Behind The ScenesNCAAB

ODU buzzer-beater gives Hollenberg thrilling capper to season

The game-winning buzzer beater is the shot every basketball player dreams of making and every play a play-by-play announcer dreams of calling. Old Dominion University’s Trey Freeman and ESPN’s Rich Hollenberg had their respective moment last night when Freeman’s three-pointer gave the host Monarchs a 72-69 win over Murray State to advance to the NIT semifinals with Hollenberg calling the action on ESPN2. Front Row spoke with Hollenberg about the call on his last ESPN college basketball assignment this season:

What was it like to be in the Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk, Va. and on the call?
It was precisely the moment every announcer dreams of: a high stakes game, two evenly matched teams, tremendous storylines, and one magical, miraculous shot wins it at the buzzer. In a college basketball season where I’ve been so fortunate and blessed to have called a number of outstanding games, this one takes the prize for sure.

It was precisely the moment every announcer dreams of: a high stakes game, two evenly matched teams, tremendous storylines, and one magical, miraculous shot wins it at the buzzer.
– Rich Hollenberg

In a moment like that, how do you approach your call?
It’s a thin line you have to straddle throughout a game, and especially in a moment as transcendent as that one. I have to have enough confidence in myself, and my preparation, that I can let the moment itself dictate my call.

Ultimately, I am there to serve the fan and respect the game, but at the specific moment, I am a fan just like everyone watching. I trust my abilities and the abilities of my partner [analyst] LaPhonso Ellis, my producer Ian Gruca and my director Pete Esposito to let the game, the pictures, and the sounds tell the story. I just fill in the blanks with some color and detail. And yes, I literally jumped out of the seat!

Truth be told, there is simply nothing that can top what we all just witnessed. I’m just humbled that I was there for it. The drama, the emotion, the talent all shines through, and I get to call it from the best seat in the house.

Now that you’ve had a chance to hear it back, is there anything you would like to have done differently?
I’ve watched it back at least a dozen times already! And I was honored to see it be No. 1 on the “SportsCenter Top 10 Plays.”

As an announcer, you are always your toughest critic. Of course I’d change some things in hindsight, regardless of the moment. Maybe said something more memorable, or with more gravitas.

But that’s where your preparation informs and assists your ability to be spontaneous and extemporaneous. I was thinking the game would go overtime, so I was prepped for that, and LaPhonso had accurately forecasted what ODU might do on that final play, so we were prepared for what may come. Then the moment just grabs a hold of you. It’s nothing short of an electric, magical moment, and it goes by in a blur.

I honestly couldn’t remember what I’d said when it happened. But I will say this: In games with high stakes like this one, I always have a scripted “close” ready for both teams, to capture the significance of the conclusion and what it means in the big picture.

It’s nice to have that standing by to wrap it all up articulately and, hopefully, creatively and memorably.

NIT Semifinals & Championship Schedule

Tue, March 317 p.m.No. 2 Miami (Fla.) vs. No. 1 Temple
Bob Wischusen, Fran Fraschilla, Bob Knight
ESPN
9 p.m.No. 2 Stanford vs. No. 1 Old Dominion
Bob Wischusen, Fran Fraschilla, Bob Knight
ESPN
Thu, April 29 p.m.Championship
Bob Wischusen, Fran Fraschilla, Bob Knight
ESPN

Back to top button
Close