Q+A: Reggie Miller, Charles Barkley
Miller and Barkley discuss their roles as NCAA Tournament analysts and drop NBA knowledge.
by Kyle Stack / @KyleStack
There’s never a bad time to talk basketball with Reggie Miller. Even though I had a recent Q+A with Miller, there was the opportunity to speak with him again at a Turner Sports/CBS Sports media brunch within the Le Parker Meridien hotel in midtown New York City on Tuesday.
Miller is among a handful of Turner Sports NBA analysts who have added college basketball to their on-air insight as March Madness ramps up. You might remember this also occurred last year, which was the first season in a 14-year deal in which Turner and CBS will co-broadcast the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. As with last year, games will be broadcast on CBS, TNT, TBS and truTV. The tournament selection show will air on CBS Sunday, March 11 from 6-7 p.m. EST.
Miller will call games with Len Elmore and NBA on TNT partner Kevin Harlan across the different channels. I also spoke with Charles Barkley at the media event. He’ll be a studio analyst for the second year in a row, including on the new Infiniti NCAA Hardcore Bracket show, which airs on truTV March 11 from 7-8 p.m. EST. That program will display the team rankings for all 68 teams, which may or may not be more gambling ammo for those who like to delve into that.
College basketball was on the minds of Miller and Barkley, although some NBA talk managed to make its way into each interview.
SLAM: How have you made time to study the NBA and college basketball simultaneously?
Reggie Miller: The good thing about what Turner and CBS has done is we get a big booklet with all the SIDs (sports information directors) and their schools and phone numbers and we get a chance to call the SID as well as the athletic directors to chat about their teams. To me, that’s a step ahead of the curve when it comes to research. You got to make your phone calls to do your due diligence when you’re studying these teams.
SLAM: How many college basketball games have you done so far?
RM: I did Washington-UCLA, I did New Mexico-UNLV, I did Army-Navy. I believe that was it.
SLAM: What did you think of UNLV?
RM: We saw UNLV when they were at their top in the top 10. I thought they were as good as any… Kentucky, North Carolina. They’ve fallen off a little bit. But in terms of talent and style of play, up and down, they can be a scary out because of their athleticism. [Mike] Moser is unbelievable there. Another UCLA transfer, which I can’t understand. Yeah, I think they’re a scary out because of their athleticism.
SLAM: What about Washington? I know they didn’t play their greatest game against UCLA.
RM: They still should have won that game. I think Coach [Lorenzo] Romar, to me, they’re clearly the best team in the Pac-12. They’re young. They still have to find a way to win ballgames because of their youth. I think the freshman, Tony Wroten, is good. Terrence Ross can play at the next level. Their inside presence isn’t great, but because of their guard play, they’re pretty good.
SLAM: What’s up with the dearth of talent in the Pac-12?
RM: I know. It’s funny, I think a lot of guys are going to mid-majors – Gonzaga or St. Mary’s or they’re going back East to play with the big powerhouses. For the L.A. talent to leave L.A. and go elsewhere, to me, is a little surprising.
I think bringing in the two teams (Colorado, Utah) to the Pac-12 will help. I think they signed this deal with ESPN and they’re going to be on TV a lot. That will help with exposure. It’s just weird that the Mountain West would be the best conference out West.
SLAM: All right, I want to ask you about UCLA. What were your first thoughts when you heard about the story and then read it?
RM: I’m not going to lie, as a former Bruin, and you just read it, or say I wasn’t a Bruin, obviously it raises a lot of questions. I have problems with a few things. There are no names. I wish the guys would name names instead of ‘according to a source’.
There are so many allegations there that if you say it, put your name to it. What I take from that is Reeves Nelson is an asshole and he’s a problem. That’s what I took from that. He’s the only one who backed everything up. That’s what I took from that.
What coach, 24/7, knows what his players are doing. Do I condone everything that went on there between ecstasy and all that, no, but Ben Howland can’t be on that 24/7. He should have better control over the team.
In practices, the hard fouls. You can’t tell me that that doesn’t happen at every university. That happens. There are fights that happen. That goes on. If I’m a coach somewhere else, then I’m worried because this is the same thing that’s probably going on in my program.
I’m not condoning everything that Howland has done because obviously there are some underlying issues. But you can’t tell me that out of 300-plus universities that UCLA has the only guys who went out on New Year’s Eve.
SLAM: I think one of the main issues here are what are the expectations athletes have of their coach. It seems like a lot of athletes are averse to any sort of negative reinforcement, or even constructive criticism, from a coach.
RM: That’s a problem. Coaching is a lost art. In my era, coaches would get in your grill. It’s different now. Every blue-chip player is farm-raised now.
SLAM: Did you feel the added pressure to succeed based on the championships from Wooden Era when you went to UCLA?
RM: I mean, you feel the pressure. But if you’re a true player, you want that. I know I did.
SLAM: But Howland reveres Wooden so much.
RM: If you make three Final Fours then you must be doing something right.
SLAM: What would you say to the guys now at UCLA if they asked you to give some sort of motivational talk?
RM: I would say this: Don’t take criticism as a knock. Sometimes it’s coaching. I’m not saying everything that Ben has said or done is correct. But sometimes constructive criticism can be helpful.
SLAM: On to the NBA. What teams do you like right now?
RM: Clearly in the East, Miami and Chicago is head and shoulders above everybody else. Those would be my Eastern Conference finalists. In the West, right now Oklahoma City have separated themselves from the pack but they don’t scare me. They don’t have a low-post presence.
Even though Westbrook and Durant get fouled a lot and go to the free throw line, a lot of those [shots] are jumpers. And you know, come playoff basketball, when the game shortens and is a half-court game, you have to get some easy ones. It’s good to have someone who, even in the mid-post, can score the basketball.