So because of those things I think it makes him great on TV, and then he has just a knack for breaking down the game. It’s the combination of all that that’s led him to being so good so quickly, and yet he’s still in the early stages of his rookie season at his job. To us, we’re just so excited because he sets the bar really high and we know that he’s going to grow even more, so I think that’s why it’s gone so well.”
Despite his success in broadcasting, there’s something on Buckner’s bucket list that could uproot his career as an analyst.
“I think one day I will get back into coaching, because I’ve always wanted to be a head coach,” Buckner said. “That’s something that’s still on my list that I want to do.
“But will I run back to coaching? I don’t think so. Fox is treating me so well.”