On Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium, Jim Nantz called his 29th Final Four for CBS, a record among broadcasters that doesn’t figure to be matched any time soon.
Nantz has been with CBS since 1985 and has become the voice of sports broadcasting in America. He has covered every major sporting event, including being the lead broadcaster for five Super Bowls, most recently for the Patriots’ 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams in Atlanta in February.
He is perhaps best known as the voice of the Masters, a position he has held since 1986, and an event he will call again next week in Augusta, Ga.
Nantz said there are some similarities between major sporting events such as the Final Four, Super Bowl and the Masters, but definite differences, too.
“First off, they are all a rush,” he said. “The difference to me boils down to preparation. The Super Bowl is the biggest event in America, the biggest event in television. The preparation and all of the behind-the-scenes detail is immense. The Final Four is just a fraction behind that in terms of the preparation.”
When it comes to the Masters, he said that event holds a different kind of spot in his career.
“The Masters runs deep in my heart; it’s a love affair that I’ve had since I was a little boy with that tournament, that club,” Nantz said. “The Masters is poetry to me. The other two are a different approach, a different vibe and a different demand. There’s time to make sure my analyst is starring, my Tony Romo and Bill Raftery and Grant Hill, [and I’m] being a good setup guy.”
Nantz first called the Final Four in 1991 in Indianapolis, and a year later he was in Minneapolis for the event at the Metrodome. He talked about his deep connection with sports in this state.
“It was a special Final Four, 1992, Duke against the Fab Five, the freshman starters for Michigan,” Nantz said. “I have had a lot of occasions bring me to Minneapolis through the years, back early in my career — CBS had the NFC rights, now we have the AFC — so I teamed up with Hank Stram back in those days and we had a pretty steady diet of Vikings games. I love coming here. Those were the old Metrodome days.
“I have been here for everything from ballgames at Williams Arena, [Gophers] regular-season basketball games, a couple of PGA Championships at Hazeltine [National Golf Club], Vikings games, regional NCAA tournament games and now a third Final Four for me in this great city.”
Is he surprised to see the city play host to a Super Bowl and a Final Four only 14 months apart?
“Well, why do they keep coming back?” he said. “Why do we have multiple Super Bowls, multiple Final Fours, multiple PGA Championships through the years? This city supports these big events. I can remember still being dazzled the first time we had a PGA at Hazeltine and seeing 45,000 people there for a practice round.
“There is a certain enthusiasm and great community support system and spirit behind it that makes Minneapolis a winner every time they have the big event.”
One-and-done has hurt sport
Nantz said one of the greatest things about calling the Final Four is the college atmosphere.
“Any time you factor in the enthusiasm that comes with college sports, it comes with a whole new level,” Nantz said. “It is less corporate, it’s more of an unharnessed kidlike enthusiasm.”
Still, in the time he has covered the Final Four, Nantz said one aspect of the college game has hurt the sport.
“I am not sure the game has gotten better because we have lost the talent at an earlier time,” he said. “Obviously in the one-and-done era, the great players don’t stay four years. You go back to that Duke team of ’92 and you had Bobby Hurley and Christian Laettner, who were four-year players. You had Grant Hill as a sophomore on that team.
“These days, a player of Grant Hill’s ability would have been gone after his freshman year. Christian Laettner, same thing. You were matching up more seasoned players. Premier players stayed in college longer.”
Nantz said the biggest problem with the one-and-done rule, which has completely changed college basketball recruiting, is that young men misjudge their future in the NBA.
“I just wish there were some kids that weren’t so anxious to leave early and not develop, not have the coaching another year of a Mike Krzyzewski or a Tom Izzo or a Roy Williams and be able to grow and develop into stronger individuals and better basketball players,” he said. “To get drafted and barely make a roster and play two or three minutes a game in the NBA and not get any real coaching? It’s not helping you for that contract that is two or three years down the road.”
Yes, Nantz is one of a kind. He said he couldn’t ask for anything more out of his career.
“I have been more than fortunate,” Nantz said. “I have had the dream of a lifetime. … I don’t worry about what I don’t have. I’m grateful for what I do have.”
• The announced attendance at the 2001 NCAA championship game between Duke and Arizona at the Metrodome was 45,944. In 1992 for Duke vs. Michigan it was 50,379. At U.S. Bank Stadium on Monday night, the figure is expected to be over 72,000.
• In 2021, Target Center will hold the Midwest Region Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games March 25-27. The University of Minnesota will be the host school, so if the Gophers are in the tournament that year, they will not be eligible to play in that regional.
• The Final Four site has been determined through 2026, with Indianapolis playing host twice and Atlanta, New Orleans, Houston, Phoenix and San Antonio once.
• Timberwolves insiders say free-agent guard Derrick Rose is happy here and wants to remain with the team.
• A mock draft on NBAdraft.net has the Wolves selecting Texas Tech guard Jarrett Culver with the No. 12 overall pick. Culver, a sophomore guard and Big 12 Player of the Year, averaged 18.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game this season.
• It’s hard to remember another time when three local players — Duke’s Tre Jones, Gonzaga’s Geno Crandall and Kentucky’s Reid Travis — all played in the Elite Eight, but none of them reached the Final Four.
• The Gophers basketball team will have five scholarships available now that guard Isaiah Washington will transfer and if guard Amir Coffey intends to turn pro. There’s a good chance they will sign 6-2 guard Grant Sherfield, a former UCLA commit, from Wichita, Kan. He’s ranked as the No. 122 recruit in the country by 247Sports.com.
• New York Post headline this week: “Michael Pineda looks different in first start since Yankees injury.” Pineda has looked good in two starts for the Twins so far and earned the victory Saturday.