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Catching up with Mark Adams, ESPN Color Analyst
Catching up with Mark Adams, ESPN Color Analyst
Published by Swampy Meadows
Catching up with Mark Adams, ESPN Color Analyst

ANN ARBOR (MI) -- Most of us probably look at a guy like Mark Adams, college basketball hoops color analyst for ESPN and think “Boy what a glamorous gig – I wish I could have his job.” What we don’t see are the hours of prep work that go into making the guy we know as “The Hometown Coach” one of the most knowledgeable and well-prepared voices in college basketball. “FTS” spent some time with Coach Adams when he was in Ann Arbor to cover the UM/Alabama A&M tilt for ESPNU, in an effort to give UD Pride readers a look at the man behind the microphone.

Like many Flyer Fans, I first became familiar with Mark when he hosted the “Flyer Feedback” postgame show on WHIO radio. I would stop by Flanagan’s whenever I was in town for a game and chat with Mark during the commercial breaks. He was always welcoming and fired up about the goings on at “The Dayton Decibel Dungeon.” I had tried to connect with Mark a few years back when he was in Detroit to cover a UDM game, but my work commitments didn’t allow that to happen. Looking forward for the opportunity to watch Coach in action.

Formerly the “Voice of the Missouri Valley” for ESPN, Mark has transitioned over to the AAC this season. UM/Alabama A&M was Mark’s third broadcast in six days. He drove up to Ann Arbor from his home in Springboro on game day; attended the A&M shoot-around and chatted with head coach Donnie Marsh; he would meet with John Beilein an hour before tipoff; do the game; turn around and drive home to Ohio. Pretty glamorous stuff, no?

Wikipedia tells us that Adams was head coach of the Central Connecticut Blue Devils from 1991 to 1996. Mark was also an assistant coach at Washington State University 1989-91, head coach at Western Oregon University 1985-89, head coach Rocky Mountain College 1982-85, assistant coach at Idaho State University 1979-82.

His bio from his days at the now-departed American Sports Network goes into deeper detail:


If you follow Mark on Twitter: https://twitter.com/EnthusiAdams you know that he is a major proponent of schools that “Do more with less” i.e., win despite smaller athletic budgets. Squads like Wofford who upset UNC and Ft. Wayne who beat Archie and Company at IU were to be featured on a graphic coming back from a break during the UM game. In tonight’s contest, the “Do more with less” team would obviously be Alabama A&M. Mark said that when he was a coach at Central Connecticut he would get $10,000-$15,000 for a buy game. Then he got smart and held out for more and ended up getting $30,000-$35,000 per tilt.

Tonight’s game will mean $90,000 to Alabama A&M.

Mark and I watched Alabama A&M’s shoot-around from the sidelines. Adams is proud of the fact that he does all his own research and he believes it makes him a better announcer because of it. He took notes as Coach Donnie Marsh put his 0-11 charges thru the offensive sets that he wanted to run that night, which featured a lot of counter double staggers. Coach Marsh came over when they were finished and chatted with Mark and his broadcast partner Mike Crispino. Mike is a veteran announcer, former ref and a big fan of UD Arena. Crispino couldn’t believe Dayton was spending $75 million on renovations—he thought the Arena was great already!

The two of them asked Coach Marsh questions to provide the pair intel for their broadcast. Some nuggets:

-- Coach Marsh worked with Mike Davis, the former IU player and coach for 12 years and has adopted a lot of his coaching principles. Davis delegated the entire defense to Coach Marsh, while he focused on offense when they worked together.

-- Alabama A&M is ineligible for the post-season and lost some players because of that, so Coach Marsh boosted his schedule with teams like UM to have his kids play in venues and against teams that would help them grow and get ready for conference play.

-- Coach Adams asked Coach Marsh to describe his players in one or two words. “Shooter” “Tough” “Hard-nosed” “Raw” and “Good athlete” were some of the descriptors.

-- Coach Marsh and Coach Beilein have known each other for years, as they serve on the NCAA Ethics Committee together.

-- Mark told Coach Marsh that when it comes to big men, Fran Dunphy told him they need to be “Low and slow.” Kinda like BBQ.

-- One thing people might not know about Coach Marsh? He was a head baseball coach for 6 years.

While we were watching the shoot-around I asked Mark if he had ever done a remote broadcast for ESPN, where the announcers are in a booth in Bristol, CT doing a game being played somewhere else—what they call in the business ‘remies.’ He had. His broadcast partner had done one earlier and Mark had him send a tape of the call. Mark told his partner it sounded like he was broadcasting from his basement. Coach said that the key is the announcers must create their own excitement. When they did a ‘remie’ together, the two stood for the National Anthem; fist bumped before the game started; all the things they would do if they were actually there. When the game was over, they exited the booth and walked onto the College Basketball Halftime Show set. Andy Katz and Jeff Goodman were incredulous. “What are you guys doing here—we thought you were at the arena.”

