Ex-UB coach Witherspoon stays close to the game - The Buffalo News

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Ex-UB coach Witherspoon stays close to the game

It has been one year since the University at Buffalo dismissed Reggie Witherspoon as men’s basketball coach, but Witherspoon has not let go of basketball.

In the past few months he has given broadcasting a try and this week is hosting a half-hour preview show for the NCAA Tournament’s appearance in Buffalo.

“Destination Dallas” debuted Wednesday evening on Time Warner Cable in Buffalo, Rochester and Jamestown, and will be repeated today (Thursday) at 11 a.m.

In his 14 seasons as head coach of the Bulls, Witherspoon coached against six of the eight teams that are in the tournament at First Niagara Center.

“I’m giving the teams some story lines, and what will be some of the keys,” Witherspoon said.

In the current season, Witherspoon twice went to the Carrier Dome as an analyst for ESPN3 telecasts of Syracuse games against High Point and Binghamton, working alongside play-by-play man Jason Benetti.

“I think it’s obviously helpful for me to have seen them up close,” Witherspoon said of the Orange. “Of course, they’re playing against Western Michigan, who I coached against for all those years. Their coach, Steve Hawkins, is a really good friend. I’ve spent a lot of time with him on the telephone. … I think Western Michigan has a chance. If they hold onto the ball, not turn it over and control the pace of the game, it has a chance to be a good basketball game.”

Witherspoon said being away from coaching for a while has allowed him the time to immerse himself in the game in other ways. He attends practices for high school, college and NBA teams whenever he can.

“I’ve probably been to five Toronto Raptors games, and coach Dwayne Casey is very gracious and helpful,” he said. “I’ve had the opportunity to do some things I would otherwise be unable to do when I’m coaching. It’s given me a whole new experience around basketball.”

In addition to picking the brains of other basketball coaches, as well as sharing his own motion offense with them, Witherspoon has gotten some good advice on broadcasting from various basketball people. Jack Armstrong, the former Niagara University coach, has been particularly helpful. Armstrong is an analyst for Toronto Raptors games on TSN and NBA Canada, and he does college basketball analysis for Rogers Sportsnet.

“Jack is to Canada what Dick Vitale is in America,” Witherspoon said. “He has been tremendously helpful. Jack took me up to a Raptors game and he taught me so much about broadcasting. We rode up together to Toronto, arriving at 2:30 for a 7 p.m. game against the Wizards. He talked to me about almost every aspect of doing a game. He introduced me to Raptors coaches and everybody there. It was a great learning experience.”

Witherspoon also received advice from Mike MacDonald and Pete Lonergan, the men’s and women’s basketball coaches at Medaille College, both of whom have done broadcast work.

Ron Bertovich, deputy commissioner for basketball for the Colonial Athletic Association, has been another of Witherspoon’s advisers. Bertovich used to be vice president of the Empire Sports Network in Western New York.

“Ron has given me advice on many things, including what kind of clothes to wear that show up well on TV,” Witherspoon said.

The NCAA Tournament, particularly when it gets to the Final Four site, is kind of like speed dating for coaches, with all the basketball networking that goes on. Witherspoon will continue expanding his network this week at First Niagara Center.

“I’ve been in contact with a couple of the team’s coaches, and they’re really excited about coming to Buffalo,” he said. “I’m sure some people out there, over 55 or 60 years old, remember the days prior to conference affiliation having such an extreme impact on college basketball, when these teams came to Buffalo fairly regularly, to play against Canisius, Niagara and St. Bonaventure. This is sort of a throwback to that time, with the pizzazz of the NCAA Tournament.”

email: gconnors@buffnews.com

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