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Saturday, March 10, 2012
ACC broadcasting takes some stamina, too

By Robbi Pickeral

Catching Up With: Eric Montross

ATLANTA -- Former North Carolina center Eric Montross remembers the keys to playing three games in three days in the ACC tournament: “Pay attention to what you eat, get your rest, drink plenty of fluids.”

That’s pretty much the key to calling 11 games in four days at the ACC tournament as an analyst for the Tar Heels Sports Network, as well.

Montross, an All-American and a starter for the 1993 national champions, was suffering a cold and already beginning to lose his voice when we caught up with him Friday, before the second day of the ACC tournament at Philips Arena was set to begin.

But just like during his playing days, he was powering through. And he will squeeze back behind the mike Saturday to add analysis to the UNC-NC State and Duke-Florida State semifinal games of the ACC tournament.

A quick Q&A:

How do you prepare for calling 11 games in four days?

Eric Montross: Honestly, the hardest part of this job is just the amount of time you have to stay in one spot. For me, being 7-feet tall on press row is probably the hardest challenge. My heart rate doesn’t get over 70, but it definitely is a tiring process. We were on the air [Thursday] from 11 a.m. to midnight, and off from 5 to 6. So we were on for 12 hours. And then we do it all again [Friday]. But it is fun.

It is a lot to prepare for, because you want to give the same quality of broadcast to all the teams that you do for Carolina. And we spend so much time watching Carolina, that it’s hard to know the other teams as in-depth. So I think the real challenge is really looking introspectively at the other teams, and having enough time to be able to do that.

Why did you go into broadcasting?

EM: It was pure happenstance. When Mick Mixon [the network’s former analyst] went to the Panthers, I had been going on at halftime sometimes, and they asked me if I was interested, and I said, ‘Sure, I’ll try it for a year.’ And here we are seven years later.

But I think the biggest thing for me is that I enjoy the guys that I work with, and I enjoy the team that I talk about. … And it’s basketball. We’re talking about the sport, and helping people enjoy it, and that’s fun.

Can you discuss the other things you’ve been involved with -- the fundraising for the Carolina Basketball Family Fund, being a member of the search committee that helped hire UNC’s new athletic director, Bubba Cunningham?

EM: I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy athletic fundraising. It sounds odd, but it’s given me a totally different perspective on college athletics. Because as a student-athlete anywhere, you just experience it; you don’t understand all the dynamics of it -- not that you should, not that you could. But it’s really rewarding to be a part of that, sustaining the experience for these student-athletes.

And of course we’re working with the Children’s Hospital all the time. We’re in our 18th year of holding the camp [the Eric Montross Father’s Day Camp, which benefits UNC Children’s Hospital]. It’s really been centered around Chapel Hill, and it’s really been an honor to hold the positions that I have, and to be part of the experiences that I’ve had.

I’ve never been part of anything like the search for Bubba, and it was a remarkable search group, and I learned so much from the individuals. But the experience in the search process, it was foreign to me. And to watch people who understood the dynamics of it, it was very educational, and I really enjoyed it.

You’ve experienced a couple of careers, as an NBA player, now as a broadcaster. What’s next for you?

EM: I really like doing what I do with these guys. I’ve always been fortunate, and I’ve always believed that when you invest yourself fully in what you do, opportunities will come. I don’t know exactly what the next opportunity will be, what the next ‘career,’ so to speak, will be. But I hope it’s centered around the university, and that it has a heavy athletic piece. Because I think that college athletics is still a magical entity. But where that takes us, I don’t know.

Finally, how do you see UNC faring in the ACC tournament? [Note: This question was asked before forward John Henson injured his wrist during the win over Maryland.]

EM: When the Tar Heels play a very balanced game, they are the best team in the league. Their challenge is to become very consistent in their level of play. If they can do that, if they can home in on that piece, then they should be playing Sunday. But that makes a lot of assumptions -- and what that doesn’t take into account is what the other teams will play like.

… We have seen glimpses of really strong play [out of UNC], but it hasn’t been sustained for a number of games. And they’re a really good team; I’m not trying to demean them at all. But in order to reach their goal of a national championship or being in the Final Four, to have a chance at that, that level of play has got to be sustained.

Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.