One-on-One with Craig Ehlo
During your playing career, what were your plans when you retired?
Craig Ehlo: I think there were two things I considered if you look at the bio [former public relations directors] Bob Price and Bob Zink put together. On the questionnaire they handed out, you know where they ask what you would do if you weren’t an NBA player? I listed two things. I jokingly said a pig farmer and the other two more serious ones were TV broadcasting or high school coaching.
I actually tried high school coaching for three years. I was at Spokane Rogers High School and I had an astounding record of 10-41. [He laughs]
You went to your fallback?
CE: So I went to my fallback which was TV broadcasting. Actually, the year I left high school coaching, which I didn’t intend to leave, I got an interesting call from the Gonzaga team here in town. They were starting to put their games on TV and I was fortunate to interview and apply with them and got that job. I have been with them for two years. But that experience led me to get other college games on Fox Sports Net Northwest.
Was it hard for you to make the transition from playing to play-by-play?
CE: It was! It was really surprising. During the years I played, I listened to guys talk, like Jim Chones and Denny Schreiner, and I thought, “Man, they’ve got a lax job. All you have to do is tell people what’s going on in the game.” The first time I tried [broadcasting], I realized how tough it was out there.
What did you do to improve your handling of the game?
CE: Number one, it was hard to be on the other side. Sometimes you think of the media as bad people because they can either say good things about you or bad things. So it was hard for me to go to the other side.
The second part was just the on camera stuff. When you’re a player being interviewed, you don’t think about appearances like “Is your nose shining?” or “Is your forehead too big?” Things like that. You just answer the questions.
The third thing was coming up with the questions. I didn’t want to be redundant. When people asked me questions when I was a player, I didn’t really want to be like that. I wanted to create some of my own questions, which was tough.
CE: Totally excited. Actually, the college thing was good, but I was only doing 15 games, maybe 15 to 20 games. That’s all right, but with the experience and on-camera appearance, you can’t get better at it without more repetitions. It’s just like anything else in life I guess.
When will you start preparing for your job with the Sonics?
CE: Actually, I got my first assignment to cover the Sonics draft on June 24, and preparation for that has already begun. I’ve already started to familiarize myself with who they have, what their needs are, and stuff like that.
Do you have a favorite Cleveland memory?
CE: Do you have four hours and then I can tell you all my memories? I have one non basketball-related memory. I was going to a Monday Night Football game watching the Browns and the Miami Dolphins. I froze my tail off. I had great seats though. It was the same year that John Elway had that drive to beat the Browns, so they had a great season.
My best basketball memory was not the shot I was involved with Michael Jordan. [He laughs]
I’m sure everyone asks you about that.
CE: That is actually one of my favorite memories, but I won a game on December 23, and you can ask Joe Tait about it. We beat the Utah Jazz on a last second shot with 1.3 seconds left. I threw the ball into [Brad] Daugherty, he threw it right back to me because no one guards the guy throwing it in, and sure enough he threw it right back to me. I was behind the three-point line, I let it go, and it went in. Joe Tait called it so well on the radio. His call was “The Cavs win, the Cavs win it. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus and he comes from Lubbock, Texas.” Hitting that shot in Cleveland, two days before Christmas was my best basketball memory.
How would you rate Cleveland's passion for basketball among other cities you’ve played in?
CE: I think it comes and goes, which is pretty normal because of wins and losses. Before I got to Cleveland, they were called the 'Cadavers'. I played for Coach Bill Fitch in Houston and he always used to tease you about going to Cleveland.
I think the love and passion is there as long as you win or put a good product on the floor. They are just wonderful fans. I think there is something else people don’t realize. I thought Cleveland was a white-collar town, but it’s a blue-collar town. Lots of factory workers, cars, steel, things like that. They’re die-hard fans, and that’s what I loved about it. The team that I played on, we played hard every night. We were rewarded by the fans by having nearly 20,000 every night.
CE: Definitely. I spoke with someone the other day who was asking about key ingredients to a team. I thought the team I was on was so balanced, we really didn’t have a superstar that could take over the game. We had three of four guys who could do that, but just not consistently. They finally got a guy who can do that in LeBron James. I think with his complement players like Boozer and Big Z and Coach Silas, it’s exciting to see that kind of team be put on the floor and a team Cleveland will really enjoy.
Can you compare the current Cavaliers team to one you’ve played on?
CE: My first year in Cleveland Coach [Lenny] Wilkens started three rookies [Daugherty, [Ron] Harper, [Hot Rod] Williams, and his best bench player was a rookie, Mark Price. We went through that first season of not winning a lot of games to winning, in the next couple of years after those guys matured, 57 ball games and setting the Cavs’ record. Then people like Magic Johnson, Pat Riley, Chuck Daly started saying Cleveland could be the team of the 90s. They just left out that Chicago had Michael Jordan.
I think the complement players to go with LeBron are very adequate. The more they play together, that’s the one thing you have to have in the NBA, which is that continuity of the nucleus of the team. If they stay together and not let free agency come into play, they can be a heck of a team.
What kinds of activities do you like to do in your free time?
CE: Well, the coach at Gonzaga, Mark Few, is an avid fly fisherman. And the play-by-play guy I worked with, Greg Heister, is a fly fisherman, too. They’ve been trying to get me to pick that sport up. And coaches and news people have a lot of patience. You know basketball players don’t. I'd like to do it because we have all that nature available to us—the lakes and rivers—it’s all within our grasp.
Family is the biggest hobby. My oldest daughter is in volleyball and tennis and is a wonderful student. And my 13-year old, Abbott, is cut right out of my mold and loves basketball and baseball. So tons of that. He will come home and the first thing he wants to do is play catch with me. There’s just nothing better. He’s out in the driveway shooting the ball a lot too. And being a father and getting the opportunity to do that with your kids, there are no words to describe it.