Friday, February 23, 2001
Classic catches up with "Goose" Givens
By Phillip Lee
Special to ESPN Classic
Jack "Goose" Givens led the Kentucky Wildcats to a national championship
in 1978. Givens is well remembered for his outstanding performance in
the 1978 NCAA tournament final win over Duke, when he exploded for 41
points in the contest. His total was just three points shy of the
all-time NCAA championship game mark. Givens' collegiate accomplishments
made him a first round draft selection of the Atlanta Hawks in 1978. He
then started a career in broadcasting. He has held analyst positions
with Turner Sports, NBC Sports, ESPN, Jefferson-Pilot Productions, USA
Network and Host Communications. Givens has also served as color
analyst for his alma mater on the Kentucky Basketball Network.
Phillip Lee recently got in touch with the Goose to find out how things were
Phillip Lee: What are you doing right now?
Jack Givens: I'm a TV analyst for the Orlando Magic.
PL: For how long?
JG: Since 1989 when the Magic came into the league.
PL: How have you enjoyed being a broadcaster?
JG: I enjoy it very much. It's definitely a way to stay close to the
game. It's a good opportunity for me to see the best players in the
world play every night. But the main thing is that it gives me a real
good opportunity to stay close to the game.
PL: Talk about your ties with Kentucky and 1978. Everyone knows about
your 41 points (in the 1978 NCAA championship game). What goes through
your mind when you think about that?
JG: I just know that was a great chance for me in my life and the things
that I'm doing now. That helped me out a lot. It was just a lot of fun
to experience it. No question about that. You know, you play your
whole career hoping you have the opportunity to win a championship and
it finally got to that. It was definitely a great opportunity and a
PL: Talk about the championship game and how you played.
JG: It was just one of those games. You have a lot of confidence going
in. I never expected to have the kind of game that I had in that
ballgame, but I knew that it was going to be a great opportunity for us
to win a national championship. I felt pretty confident that we were the best team that
night, as I did most nights that year. I thought that if we played our
game the way we were capable of playing we could beat Duke because I
thought we were a better team. But, as far as my game personally, you
know you dream about having games like that obviously in the final game,
although I don't even know if I dreamt of having one as good as I had.
I was very, very excited about the game I had. I was pleased that it
came when it did. But, most of all, I was just glad that we won the
game because it was a pressure-packed year for us, and we set a goal for
ourselves and anything less than a championship would have been a big
disappointment that year.
PL: Were you aware that you were so close to setting the record for a
JG: No, I wasn't really aware of it. I knew I had scored some points. I
never thought I was the star. I really didn't. I just knew I was
having a good game. I knew I felt good. I felt like I could make
everything I threw up there. No question about that. Sometimes I think
back on it, and I wish I knew how close as I was because I missed some
free throws that I might have concentrated a little bit more on. Late
in the game, I missed a shot or two that might have made a difference.
On the other hand, had I known, I might have choked up and not had the
kind of game I had. So, I'm pretty happy it played out the way it did.
PL: Obviously the NCAA championship was probably your most memorable
moment. Are there any other fond memories you have from Kentucky?
JG: Well, I think back to my freshman year when we beat Indiana at the
finals of the Mideast region. Indiana, I think at that point, was
undefeated. They had beaten us pretty badly early in the year. We were
playing the game at Dayton. I just remember the police escort, the
caravan we had coming back from that game afterwards. That game put us
in the Final Four. I remember the feeling we had after winning that
ballgame. It was just a tremendous game. To come back and beat Indiana
after being beaten so badly up at their place earlier in the season was
a great feeling for us and a great accomplishment for us. I remember
playing against UCLA and John Wooden in his final game at UCLA. They
us in his final game. I remember that. As I think back
on it, there were a lot of great experiences there. No question about
that. We had some very successful teams. But nothing quite ranks up
there with winning a championship because I think that's the measure. I
mean, not many teams have an opportunity to win a national championship
and it's great to be able to be on top.
PL: How important was it for you to play at Kentucky, being a hometown
JG: Well, you know, what was interesting was that I didn't follow
Kentucky basketball growing up. Growing up at that time, there were not
a lot of black players at the University of Kentucky, so I didn't have
anyone there that I could say "hey, I want to be like this guy." It was
a whole lot easier for me to look around the country at other programs
and other schools and kind of mimic those players. So, while it was
great to be able to play there, it wasn't something that I always
dreamed of doing.
PL: So, what was the deciding factor for you to go to Kentucky then?
JG: As I grew up and got older, they began to change things at the
University of Kentucky and bring in a lot of players, some black guys
that I could relate to. I learned that the fan support there was very
good. The people definitely wanted me to go there. Joe B. Hall was
there, as opposed to Adolph Rupp. Joe B. had a different approach to
the game, I think, than Adolph Rupp did, and that made it easier. It
was a lot of factors that figured into it, but the main thing was that I
wanted to stay close to home and the opportunity to play at, what I
feel, is the best basketball university was there, so I jumped at the
PL: Do you still go back to the university?
JG: Yeah. I get back there quite often, actually. Have an opportunity
to visit a lot of my friends up there. I still have family there. My
wife's family is from there. So we have the opportunity to get back up
there quite often. I haven't been up there this year for a game; I
usually try to get up every season for at least one home game. I
haven't had a chance to get up there this year, because the schedule has
been kind of crazy. But I still love going back for games there.
