Behind The ScenesESPNNCAABStarting 5

“I’m grateful to have worn a uniform and to have had the opportunity to represent this great country”

ESPN analyst Chris Spatola is a former soldier, Black Knights guard, Blue Devils assistant; he calls Army-Duke basketball on Veterans Day

College basketball analyst Chris Spatola can be seen across ESPN platforms during the season, both in-studio and in arenas.

Before joining ESPN in 2015, however, he was a decorated captain in the U.S. Army. Spatola attended the United States Military Academy and went on to be a four-year starting guard at West Point before serving active duty from 2002-2007. After completing his service, he joined Basketball Hall Of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski’s staff at Duke (2007-2012) before pivoting to television.

On Veterans Day, Spatola and play-by-play commentator Doug Sherman will call Army at No. 4 Duke (1 p.m. ET, ESPN). As ESPN commemorates Veterans Week, Front Row asked Spatola for his thoughts on his military service and more.

How did your time serving in the Army help prepare you for your career?
Serving in the Army has made me better in every facet of my life – a better husband, father, professional. It exposed me to adversity, how to react to and deal with tough times and situations, and showed me that teams are better when you’re more concerned about serving others, serving the teammate to your right and left, and serving the mission. It forced me to realize there is no substitute for being prepared . . . and showed me that character matters. In the most intense, stressful situations, the character of a unit is only as strong as the strength of each individual’s character.

What are you most looking forward to as you prepare to call the Army-Duke game on Veterans Day?
I’m so proud to be a military veteran and to say that I was a small part of what I consider to be the best team in the world. That period of my life is the foundation for everything I have become. It challenged me, educated me, tested me, humbled me, prepared me and rewarded me. I’m grateful to have worn a uniform and to have had the opportunity to represent this great country both here at home and abroad.

How has ESPN supported you in your roles as an analyst and veteran?
I have actually been blown away by how committed ESPN and Disney are to recognizing and celebrating its veterans. It’s not as common as you would hope. The company is not only committed to hiring veterans but is committed to a culture of service appreciation. It’s really been one of the most rewarding parts of working here.

Spatola (24) led the Patriot League in scoring 2001 and 2002. (Photo courtesy Army Athletics)

Spatola served five years in the U.S. Army. (Photo courtesy of Chris Spatola/ESPN)

Spatola (R) was awarded the Joint Service Commendation Medal for exceptional combat performance in Iraq. (Photo courtesy of Chris Spatola’s Twitter feed/ESPN)

Spatola (L) was an assistant to Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski. (Photo courtesy of Duke Athletics)

Spatola (L) is an ESPN college basketball analyst.