Former KSL TV Anchor Jim Nantz Bids Farewell To March Madness

Apr 3, 2023, 4:25 PM

HOUSTON (AP) — Certainly, Jim Nantz could fill an evening weaving tales of the great games and buzzer-beaters he’s had the privilege to see, and call, over a storytelling career that made his the voice of March Madness for nearly four decades.

But when asked about his favorite moments as he prepared for the 354th and final game of that journey — Monday’s title game — he brought up Delaware State.

The Hornets were a 16 seed when they made what is still their only NCAA appearance back in 2005. They were going against Duke in a first-round game hardly anyone remembers now. Nantz was certain he’d see those Duke players again.

“But those Delaware State kids, they’re on CBS, and I envisioned that someday, they’re going to have the VHS tape to be able to show their grandchildren and say ‘I played in the NCAA Tournament,’” Nantz said during a courtside conversation with The Associated Press the day before the start of his last Final Four. “This tournament is their ‘forever.’ I always wanted to make sure that I do justice to their story.”

The 63-year-old traces his own path to the announcer’s table to when he was 9 and living in New Orleans. His dad took him to his first college basketball game.

Working the sideline was a bear of a coach who had a red, polka-dotted towel draped across his shoulder. About 10 years later, that coach, Guy Lewis of the Houston Cougars, would give Nantz, who played golf at the school, a job as the public-address guy for home games at Hofheinz Pavillion. A year after that, Nantz was still living in the dorms at UH when Lewis asked him to host his coach’s show.

RELATED: March Madness: San Diego State To Meet UConn In Title Game

Before joining CBS Sports, Nantz was a sports anchor for KSL 5 TV from 1982-85. During his time in Utah, the broadcasting legend called BYU football games and Jazz contests alongside the great “Hot” Rod Hundley.

Nantz’s might very well be the voice American sports fans know best. He has guided them through six Super Bowls on CBS and walked with them among the towering pines at the Masters since 1986, when Jack Nicklaus won his sixth green jacket. He’ll continue on those assignments for the foreseeable future, but this 37th run through March Madness will be his last.

Some said it might have been perfect if his alma mater, which came into the tournament as a No. 1 seed, was playing in its hometown in the final game of Nantz’s basketball journey. That didn’t happen, but Nantz believes there’s something fitting about a Final Four that came out of the blue like this, with three schools that had never been this far before, and no team seeded better than No. 4 UConn.

He has always loved the underdog tales.

“Storytelling paradise,” Nantz called it.

It’s been wild, emotional and a little awkward for a man who concedes he likes to tell the stories, not be part of them.

He got a key to the city Friday. Two streets on an intersection outside the stadium were renamed “Jim Nantz Way” and “Hello Friends Boulevard.”

“Hello Friends” is the comfy-as-a-slipper welcome he coined about 20 years ago. It gives Nantz a moment to connect with the audience and think of his dad, who passed away in 2008 after a long bout with Alzheimer’s. The Nantz National Alzheimer’s Center is based in Houston.

Nantz’s welcome-in message to the telecasts might be planned. Other things aren’t.

His call of Saturday’s buzzer-beating shot by San Diego State’s Lamont Butler in the semifinals — Nantz estimates he’s had 20-something such last-second winners over his years in the tournament — plays back like a master class in what his job should be: simple, urgent, much more about the moment than the person talking about it.

“It’s Butler. With two seconds. He’s gotta put it up. Aaand. He wins it! He wins it! With the jumper!” Then, five seconds of silence, followed by, “A San Diego State miracle!”

Speaking of miracles, there’s another announcer who made a name for himself by talking about one. Shortly after this interview was over and Nantz had started talking to some well-wishers, he lifted up his phone and smiled as he showed it to a few folks standing nearby: Al Michaels was calling.

Though many might consider Nantz and the 78-year-old Michaels as contemporaries, there was a sense of the unfiltered excitement Nantz felt about receiving that call. And it gave a glimpse as to why, even after all this time, he has such a strong bond with the millions of people who tune in. In some ways, he’s just like us.

Moments earlier, Nantz had recalled hosting the Final Four studio show from the Kingdome in Seattle in 1989 when Magic Johnson popped by for a visit on the set. As Magic and Nantz, both 30 at the time, sat in the corner of the arena, watching the final seconds of the Michigan-Seton Hall title game tick down, the announcer asked Johnson if he ever stopped to soak in everything and reflect on the wonder of all he’d been part of.

“He nods and just says, ‘All the time,’” Nantz said. “And today, I think about that. I’ve had the best seat in the house at the Super Bowl or the Masters or here for my whole career. And I’ve never gotten over the fact that I’m the one who’s blessed with the chance to lend a voice to it, and to tell the story.”

KSL 5 TV Live

KSLSports Feed

Follow @kslsports...

KSL Sports

Utah Jazz Draft Prospect: French Forward Tidjane Salaun

French forward Tidjane Salaun is projected to be selected in the lottery of the 2024 NBA Draft where the Utah Jazz own the tenth pick.

11 hours ago

Follow @kslsports...

KSL Sports

NHL Fans React To Utah Hockey Club Name, Colors, Sweaters

Fans took to social media to share their reactions after SEG unveiled the temporary nickname, branding, and colors for Utah Hockey Club.

11 hours ago

Follow @kslsports...

KSL Sports

Tony Finau Gets Out To Strong Start At 2024 U.S. Open

Utah native Tony Finau had a solid first round in the 2024 U.S. Open at Pinehurst Resort's No. 2 Golf Course.

11 hours ago

Follow @kslsports...

KSL Sports

Utah NHL team unveils temporary name, branding, colors, sweaters

Smith Entertainment Group unveiled the first sweaters and branding for the Beehive State's NHL team with the temporary name Utah Hockey Club.

13 hours ago

Follow @kslsports...

KSL Sports

Social Media Reacts To Big 12 Potentially Selling League Name To Allstate

Social media had its share of takes after the reports surfaced that the Big 12 is looking to sell its naming rights to Allstate.

13 hours ago

Follow @kslsports...

KSL Sports

Olympic Athletes Speak On Progress, Road To Top Of Sport

Progress in sports isn't as straightforward as most people make it out to be. Olympic athletes speak on what it takes to be the best.

13 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light up your home with these top lighting trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for hassle-free computer repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Former KSL TV Anchor Jim Nantz Bids Farewell To March Madness