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Collected wisdom: Jay Bilas, ESPN college basketball analyst

Interviewed by Mike Baldwin, mbaldwin@opubco.com Published: November 26, 2011
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An ESPN analyst the past 16 seasons, Jay Bilas grew up in Los Angeles. He played professional basketball briefly in Italy and Spain, and was an assistant under Mike Krzyzewski for three years before becoming a lawyer. He broadcast in-house TV games as a hobby, which led to ESPN hiring him in 1995.

My first recruiting visit was to Oral Roberts. I played with Mark Acres, a year ahead of me. He played for ORU, coached by Ken Hayes. When he picked me up at the airport, coach Hayes took me to Jenks High School to meet Steve Hale, hoping we'd hit it off. Once we got to the school, we sat down with Oral Roberts. We prayed together. He prayed that I would go to school there. Coach Hayes' plan was he was going to get me, Wayman Tisdale, Mark Price and Steve Hale. He was 0-for-4.

When I was in high school we didn't have cable at our house. ESPN wasn't what it is today. National TV was ABC or CBS, not ESPN. My parents out in California would have to go to a bar or a restaurant to watch my games. I'm amazed everything is on television now and how much it's grown.

My favorite part of the job is going to games. Sitting with Bill Raftery, watching a game, it's like sitting in a bar. After we go to practices, we later eat lunch and talk about what we saw. Getting to sit courtside and talk about the game, you can't beat that.

The biggest misconception about what we do is that we actually care who wins. We don't. The only thing I root for is a good game. No one wants to see one team kill another team. It's more memorable if it's an exciting game. I could care less who wins. I have too much respect for coaches who put in all that work to slant a game to one side or the other. One thing that's contributed to that is it's in vogue to pick the winner. The reason we do it is it captures people's attention. But if I knew who would win I'd be sitting in Vegas with a drink in my hand.

Dick Vitale is the most genuine, generous man on the planet. If you introduced yourself at an airport, by the end of the conversation he'll know everything about you, have your home address and send you a box of things he signed — a T-shirt, a ball or a book — and mail it to you. He's such a great guy. He did my games as a player. Working with him has been a privilege.

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