March 19, 1992
Walton and McDonough will also call the day's other first-round games, Florida State-Montana and Indiana-Eastern Illinois, which aren't the primary games that the network will broadcast in the New York market, plus Saturday's two second-round games.
Of particular interest to Walton will be Louisiana State's Shaquille O'Neal. Walton has tutored the 7-foot-1-inch, destined-for-greatness center and believes he should stay in school despite the lure of millions of dollars from pro basketball.
"Shaquille has to know that in every game he will play, at any level, he will be treated rougher and rougher," said Walton, referring to O'Neal's one-game suspension last week after being involved in a fight during a Southeastern Conference tournament game. "It will only get worse. He's just 19. The better he gets, the tougher it'll be, the more cheap shots he'll get and the more people will push him to lose control."
Walton recalled how John Wooden, his U.C.L.A. coach, motivated him to take punishment down low. "He hired a 6-8 muscle guy just to hammer me so I'd get used to it," he said. "He did the same thing for Kareem. He wanted us to be ready for it."
As for the cash that will be waved at O'Neal to leave school early (something his coach, Dale Brown, urged him to do in the aftermath of last week's suspension), Walton suggests that O'Neal stay in Baton Rouge.
"Name one guy who got hurt waiting an extra year," he said, as a challenge. "There is nobody." One enticement waved at Walton was ownership of an American Basketball Association team "stocked with all the players I wanted." But it wasn't enough to make him leave Westwood or bypass the N.B.A.
This is Walton's second year of National Collegiate Athletic Association. tournament duty for CBS, one building block in Walton's second career. After calling some U.C.L.A. and Portland Trail Blazer games while recuperating from his numerous injuries as a player, Walton now maintains a manic sports broadcasting schedule.
He analyzes U.C.L.A. games for the Prime Ticket cable network and Pac-10 games for Raycom, plus a combined 70 games for the Dallas Mavericks and the Los Angeles Clippers, where he alternates with (and sometimes teams with) Mike Fratello. "I love basketball. I love thinking it. I love talking it," he said.
Walton is working hard to prove himself a viable analyst. In years past, his voice was sometimes garbled, which is no longer a problem. He is a deliberate speaker who weighs his words before escorting them from his mouth. Asked about that style, he paused . . . and paused . . . and paused. "I'm thinking about it," he said, acting like a 6-11, redheaded Jack Benny.
Sports broadcasting is an obvious choice for the opinionated Walton, whose N.B.A. career was cut short by foot ailments. He moves without obvious difficulty, but his preference is to be seated. "At least I can walk now," he said.
If Walton's work on the N.C.A.A. games impresses his CBS bosses enough, he may work subsequent rounds covering the teams he knows best, U.C.L.A., the West's top-seeded team, and Southern Cal, seeded No. 2 in the Midwest.
"U.S.C. is playing very well and U.C.L.A. is still struggling," he said. "U.C.L.A is in a great position as the top seed in the West, but I like U.S.C. Harold Miner is one of the top players in basketball. They play with great speed, quickness and heart. Their point guard, Duane Cooper, is so fast, he races by people. I like their chances a lot even though they're not big. It's like coach George Raveling put his heart inside his team."
Walton is part of the analyst pack at CBS without coaching experience, among them Quinn Buckner, Len Elmore, Ann Meyers and Greg Kelser. The rest, Billy Packer, Al McGuire, Bill Raftery, Dan Bonner and Digger Phelps, have walked the sidelines in suits and ties.
The difference is experience for Walton, who played for Wooden at U.C.L.A. and Jack Ramsey at Portland, doesn't matter. "Good players on the court do everything: think, coach and play," he said. "Every game I played, I coached. In a minute of action, you make a million decisions."