August 23, 2012

MEET THE NEWEST ADDITION TO RAM RADIO, VCU ALUM MIKE LITOS

RICHMOND, Va.- The memories are crystal clear, even if the details are not. Clyde "the Glide" Austin is the earliest, dribbling near midcourt in the old University Hall, trying to break a frenetic Terry Holland press that was wreaking havoc with the favored NC State Wolfpack. Austin threw an ill-advised pass into traffic that was batted out of bounds by a Virginia player. Might have been Billy Langloh. Doesn't really matter.

"Wasn't that off of us?" I asked my dad.

"I think it was. It was pretty obvious," he said. "Sometimes officials make mistakes, and sometimes they go your way."

While some of the details are now fuzzy, I distinctly remember the energy in the building and the cheer-murmur-cheer-murmur of the crowd when the official pointed Virginia's direction.

Lesson number one.

***
 
Here's what we're going to do: I'm joining Robby "Blocked Blocked Blocked Blocked" Robinson on VCU basketball broadcasts as his new color analyst. I'll also extend the already-incredible coverage of VCU basketball by the broadcast team, Scott Day, and Chris Kowalczyk with deeper thoughts and analysis as our inaugural A10 season unfolds.

For those who don't know me, here's a brief background, at least the basketball part: grew up with season tickets to that school in Charlottesville, and we spent many hours traversing route 220 and interstate 40 watching ACC basketball. My father was a successful high school coach, so I was exposed to thinking about basketball since before I remember thinking about basketball. I was the 11th best player on a 12-man high school basketball team, but I maintain JJ Redick was the second best shooter to ever come from Cave Spring High School. One day I'll tell you the story of midnight in the Robins Center, raining threes wearing flip flops. I'll also tell you about then-VCU pitching coach Paul Keyes cutting me from the baseball team, inexplicably unimpressed with my 76mph fastball.

VCU basketball has been a way of life since I was on campus in the late 1980s. I attended every game I could manage, and covered the team for a brief period for the Commonwealth Times. In fact it was my passion for VCU basketball that got me started on the book Cinderella. For eight years I chronicled VCU in the CAA through CAAHoops.com. I won't say my coverage was better, but the goal was to always be smarter and more thoughtful.

What They're Saying:


Shaka Smart, Head Coach of VCU Basketball:
 

"We’re very excited about the addition of Mike Litos to our broadcast team. I really appreciate the high level of enthusiasm and preparation he’ll bring to VCU Basketball. My staff and I are really looking forward to working with Mike.”

Robby Robinson, Ram Radio Play-By-Play: 

"Coach Ellis obviously leaves some big shoes to fill but I feel this is an absolute coup' to get someone with Mike's knowledge, talent and history with VCU Basketball as a part of the RamRadio broadcast team.   He's truly a walking encyclopedia of Ram hoops and it is awesome that we cao tap into that each time we take the air."

"The one thing that struck me when talking to Mike about it is how much he really wanted to be a part of the broadcast team.  Make no mistake about it, he loves VCU Basketball.  He's one of us."

"I truly believe by the first deadball timeout of our first broadcast our fans will already have a comfort level with Mike on the radio and will be relying on him to provide the indepth analysis they are used to receiving."

Ed McLaughlin, Director of Athletics:

"Having a network quality broadcast of our men's basketball games fits into my vision for the athletic department.  My first contact with Mike was about a month ago, right after I was named the AD here.  He immediately impressed me with his knowledge of college athletics and how it was obviously that he really prepared for the interview.  I'm confident that the new "Robby and Mike" will pick up where the old "Robby and Mike" left off.

For those who do know me, you can expect more of the same, only with a laser-sharp VCU focus.

I like to think my view is that of yours. I've been in the seats and yelled at Mike Eades and Sean Hull. I've wondered what an opponent is shooting from the foul line in the last four minutes of a game. However I have the added ingredient of being fortunate enough to hang around locker rooms and practices and talk to coaches about what motivates them and is truly important in their eyes. The Xs and Os are not unfamiliar to me.

It is that combination that I want to bring to you. I often ask the question "why," and in answering that question am able to tell a story. That's my goal for us this year, and every year.  During a broadcast that means explaining why VCU trapped on the sideline instead of the corner. In this space it's telling you why Shaka Smart chose a specific substitution.

But here's the deal: this isn't about me. This is about the basketball program and the 14 players and the coaching staff. They are what matters, and its my job to bring the game and people--the stories and the analysis--closer to you.

It's about hugging my girlfriend to a near tackle that would send us down HSBC Arena steps (and probably to the emergency room) the moment The Dagger went down. It's Mike Freaking Doles on senior day. Kendrick Warren and Calvin Duncan and Len Creech. It's Shaka Smart staring at the lips of a Florida State assistant, realizing they know the inbounds play he is going to call, so he changes his play and the next thing we know it's Rodriguez to Burgess. It's about jumping into the car, the night before the NCAA tourney game against Wake, and driving to Greensboro with no tickets and no hotel room.

It's March 2011. Every bit of it.

Its also about the tough memories. They are a big part of the fabric of why we love this game and this program. That 1988 Sun Belt final against UNCC, when Dan Plondke and Byron Dinkins made every shot--EVERY SHOT--in the last eight minutes to beat us. I'll go to my grave with those two names etched in my mind. Or Bashir Mason, nearly sitting in Terry Sisisky's lap, banking one in at the buzzer. Tommie Eddie, another name I'll take to the grave, making his only collegiate three pointer.

But that's just what got us to this point. Life is a journey, not a destination, said Ralph Waldo Emerson.

This year, right now, we make more memories. We continue the journey together.

I can't wait.

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