Q&A With Jay Bilas

Did you ever think you'd end up in broadcasting?

No. I thought about it while I was in college. It was something that I don't want to say trained for, but when I got out of high school and got to college I thought ‘hey, maybe some day I would like to do that.' The older I got, the further it seemed away from being a reality. I kind of had closed the door on it by the time I was an assistant coach at Duke. I thought coaching is what I am going to end up doing. And then broadcasting just kind of fell into my lap after that.

How do you think your athletic background and time on the team here at Duke helped?

When you are a color analyst, your basketball experience is everything. If I was just a player, my experience would be one thing, but after having been an assistant coach for three years, I really learned a lot about the game in a different way. When you're a player your job and your position, you know, you see the game and your slot in it. After having been in coaching and taking a more global perspective on the game, I think I learned a lot more about it. I became more well versed in the game.

Do you think that coaches make the best color analysts and broadcasters because they have that different point of view to draw from?

You know, I don't know. I don't think anyone has corned the market on their understanding of the game. I do tend to think that the people who spend the most time in and around the game know the most about it, or are more likely to know about it. If I want to find out about a car, I'm not going to talk to a guy who drives a cab, I'm going to talk to a mechanic. It doesn't mean that people who didn't play don't know what they are talking about, but I tend to think that the longer time you spend in and around the game, the better off you are as far as your understanding of the game. I mean, I think there is a difference between seeing 1000 games and somebody who says, ‘you know what, I have spend 100 hours breaking down the game.' That's totally different. Like I said before, it is not a contest on basketball knowledge, nobody has corned the market.

Do you think you're dealing with the media as a player, which is something a lot of people have not done, also helped?

No, I think what as been more helpful is, as a card carrying member of the media now, I feel like I have a better handle on what the players and coaches are feeling as they go through the process. I feel like I'm a little more sensitive to keep my stupid questions to a minimum. It's almost impossible to do the job without asking stupid questions, but I try to limit those.

Yeah, you can avoid asking a coach right after a loss, ‘So, why did you draw up that play?' or something like that. Probably a question that shouldn't be asked at that point.

That's a good point. To me it's not the question. For me, instead of saying ‘why did you do that?' I would ask, ‘Well, what were you're options there?' It doesn't matter what the situation is, there is no one right way to do everything. Now, obviously something either works or it doesn't in certain situations, that's fine. What were your options, what options did you consider and let them explain it to you. Sometimes that questions that coaches and players get from the media put them on the defensive. It assumes that the media know more than they do, and clearly you did the wrong thing, why did you do that?

We never criticize each other, we only criticize our subjects. That is sort of the hypocrisy of the media. We say the public has a right to know everything about players and coaches, but they don't have a right to know about us.

The Duke program in particular seems to have produced a lot of broadcasters. Jim Spanarkel and Mike Gminski came before you, and Jay Williams after. Do you think there is anything about this program in particular that, for some reason, its players gravitate to broadcasting?

Maybe we just don't want to work. I doubt a coincidence or anything. Jim and Mike played together, I don't know of anyone I played with doing this, maybe Billy King has done it a little bit. I think the truth is there are so many media outlets now that media companies are crying loudly for content. And college, even high school now, is covered more extensively than ever. This would not have happened 30 years ago, you would not have seen all these people in the same industry because the industry has grown so much. Syracuse is still putting out the most broadcasters. And Missouri, I don't even know if Duke has a journalism school.

There is a journalism certificate program now that is run through the public policy department that a lot The Chronicle does, but no, we do not have a journalism school per se.

I didn't even know that. We didn't even have that when I was in school, and It wasn't an option. I don't know if I would have considered it even if it was. If I could do it all again, I would be an English major.

I'm an English major, so it is encouraging to hear you say that.

I think everything we do whether its writing or spoken word in broadcasting requires the best possible use of the English language and language skills. I was political science, but I would have gone into English.


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