RAVELING TRAVELS TO HIGHER GROUND\Former USC coach sets own tone at CBS.
George Raveling, by all indications, was unraveling.
In the frenzy of doing commentary for CBS Sports on the opening day of the NCAA Tournament last Thursday in Dallas, Raveling couldn't believe what he was seeing: San Jose State was giving Kentucky a heck of a run during the first half.
BUT, HEY, DID HE HAVE TO TELL EVERYONE ABOUT IT IN SUCH A LOUD VOICE?
Rick Gentile, the CBS Sports senior vice president watching the telecast from the New York studios, passed a message along to on-sight producer Teri Schindler. Could she ask the former USC coach if this Dick Vitale-on-a-Pepsi-rush episode might be reined in?
And, miracle of miracles, it worked.
"But did you hear about what really happened?" Raveling said Tuesday, back in his home in West L.A.
What, you had San Jose State in the CBS office pool?
"The production truck didn't know they had my volume control messed up," said Raveling, in a perfectly listenable tone. "Someone was doing some cleaning or something and the control knob was pushed to the max.
"The only reason I knew was when I called home (after the game) and my son (Mark) said, 'Dad, why did you scream all game?' I said, 'I didn't.' He said, 'I'm telling you, you screamed the entire game.'
"I didn't know what he was talking about. I was speaking normal. They finally figured out I was boosted too high."
Raveling has no trouble figuring out that this TV gig, a year removed from his USC exit, isn't such a bad place to be, with or without bad technical karma.
This weekend, he'll be in a place many feel he's best suited for - an analyst in CBS' New York studios, with Pat O'Brien and joined by Pete Carril and Mike Krzyzewski.
Wednesday, Raveling flew to Atlanta to do a sitdown interview with Georgetown coach John Thompson that will air this weekend during the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight coverage.
It's tough to keep Raveling away from a camera and microphone. But now that he's crossed the moat to the other side, he understands this gig may impose on the friendships he's built over the last 30 years with the Thompsons, Crums and Richardsons of the college basketball world.
"The thing I have to keep in mind with all of them is because I do these things, I'm a journalist now and I have to protect my integrity," said Raveling, grateful for the fact he got plenty of pre-tournament TV practice doing games on Prime Sports.
"I'm always uncomfortable when I have to second-guess my friends, but I can't be a successful analyst and not second-guess the coach. I didn't understand that when I was a coach, but I know now that it's how to be an analyst.
"Criticism (from media types) didn't bother me when I coached. It depended on where it came from. If it was someone who knew the game and I respected, great."
And if it's from a gaggle of sports-talk show hosts or print people trying to rattle the cage of, say, UCLA coach Jim Harrick after the Bruins first-round upset loss to Princeton, consider the source and motivation.
"Jim could write a book on how to avoid basketball minefields," said Raveling of the Bruin coach he beat on more than one occasion. "I'm a Harrick fan. I don't know many coaches who could have endured what he did and still won a national championship (last season).
"People had this UCLA team misread from Day 1. It's a team whose time hasn't come. Cameron Dollar missing as many games as he did was a gigantic loss. It's a team that still has some holes. I'm amazed that people saw UCLA as a Final Four team."
Or, for that matter, a Duke, North Carolina, Michigan, Purdue or Indiana as a Sweet 16 team. Raveling says "the balance of power is changing because of the mega-conferences. The vast majority of the teams left in the tournament play pressing defenses and have deep benches.
"I believe there's a gigantic revolution in college basketball that the average person is sleeping through."
No way. Not as long as Rav's volume control is turned up.
Press-release fodder: CBS has lured Harrick to New York to sit in the studio during the Final Four (March 30) and championship game (April 1) with Pat O'Brien and Quinn Buckner . . . Saturday night's all right for fighting. KCAL (Channel 9) has the first of six live boxing cards it'll do this year with Rich Marotta and Tom Kelly, with WBO flyweight champion Alberto Jimenez vs. Miguel Martinez from Caesars Palace, Saturday at 8 p.m. That's the same night and time Showtime replays the Mike Tyson-Frank Bruno fight. And at 11 p.m., Fox has its fight card featuring Oliver McCall . . . The annual Sportscaster Camps of America will run July 18-21 at the Long Beach Airport Marriott. Cost is down to $595. For more information: (800) 345-8730.
A continuum of the media's cool and cruel, our attempt to mop up the '96 spring cleaning:
What smokes: The extensive media attention paid to Denver Nuggets guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf and his suspension for not standing during the national anthem (we've exposed another open sore of American culture, reminding those who have forgotten that a freedom of speech exists whether or not it's something they agree with); the portrait of skater Oksana Baiul in the April issue of Esquire (entitled "Of Ice and Men" - sizzle!); Pat O'Brien (CBS Sports' version of Dick Clark as the slicker-than-slick NCAA tournament studio host finally gives his computer keyboard a break - note the regular columns in Inside Sports, Live! magazine and TV Guide, plus his own platform on America Online).
What chokes: The excessive media attention paid to Chicago Bulls forward Dennis Rodman and his suspension for head-butting an official (if TV, radio and print folk helped create the monster, it's time to ease him into obscurity by avoiding the temptation to glorify his every move under the guise of "news"); ESPN's NBA Today studio show (Mark Jones is in the house . . . 'nough said); student managers who ask questions at post-game press conferences (we're qualified to say this); unnecessary media bashing of KMAX's "Sports Gods" (aka Dave Smith and Joey Haim) from blind sources who fax erroneous information to brain-dead writers; the Comcast cable outfit buys the Philadelphia 76ers, Philadelphia Flyers, the Spectrum and a new arena for $500 million (attention Comcast customers: keep an eye on your next cable bill for exciting news on why your rates will quadruple over the next three months); ESPN's latest "SportsCenter" hirings (Rich Eisen? Jason "Urkel" Jackson? Is the cupboard bare?); Fox NFL man Ron Pitts with a cameo in the new Robin Williams movie "Birdcage" (Pitts plays a reporter - kind of a stretch for him); KNBC sports director Fred Roggin's autographed picture among the celebs (between Charlie Sheen and Julio Iglesias) on the wall of fame at Pink's famous hotdog stand in Hollywood (relish the jokes attached to that one); ABC Sports dignitaries Jim McKay and Donna de Varona hosting an infomercial for the HealthRider (it's tragic enough McKay was passed over as the lead opposite Michelle Pheiffer in the flick "Up Close and Personal" - the guy invented the phrase - but now we have this vision of sports TV's elder statesman in some warehouse with a sweatsuit on and one of those kookie headsets, sitting next to Judy, the Time/Life operator, taking phone dictation of credit card numbers from sofa surfers who just ordered six straightback lawnchairs on QVC but now get this primal urge to go for the burn and fantasize themselves as Greg LeMond on the opening to "Wide World of Sports").
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