Behind The ScenesNCAAB

It’s ‘Interview Madness’ for Andy Katz on his fifth annual ESPNU Tournament Countdown special

ESPN's Andy Katz on the set of Katz Korner. (ESPN)
ESPN’s Andy Katz on the set of “Katz Korner.” (ESPN)

On Sunday, the nation will find out which men’s basketball teams will be moving on into the NCAA Division I tournament.

On Monday, ESPN’s Andy Katz will attempt to talk to all 68 thrilled — and exhausted — head coaches. It is the fifth year Katz is tackling the unique undertaking and this year he will be joined by Adrian Branch for some analysis and discussion.

Lining up 68 interviews would be a logistical headache for any show even if they had weeks of prep time.

For Katz and the team at ESPNU’s Charlotte, N.C. studios, a mere 19 hours exists to schedule interviews between when the NCAA selection announcements are made and the airing of Tournament Countdown: Katz Korner (Monday, 1-6 p.m. ET, ESPNU).

Front Row caught up with Katz between Championship Week games — he’s been in New York at the Big East Tournament and heads to Indianapolis Sunday for an interview with Selection Committee chair, Mike Bobinski — to find out how this year’s Katz Korner special was shaping up:

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Katz Korner NCAA Tournament special By the Numbers:

• How many people work on the show? 25 (includes tech crew)
• Average time per interview: 3 minutes
• Phone calls made in the 24 hours leading up to show: 100-plus
• Resulting dead cellphones: TBD
• Bathroom breaks Andy is allowed: 1 if he is lucky
• How many interviews are set before Sunday? About 45
• Average number of coaches on hold at any given time? 2
• How many pages long is the show rundown? 36
• Misdialed numbers on Monday 12
• Talent Booker used to help secure interviews: 1, Lisa Stokes

What’s the goal of the show?
We can’t get too deep in three minutes so our goal is to hear from every one of the coaches to help fans fill out their brackets. Maybe you’re listening to a coach and there’s something he says that will give you pause in picking them or maybe it gives you confidence. We’re trying to give everyone a guide to help in their brackets.

Walk us through what happens in the 19 hours leading into the show?
It’s chaotic because I’m flying into Charlotte from Indianapolis, where I’ll be for our selection show. We tape some interviews prior to the show, but more than anything it’s prepping the order and getting everything in the right place before we start the show.

How much are you able to plan ahead of time, versus day of requests?
We try to have as many lined up before hand as possible.

What’s the hardest part of getting the show together?
It’s probably making sure everyone is in their slots and remembering that you can’t get too far behind because you’d then be rushing interviews at the end of the show. Bless the sports information directors who try to balance everything and fit us in. There have been times when coaches don’t recognize the Charlotte number we call from and I’ve had to send my cell phone to the control room so they can call the coach on a number they’ll recognize.

You’ve covered college basketball for 20 years: Are there still coaches you don’t know that you are talking to for the first time?
That has happened and will happen. There’s definitely some of the coaches at lower profile schools that I haven’t had the chance to be in contact with. But through my yearlong coverage of the sport, I usually know the storylines to discuss.

After five hours on your feet, what’s the feeling when it’s over?
I’m drained but then I don’t have much time to relax as I head immediately to the airport. The last four years I’ve gone straight from Charlotte to Washington, D.C.

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