Mission accomplished.

One question that has always been on my mind is how did Mark transition from coaching college basketball to hosting “Flyer Feedback?”

Here’s Mark:

It all happened during the summer of 1996. I had actually divorced myself from the game—I didn’t go see a college basketball game that entire season. Then I got a phone call from Larry Hansgen--out of the blue—and he said I’d like to meet you down at Rooster’s, let’s have a beer down in Springboro, because he knew that’s where I lived. I didn’t know what he wanted but I knew Larry. So, we went down to Rooster’s and had a couple of beers and we were just talking and stuff and he said, “You’re probably wondering why I wanted to meet you?” And I said I just thought maybe you wanted to have a beer with a former coach and he said, “Actually there is a business reason.” And he told me about the “Flyer Feedback” call-in show. They weren’t real pleased with how it was going and Oliver Purnell had suggested that Larry reach out to me. And from that conversation he said, “I would like for you to host that show.”

For this, Mark was to be paid $50 per show.

And I’ll never forget this. He said, “Would you like to have a host for the show?” And I said no, I’ll just do it by myself. I didn’t completely understand what I had just said. Fast forward to my very first show I ever did for The University of Dayton. It was against Miami of Ohio and Wally Szczerbiak went for 43 points in an overtime game and Miami beats Dayton. So, I have to drive up to the WHIO radio studios because for the first two years it wasn’t at Flanagan’s it was at the studios. So, I go in the studio and I’ll never forget this—I look up and the producer is going “5-4-3…” The dumbest thing I ever said was I don’t want to have a host—who am I gonna talk to? I had this idea that literally flashed into my head in that 5 seconds worth of panic:

“Okay, Mark what you gotta do is reach out thru that microphone, into people’s cars and grab ‘em by the throats and bring ‘em in with you.”

I opened up the show and said, “I don’t want a bunch of fat old guys who are drinkin’ beer in their dens to call me up and complain about Oliver Purnell. I want a knowledgeable female Flyer Fanatic to call me right now.” And Rita called me. Rita bailed me out. She did that for every show for 10 years.

That’s how it all got started.

Another thing I have always wondered was what was Mark’s big break that got him a shot with ESPN?

It really goes back to Dayton again. Originally, I’m doing the radio show and Debbie Antonelli left to go to North Carolina with her husband. So, Ted Kissell and Tim Wabler wanted me to do the television for Dayton Flyer broadcasts. Mike Hartsock is a really good friend—he didn’t want me. And Mike was right, he had a reason why not to want me! And it worked out; Mike was gracious enough to give me a chance and we grew together. Then I got an opportunity to start doing the Mid-American Conference on ESPN regional stuff; then I got a chance to do the A-10 Network and that gave me a lot of exposure on the East Coast.

What really happened to get me over the hump was I sent my tape to a gentleman by the name of Doug White, one of my former players, who I helped get an internship at ESPN. Doug worked in Graphics and then transitioned into being in charge of Programming for the NBA. I asked Doug to coach me for 3 years—I’d send him my tape and he’d get back to me and say “Think about this; work on that.”

And then, after 3 years I got a phone call in my office one day and the guy says “Mark, is this Mark Adams?” Yeah. “Is this the Mark Adams?” Now I thought it was one of my buddies messin’ with me. And I said who is this? And he said, “This is Dan Steir.” Dan Steir was the Coordinating Producer for all of college basketball on ESPN. And I said bulls*t. I didn’t believe it was Dan Steir! Honest to God! And he starts laughing and says “No, I can prove to you that I’m Dan Steir.” And I said alright, prove it big guy. And he says “Doug White just handed me your tape—I wanted to know if you would be interested in calling games on ESPN?”

And I’m like bud-duh-buh-duh-buh-duh, I’m sorry Dan! And that’s how I got my big break.

Unfortunately for Coach Marsh and the Bulldogs, the game was not a pretty one as they lost to UM 97-47.

There is a reason Mark’s Twitter handle is “EnthusiAdams”…the man is always upbeat, always approachable and a walking encyclopedia on college hoops.

When we parted company, Mark asked me to be sure to tell Dayton fans how grateful he is for giving him “a second life.”

Consider it done, Coach!

That’s it “From the Swamp.”

You can email me at: swampy@udpride.com
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