After 23 years in print journalism, John DeShazier made the move to radio this year as the analyst for Hornets games on WWL. Here, he talks about adjusting to a new medium, the perks of travelling with an NBA team and the Hornets’ playoff chances:
What’s been the biggest difference between writing and broadcasting?
Immediacy. There are no editors to clean up mistakes, there’s no spell-check for a verbal gaffe. Everything is live time, and because of that, the stress level (at least for me) has been akin to writing on deadline. Except at the newspaper, deadline writing actually might have lasted 30-45 minutes. On radio, deadline is 21/2 hours, nonstop. And broadcasting requires significantly more homework on the NBA as a whole, because we might discuss leaguewide news or trends, as opposed to singularly discussing the team I’d be writing about on a given night.
What’s your biggest on-air gaffe to date?
I’m perfect so far (ha ha). No, the absolute worst — and I hope never to repeat it — is that I called my radio partner, play-by-play man Sean Kelley, “Sean Finney” by mistake. I have no idea why the former Tulane basketball coach popped into my mind that second. I wanted to crawl under a pile of live crawfish.
Who’s the best interview on the team? The worst?
There are several candidates for best interview but I’ll go with forward Ryan Anderson. He’s extremely insightful and processes the mood and situations perfectly, and in the heat of the moment. He has a really good pulse on the team. Jason Smith gives him a run for his money, though, because Jason also is insightful. He’s the guy his teammates said would be the best presidential candidate on the team and he might be the most well rounded player on the team, in terms of keeping touch with current events. The worst? Honestly, I don’t think any of them are bad. Some are a tad quieter than others, but I haven’t found any to not be engaging or well-spoken.
Have you said anything disparaging about any of the players or maybe a coaching decision that they’ve let you know they didn’t like?
I haven’t had any criticism from a coach or player yet. I’d be shocked if I did. I don’t believe I’ve held my tongue and haven’t been encouraged to do so. I believe players and coaches understand that they’re high-profile, they’re going to be critiqued and as long as it’s accurate, fair and balanced, it’s acceptable.
Some people are said to have a face made for radio. Do you consider yourself in that category?
Absolutely. Why do you think I’ve never been offered a TV gig?
You look like you could be one of the players, or at least a retired one who’s now coaching or doing commentary. Have you ever been mistaken for one?
If a fan mistakes me for a player, after I finished laughing, I’d ask him or her to update their vision prescription. Now, back when I went to La Crosse, Wis., for Saints training camp in the mid-’90s, I actually was asked if I was a player several times. But that was about 15 years and 25 pounds ago. Now, I’m only mistaken as a taste tester for Krispy Kreme.
That being said, have you ever challenged any of the players to playing H-O-R-S-E or even going-one-one?
H-O-R-S-E, maybe. I used to have a decent jumper back in the day, though I haven’t unleashed it in a couple of years. But a shooter never loses the gift (at last, that’s what I tell myself). One-on-one? No way. I don’t have that kind of death wish. One, I’m woefully out of shape and, two, people really don’t realize how good NBA players are. Put it this way: The best player in the history of your high school probably wasn’t good enough to wash the jersey of an NBA player. I fear a merciless pummeling if I was dumb enough to challenge any of those guys to anything resembling a competitive game.
Just what kind of athlete were you growing up, and what do you do now to keep in shape?
I played basketball in high school until my senior year. I figured out I wasn’t going to be the next Dr. J (I’m dating myself a little with that one) and decided I’d concentrate on academics. I had a decent jumper and vertical (or fooled myself into believing so), but wasn’t foolish enough to believe I had what it took to reach the ultimate level. I still run (not just back and forth to the fridge) and lift a little weight. I try to stay active.
You do get to travel with the team. What’s the best perk about that?
The biggest one for me is staying in fabulous hotels, even if it’s only for one night. I mean, the Ritz is just a few slivers above the Residence Inn. Not to knock the latter, but the NBA treats you pretty well.
Do you see the Hornets making the playoffs this season?
Frankly, it’ll be tough. When your core group is 24 years old and less, and is in its first season together, it’s difficult. I don’t think it’ll be a failure if the team doesn’t reach the playoffs simply for that reason — it needs to mature and grow together. Of course, a postseason spot would be nice. But winning on the road in the NBA is a struggle even for veteran, great teams. Young teams usually take their lumps, pay their dues and make their move when they’ve toughened mentally and physically.