Though his star’s on the rise, Kellogg remains grounded

By Conrad Brunner

Though he'd known for more than a year he was a candidate to replace Billy Packer as the lead college basketball analyst for CBS, Clark Kellogg wasn't completely prepared for the impact of last week's announcement making the move official.

"It was a bit overwhelming, actually, just to think about the position, the responsibility that comes with being the No. 1 guy, the chance to call the championship game going forward when Billy Packer's been the only guy that's done it on network TV for 34 years," Kellogg said by telephone Wednesday from Las Vegas, where he's watching youngest son Nick compete in an AAU basketball tournament. "It's an opportunity I look forward to but at the same time it's quite humbling. I'm excited and I'm looking forward to the change."

A former first-round pick of the Pacers (No. 8 in 1982) from Ohio State, Kellogg's promising playing career was cut short by knee problems in his fifth NBA season. He made a relatively rapid transition to broadcasting and just completed his 17th season working as one of the Pacers' television analysts. He's been with CBS for 16 years, gaining a prominent national profile with his studio analysis during the NCAA Tournament. A devoted husband and father, Kellogg's two other children are successful athletes, as well. Daughter Talisa is a senior volleyball player at Georgia Tech, while son Alex is a rising sophomore on the Providence basketball team.

Though he has plenty of experience in preparation for this transition, Kellogg knows this new assignment will bring with it fresh challenges.

"It's much like when I first did the studio role for CBS in '97 back in Indianapolis," he said. "I felt I was ready for it but I had no idea of the magnitude of the event. I'm walking around from my hotel to the Hoosier Dome and I'm floored by how many people are wanting to stop and talk about the tournament. I was spent before I even got to the building from an emotional standpoint.

"I imagine there will be some navigating as to how to best approach getting ready for a championship game. I think (play-by-play announcer) Jim Nantz and (producers) Bob Dekas and Bob Fischman and that crew have been together a number of years so they'll be able to help with some parts of it. But other parts, it's going to be learn-as-you-go. The game doesn't change. Basketball is basketball. The magnitude of the event certainly is different. I'm sure there will be a few spots I have to work through. I may have a few hiccups or emotions that I won't be able to tell you about until I go through it."

Kellogg, 47, will continue to work roughly two dozen Pacers telecasts and wants to maintain his longstanding relationship with the team. His March schedule has been crowded for years and that won't change but he anticipates being otherwise available.

"It's my desire to continue to do (Pacers games) and I have another year on my contract," he said. "I don't think it'll be a problem. It hasn’t been in the past and hopefully I'll be able to meet the number of games the Pacers want me to do."

This has been an eventful summer for the Pacers, as well, with two trades netting seven players and Jermaine O'Neal relocating to Toronto. While wishing the best for O'Neal, Kellogg said he believed the moves have been positive.

"Obviously, a player of Jermaine O'Neal's caliber and presence will be missed and I'm hopeful he'll be healthy and be able to play at the All-Star level he played at three to four years ago as he moves toward the back half of his career. I hope that happens for him because he's a solid guy and a terrific player," he said. "With the Pacers making the changes they made, I think it was time to try to restructure the team, reorder it in line with Jim O'Brien and his staff's style and also from the standpoint of a team that hopefully will be able to better take care of its business off the floor as well as on the floor. I'm sure those are the kinds of things that went into acquiring the kind of personnel the Pacers have grabbed hold of through the draft and with the trades.

"I think in general it's positive momentum and I hope it can be sustained. I'm looking for this team to be a pleasant surprise to the league and to the folks in Indianapolis and Indiana."

Replacing Packer, a legend in the college game thanks largely to his string of 34 consecutive years as the lead analyst for the Final Four telecasts, will be a huge challenge for Kellogg. Though both share a passion for the game, Kellogg's presentation is very different, more energetic, more passionate, more enthusiastic. He has no plans to change his approach, or to emulate Packer's three-decade run.

"I would be shocked beyond belief if I go that long," Kellogg said. "I would hope to continue to be who I am. I thoroughly enjoy the game. I'm passionate and enthusiastic about it. I enjoy the people I work with and what I do so I hope that always comes through. If there ever comes a point when it doesn't, hopefully, I would be wise enough to know and get out of the chair."

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