COLUMBIA, S.C. – Today, Paul Finebaum will fulfill a promise he made to South Carolina women’s basketball head coach Dawn Staley last May.
His television and radio show, The Paul Finebaum Show, is live from the floor of Colonial Life Arena, prior to the No. 1 versus No. 2 women’s college basketball matchup showcasing top-ranked UConn at South Carolina (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2). Finebaum calls it “the Super Bowl of women’s basketball.”
The idea for a live show came about when Staley was a guest on his show last May.
“She not so casually mentioned UConn was returning the game in February and I immediately blurted out – I have a bad habit of blurting things out – that we will do our show from there,” Finebaum said. “She [Staley] said, ‘I’m counting on that’.”
After the segment, Finebaum wasn’t entirely sure the plan would actually come to fruition, but “it took on a life of its own and began to build up momentum. I began to hear from more of my bosses the plans were in place. Then, it was a matter of hoping the game remained a No. 1 versus No. 2 matchup.”
— dawnstaley (@dawnstaley) February 6, 2016
Both teams are currently undefeated.
It might surprise fans to know that Finebaum – best known for his coverage of SEC Football – is not new to the sport of women’s basketball.
“I coached women’s basketball in high school,” Finebaum said. “Well, not at a high level, but a sorority team. That hardly makes me the next [UConn head coach] Geno Auriemma or Dawn Staley, and, by the way, I was a terrible coach.”
He admits, though, that his real interest in the sport came in college, while he was attending the University of Tennessee.
“There was a young coach just starting out and we became friends and often sat together on the team plane,” Finebaum said. “I remember once getting news on the wire machine – this was before the Internet – that the Lady Vols were No. 1 in the polls for the first time and I ran over to her office two blocks away, knocked on her office door and went in to to give her the news. I swear her office was the size of a broom closet. I’m not kidding. Yes, of course, her name was Pat Summitt. There’s a statue now outside where the broom closet was signifying her eight national titles and honor of being the winningest coach in college basketball history.”
Finebaum’s relationship with Summitt inspired him to stay current with the sport.
“I have kept up the game since college and have been a huge Lady Vols fan over the years,” he said. “One of the saddest days of my career was being on air the day the news broke about her retirement and I was barely able to read the story on the air about her battle with Alzheimer’s. She is one of the most remarkable people I’ve ever met.”
The SEC Network will provide pre- and post-game coverage of tonight’s game for Southeastern Conference fans. SportsCenter and espnW will also both be providing live on-site coverage.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) February 8, 2016