Former NBA center Scott Hastings still talks a good game
When Scott Hastings reported to work as an NBA player, he wore sweatpants and T-shirts to practice and games.
Some things never change. On a summer day two decades later, Hastings is dressed in a red T-shirt and grey sweatpants as he steps into the elevator that will take him to the KKFN-FM studios in Greenwood Village.
“My whole wardrobe is T-shirts, sweats and suits,” Hastings says. “Nothing in between.”
During the NBA season, Hastings is a casually dressed sports-talk radio host by day and a dapper Denver Nuggets television analyst by night. He also spent two seasons coaching the Arapahoe High School girls basketball team, but talking hoops and sports has been his primary job since retiring from the NBA in 1993.
For a man who was a perennial candidate for the NBA’s All-Interview team, it’s a perfect fit.
“I always thought that when I retired, I would be a coach,” Hastings said as he prepped for his afternoon show with Mike Evans on 104.3 The Fan. “The media stuff, I kind of fell into it. My first job doing Nuggets television was a way to stay close to the team, with the next step being going into management or coaching. You wake up 17 years later and you’re still doing color commentary and you’ve got a radio show.”
Hastings, 51, was the 29th overall pick of the 1982 NBA Draft headlined by future Hall of Fame forwards James Worthy and Dominque Wilkins. He was traded by the New York Knicks to the Atlanta Hawks during his rookie year and played six seasons with Atlanta. Hastings was later a member of the Detroit Pistons 1989-90 championship team and finished his career with the Nuggets from 1991-93.
A hard-working player who always understood his role, Hastings approached practices as if they were games. He averaged 2.8 points, 2.2 rebounds and 10.4 minutes in 11 NBA seasons.
“I remember Scotty as a player,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “He was a little better player than he portrays himself to be. He had a winningness to him. He did the dirty work and had an energy to help his teammates. If I had to say one thing about Scotty, he was probably a great teammate and a decent player.”
A Kansas native, Hastings stayed in Denver after his final season with the Nuggets in 1993 and started pondering his transition to the “real world." His broadcasting career was nearly put on hold when Mike Fratello took over as coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers that summer. Fratello was Hastings’ coach in Atlanta from 1984-88 and knew the value of a blue-collar 6-foot-11 big man who could serve as the backup to starting center Brad Daugherty.
Having endured two Detroit winters, Cleveland did not appeal to Hastings. He declined the offer and went to work as a sideline reporter for Prime Sports Rocky Mountain, which televised the Nuggets at the time. The Orlando Magic tried to sign Hastings in December 1993, but he wasn’t up for a midseason move.
“Heck, by then I had been eating cheeseburgers and doing all that stuff,” Hastings said. “It would’ve taken me too long to get back in shape. If Orlando would’ve called (during the summer) instead of Cleveland, it would’ve been a tougher decision. I probably would’ve gone.”
Instead, Hastings dived into his television job and started a radio show with former NFL wide receiver Dave Logan, a Wheat Ridge native who played football and basketball at the University of Colorado. With Logan playing the straight man and Hastings the wise-cracking country boy, their “Sports Zoo” show ran for 12 years on KOA 850 AM. They also were partners for Denver Broncos radio broadcasts from 1997-2004.
“I probably loosened Dave up and he professionalized me,” Hastings said. “I was just a goofball. I was a guy at the end of the bench screaming for attention. He’s probably the greatest athlete to come out of Colorado and a well-respected journalist. We just had a good chemistry.”
The same can be said of Hastings and his Nuggets broadcast partner Chris Marlowe. The two have been calling Nuggets games together on Altitude Sports & Entertainment since 2003.
“Scott is knowledgeable and he’s down-home funny,” Marlowe said. “I really enjoy having the big fellow with me.”
While the basketball arena is Hastings’ natural habitat, he has branched out considerably since leaving the NBA. He also hosts the pro football edition of the Altitude Sports Summit and Golf at Altitude.
"He’s the most versatile talent on our staff," said Altitude senior producer/director Scott Bay. "He does it all. I think his radio background helps him because he’s comfortable in all situations. Plus, fans really like him because he's down-to-earth. They relate to him and he’s approachable."
While his knack for connecting with fans and the media has always been one of Hastings' strengths, expanding his sports knowledge took more work than you might expect. In his early days of radio, Hastings said he subscribed to three newspapers and more than a dozen sports-related magazines. Now, he surfs the internet in his radio studio and shuffles through articles on his Amazon Kindle.
Given Hastings’ gift of gab, he probably could carry an entire show without much research. His interviews with guests are very conversational and driven from his own experiences in sports. It’s no different on this day as he talks to University of Colorado football coach Jon Embree, Colorado State University football coach Steve Fairchild and former NFL coach Brian Billick
“Johnny Carson was probably the greatest interviewer in the history of television, and he said all he tries to do is listen,” Hastings said of the late, great Tonight Show host. “I just try to listen.”
Make no mistake, Hastings does his share of talking as well. When he’s not making fun of himself, he’s often zinging his co-host, his producer or the pro athletes and coaches who provide ammunition on a daily basis.
“What sets Hastings apart from other radio talents in Colorado is his ability to speak his truth,” KKFN producer Scott DeHuff said. “He says what he believes. I love that, whether I agree with his opinion or not. There's a lot of guys – not all of them – in the media who tend to say one thing on the air and say another off the air.”
Whether he’s dissecting the Nuggets’ pick-and-roll defense, calling out former Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler or describing a scenic Colorado golf course, Hastings does his job with a blend of sarcasm, humor and honesty. Kind of a like a 6-11 version of presidential candidate Ross Perot circa 1992.
Perot was a Texas oil man who favored a suit.
Whenever possible, Hastings will stick with the T-shirt and sweats.