PL: Talk a little about your NBA career. Now, you were a first round
draft pick for the Atlanta Hawks, but you only played two years. Why was
JG: Such a big part of it of being in the NBA is being with the right
team and the right time. I just don't think that the Atlanta Hawks at
that time were the right team for me. I wasn't as successful as I would
like to have been. I didn't enjoy the NBA game as much as I had hoped I
would. I had an opportunity to play overseas for a few years, so I took
advantage of that opportunity.
PL: Where did you play overseas?
JG: I played in Italy, Belgium and in Japan.
PL: How many years did you play over there?
JG: About five total.
PL: You must have great stories about competing overseas.
JG: You know, it is a great way to see another country. Pretty good
basketball, although nowhere close to the NBA as far as the talent level
is concerned on a nightly basis. Individual talent is not as good as in
the NBA, although the experience and the teams look pretty good. I just
remember visiting and seeing countries and visiting places I probably
would never have had the opportunity to visit without the opportunity to
play basketball in those countries. It was a great experience for me, a
fun experience. I still wish I would have been able to see the future
and play a few more years in the NBA. When I was playing, it was the
pre-ESPN days, the pre-big-time endorsement days, and all of that
changed soon after I left the NBA. I just kind of wished I had played a
little bit longer and experienced that a little bit more. Of course, if
I had it to do all over again, I would have found a way to enjoy it more
and stayed more active in the NBA.
PL: Now, when you got back, obviously you were still pretty young. Did
you have the opportunity to hook on with an NBA team? Did you try out
JG: Well, I tried out with the Chicago Bulls at one time. I went to
Dallas in the expansion draft. They picked me from the Hawks in Dallas,
and I tried out there. Unfortunately, I was just not as confident in my
game as I was coming right out of college. I had had a difficult time
and a difficult experience with the Atlanta Hawks, and that hadn't gone
real well, so I just was not as confident as I should have been. I
missed some opportunities to play. But, I had a great experience
overseas. I feel real good about my career. Although, as I say, if I
had it to do all over again, I would have tried to find a way to enjoy
the NBA a little bit more and spend more time there.
PL: Once you finished playing basketball, did you immediately start up a
JG: I sure did. I started broadcasting high school basketball games in
Lexington, Ky., with a radio station there. And, then I started doing
some area college games on TV. I went on from there to the University of
Kentucky basketball network, then just kept going from there. I've
worked with ESPN, NBC, and all the networks basically, before I had the
opportunity to come work with the Orlando Magic. Since that time, I
still work with Turner Sports in Atlanta. I do various games with them
and, in fact, I worked some during the playoffs with Turner Sports
broadcasting NBA games. So, I keep pretty busy with it now. We do
probably between 75-80 games with the Orlando Magic every year, so that
keeps me pretty tied up.
PL: Was it a big adjustment getting away from the game and becoming an
analyst? Did you see things from different perspectives?
JG: I tried to use all of my experiences to become a better analyst. I
think the fact that I played helps a lot, because, while the players
change, a lot of situations are still the same. It takes the same
things now to win basketball games as it did when I played. So, some of
the basic things have not changed although the game itself has evolved
and changed some. I try not to belittle the players and, you know, make
them feel bad or make them look bad with my comments when they make
mistakes or are not playing quite as hard, because I've been through all
PL: You can sort of relate more.
JG: Exactly. But, I think at times I relate more with players
struggling, particularly in the professional level, than I do with guys
being very successful. Because I've been there and I know what that's
like, although I have been successful as well, and I've scored points
and I know what that's like too. So, I think I can go throughout the
spectrum and relate to the guys and what they're going through in any
given situation. Those experiences I've had have helped a lot.
PL: You have a son and a daughter. Are they interested in basketball at
JG: Yeah. They both play. They are both very good little athletes and
do a very good job of playing. My boy's 14 and my girl's 11, and they
are both very, very interested in the game.
PL: What's the relationship between you, your kids and basketball?
JG: Well, you know, that's interesting. It's a little easier with me
and my daughter than it is for me and my son, because the first question
out of everyone's mouth is, when they see you have a son, is "does he
play basketball?" The last thing I want to do is put that kind of
pressure on him. It's kind of a fine line, I guess, between pushing him
to be the best he can be and getting the most out of him and not pushing
him too far and too hard.
PL: How did you get the nickname Goose?
JG: Well, Goose had played with the Globetrotters years ago, and guys on
my high school team said I resembled him and his style of play, so they
started calling me Goose after him, and it just kind of stuck on.
PL: Now, right now, what's in your future?
JG: I would look at opportunities to coach, depending on the situation.
I have interviewed with a lot of coaches and I've talked to a whole lot
of others about getting in the business. If I did something other than
broadcasting, it would be coaching, if the right situation came along.
I've had some opportunities to get into coaching that weren't
necessarily the best opportunity, so I stay where I am, because I love
what I do. I'm very happy doing what I do. If a good opportunity to
get into coaching comes, I will definitely take advantage of that. If I
stay where I am for the next 20 years, and I'm able to retire doing what
I'm doing, I'll be very happy.