If anyone can wax poetic about the NCAA Tournament, it’s Bill Raftery, who has dedicated his life to college basketball. Raftery played at La Salle in the early 1960s, he coached at Seton Hall for more than a decade, and he’s served as a CBS broadcaster for more than 30 years.
So, Bill, what is it about this tournament that never gets old?
“Why did you look at me and say old?” the septuagenarian quipped on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “What are you trying to do? If it was (Verne) Lundquist, I’d understand.”
A few chuckles and then Raftery got serious.
“It’s just an unbelievable occurrence,” he said of the tournament. “Back when I was coaching, I couldn’t get my team there, but I went. I guess ’82 when Jordan made the jumper, I was up in a box. NBC had just lost the contract, and in our box was Dick Enberg. I loved the event, and I knew it was special, but they had just lost the deal, NBC, and he was distraught. He would say things – not anything that would offend anybody, but ‘I can’t believe this gem we were a part of is gone. Maybe we’ll get it back in a couple of years.’ Well, here it is, 34 years later. So that really put that into focus for me, what this thing meant to a lot of people. He was one of the icons in the broadcast business. He had his arms around it, loved the event, so I looked at it differently from that day on.”
Raftery was asked for his tournament favorites this year, but he didn’t get too specific.
“I’m always very evasive, and this year it’s easy,” Raftery said. “I think the hard part this year (is) everybody thinks their team is good enough to win it – and they’re right. A lot of coaches are going back to their campus and there will be a lot of unhappy people. They think their team has a right and maybe deserves it – and they’e right. But six games in a row you’ve got to step it up and perform. Not a whole lot of teams can do it.”