Before TNT, The Reggie Miller Show was Must-See TV in Indy
Reggie Miller scored eight points in nine seconds.
Reggie Miller scored 25 points in 12 minutes.
So what can Miller do if you give him 30 minutes? Apparently host a talk show that aired every week on WTHR for two seasons during the mid-90s.
Miller is no stranger to television these days, appearing frequently on TNT as an analyst and doing the same role during March Madness. But back then, while comfortable on the bright lights of the NBA's biggest stage, Miller was still a neophyte to television when Channel 13 (WTHR) and him expressed mutual interest in doing a weekly television program.
"The Pacers really wanted to get him out there," said WTHR's Dave Calabro, who was a contributor to the show. "His star was pretty bright then. It was before the 2000 run to the NBA Finals but I think Reggie wanted to start getting his feet wet and dabbling in TV."
Every episode would begin like this: The house band would play, the spotlights would train on a door at the top of a metallic set of stairs, and Reggie Miller would enter (sometimes with some dance moves). The Pacers' franchise player would then descend the steps, do a monologue, have guests on, and answer questions from the live studio audience. It was all very much in the mold of your typical late night television program.
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Yes, some of the jokes were corny and canned, but Miller was putting himself out there, and the fans — both in the audience and watching at home — loved to see it.
"It took us maybe two shows (to figure it out), because at first we didn't have a band and we didn't have a writer that Reggie liked," said Jim Simmons, the show's producer. "So it took us maybe two shows to figure out what we were doing."
Once they got in the swing of things, it was clear that Reggie wasn't going to be the type of on-air talent that just shows up to shoot. He was heavily involved in all areas of the show's production. From going to production meetings and pitching ideas to helping secure guests for the show, Reggie's fingerprints were everywhere.
"We are always interested in expanding his brand and that was a great vehicle for it," said Gail D'Agostino, Miller's longtime business manager and partner in his production company. "He always had an idea to transitioning into television, whether it be production or broadcasting. He's a great example of a successful transition from one career to another."
Miller being on the local airwaves was a boon for the Pacers as well, who got a chance to have their star player broadcast into the homes of Hoosiers every Saturday night.
"I really thought it was good because he didn't have that many opportunities to try to be known out there, particularity here in Indiana," said Donnie Walsh, the Pacers' Team President at the time. "That show had something to do with him becoming a very favorite player."
When asked if there were any voices of concern within the Pacers organization that starring on a weekly show during the season might be a distraction, Walsh was dismissive, "I don't know about that, but I didn't care," he said with a laugh.
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Looking back now, it doesn't seem strange for an athlete of Miller's ilk to be hosting a show while the season was happening. After all, we see it all the time; be it Brandon Marshall of the New York Jets, who is one of the hosts of Showtime's Inside the NFL, or Pacers shooting guard C.J. Miles, who co-hosted a show called Holding Court on a weekly basis with the Indianapolis Star.
"It was very progressive," Calabro recalled. "It was very out there for a local station to undertake such a program and to get a player of that caliber to step up and do a weekly show. But he really embraced it and worked hard at it."
"We wanted it to be a big league production," said Rich Pegram, WTHR's General Manager at the time.
The show's guests ran the gamut, but often focused on basketball, as Miller and D'Agostino helped pull the strings to get the NBA's brightest stars of the time on the set.
"You would call to someplace like the front office of the Bulls and ask for Scottie Pippin, and they would just go 'pshhh,'" said Simmons. "And then you would call Gail, and she knew everyone behind the scenes, and she would call and say, 'I got you Dennis,' or 'I got you David Robinson,' so Gail was always the one behind the scenes that would make miracles happen."
Those miracles ended up netting the show guests like Dennis Rodman, Charles Barkley, David Robinson, and other stars of the era. Away from basketball, the Reggie Miller Show featured sit downs with then-governor Evan Bayh, as well as former vice president Dan Quayle.
Multiple people interviewed for the story recount Rodman as the best interview they ever had. "Certainly the most colorful and interesting guest we had ever had," Pegram said. "He was just flamboyant, he was an interesting person and he was a lot of fun on the show, and I remember people were very excited to see him."
Another guest people remembered well was a young Conan O'Brien, who had just started Late Night with Conan O'Brien two years prior and was still building an audience.
"He came out and he just did everything," said Simmons of O'Brien. "There is a group in town, ComedySportz, that does improv, and he and Reggie did improv with the local ComedySportz group."
Since Miller was based in Los Angeles during the offseason, they were even able to film segments with Reggie on the set of ER, the hit show of the time.
Between basketball players, politicians, and entertainers, the Reggie Miller Show had something for just about everyone. But the person who got the most out of it might have been Miller himself, who in addition to getting more exposure, was able to find comfort in front of the lights of the camera.
"He's just a great example for young players to understand what you can do if you commit and work hard," said D'Agostino of Miller's career in broadcasting that followed The Reggie Miller Show. "He wanted it to be great, he wanted to bring a little bit of L.A. to Indiana."
The Reggie Miller Show might not have been eight points in nine seconds. It wasn't a playoff win or a buzzer-beating shot. But it was a special part of Miller's career in Indiana — it was his rookie season of television.
Fans in Indiana during the 1990s knew, when the lights came on and the house band played, it was Miller time.