Big Man Behind the Mic

June 15, 2011

Cavaliers big man Ryan Hollins has had an interesting calendar year.

He was traded to the Cavaliers from Minnesota last summer, survived a 26-game losing streak over the winter and became a local folk hero for his stand against Dwyane Wade and the Heat in the spring. In the season’s final stretch, Hollins developed a rapport with fellow former Bruin, Baron Davis, and closed the campaign on a high note.

This offseason, Hollins continued to expand his horizons – joining six other NBA players at “Sportscaster U” – a course offered at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications that breaks down broadcasting basics and teaches NBA players, who already have the hoops part down, how to talk about the game they have made a career out of.

Some of the course’s alumni include several former Cavs, including Shaquille O’Neal, Donyell Marshall, Eric Snow, Brevin Knight and Tony Battie. Current Cavalier, Anthony Parker, took the course in 2009.

Sportscaster U’s initial class of 2011 (the second class is scheduled for late July) was the first that included all active NBA players. And Hollins was joined by Vince Carter, Matt Carroll, Shaun Livingston, Dahntay Jones, Andre Iguodala and Earl Boykins. spoke with Ryan when he returned home from his stint behind the mic …


When did you return to California from Sportscaster U?
Ryan Hollins: We got back last Wednesday. It was Sunday to Wednesday, so it was a real quick course.

What’s the basic premise of the course?
Hollins: It’s a broadcasting course. So you can take the skills into radio, into TV, into broadcasting in general. And the thing about NBA guys is that we’re all analysts. (Sportscaster U) comes in and teaches you how to articulate your words into TV.

Some of the course’s alumni – Eric Snow, Malik Rose, Brevin Knight – have already begun working as analysts.
Hollins: Their success rate is pretty uncanny.

What type of material did you have to work with?
Hollins: That was interesting. When we were there, it was the end of the Finals, so all of our work was relevant. We were pretty much thrown into the fire – broadcasting the NBA playoffs.

What was it like, “broadcasting” the Finals?
Hollins: The first half of the Finals, we did it radio, we did it TV, we did the drops, the open, the pregame show, the halftime show, the postgame show. We went through a thorough process.

And I thought it was cool that we got to do the Playoffs – we got to watch what was going on and then dissect it. And something that they always said is that ‘you’ll never look at a broadcast the same way, you’ll never watch ESPN the same way.’ And I don’t.

So it was definitely fun and we were doing a relevant topic. I think the guys the year before did a college game. We’re doing NBA games, which is something we all know.

How do you think you fared?
Hollins: The best way I could put it – if you think you’re exaggerating or going over the top, it looks just right on TV. If I’m yelling and making a crazy point, I’m thinking: ‘I’m not sure how this is going to turn out or how I’m going to be viewed.’ It actually ends up looking pretty good on TV.

The most you get is between 15 seconds to a minute to express your views. And you’ve got to relate to your viewers quickly.

Did it give you a new appreciation of how difficult sportscasting can be?
Hollins: Definitely. It’s a tough job and you can see that they’re trained professionals. Guys like Stuart Scott or Steven A. Smith or J.A. Adande – those guys have to pick a decisive point and stick to it. And they have to be able to stay on their toes.

You have to realize that – while you’re making your point – you’ve got a guy in your ear saying “We’re going to break in 5 … 4 … 3 …”

There’s a bunch of stuff you have to manage at the same time. And then, it’s similar to basketball where, if you make a mistake, the game doesn’t stop. You just have to make it work and make a cohesive point.

Who’s your favorite current sportscaster?
Hollins: I’m a fan of Mark Jackson. I know he’ll be leaving the booth and getting into coaching next year, but I like what he does. He dissects a play without making it personal. He breaks it down, but doesn’t take sides against the individual player.

Earl Boykins was one of your classmates. As this year’s only seven-footer, did you get to do a broadcast with him?
Hollins: That was funny! Earl’s my guy; I love Earl. But yeah, there was a point that Earl and I did (a broadcast) together. At one point, they thought about having him stand up (next to me), just to balance things out.

Is this something you’ve always wanted to do?
Hollins: You know, it’s something I’ve always watched and paid attention to. And to be honest with you, playing basketball, you don’t think too much past basketball.

But I was like: let me explore something else that I like to do. I know I like to sit around and talk basketball. And I know I’m not shy in front of a camera. And I wanted to explore these options now, while I’m still playing.