Denver Nuggets fans have been very fortunate to listen to Jerry Schemmel who is arguably the best radio play by play guy in the NBA. This season Schemmel announced that he wanted to see his family more this season and is not going to call any road games this season, at least until the playoffs (God willing).
Enter Jason Kosmicki.
This preseason Koz has stepped into the big shoes of Mr. Schemmel and has done a great job. As one of the few people on the planet who has seen the Nuggets play each and every one of their preseason games I thought it would be a great help to all of us to pick his brain, if only that was possible.
Well, the opportunity presented it self, I jumped at it and Koz was gracious enough to oblige.
Jeremy: Congratulations on being named the radio announcer for all Denver Nuggets road games this season (in addition to your executive producer responsibilities for the other Kronke Sports Enterprises [KSE] teams). If you would please, share with us how you arrived at this point in your career. Have you worked in any other markets or done play by play for any other sports?
Koz: I’ve been in radio since I was 15 (1982). Even back then I was involved with sports, I can remember being the sports directors color analyst for Legion baseball games. Of course I was the same age as most of the players. We were friends...I remember them giving me the signs. They actually told me what the signs were, so as the game was going on, I would watch the third base coach. If I saw him give the steal sign, I would tell the PBP (play by play) guy "you know this would be the perfect time to send the runner" or if I saw the hit and run sign I would say, "Hey they ought to hit and run here." I was sounding like a genius it was classic.
I’ve worked in many markets, Kearney, Nebraska, Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Minneapolis, Le Plata, Maryland (Washington, DC), Corpus Christi, TX, Colorado Springs, CO. But the most experience I got was in college (University of Nebraska at Kearney) where we did everything. I did PBP for football, basketball, baseball, wrestling, volleyball and softball. We even did boxing, the Sigma Tau Gamma fight night, fun times.
Jeremy: You have been fortunate enough to work with Jerry Schemmel who is one of the most respected announcers in the business and an all around great guy. What is the most important thing you have learned from him?
Koz: Jerry is the man. He is one of my best friends in the world. Can you imagine how many games we have seen together and how many miles we have traveled together? You have to be pretty compatible to spend that much time with one person. He has given a lot of great advice and I think there are couple pieces that stick out and both are pretty simple.
I remember one time I screwed something up in the broadcast and heard about if from someone. I was pretty down. He told me, "You will never be able to please everyone. All you can do is be prepared as possible, treat people the right way and do the best job you can." Now that I have moved into a PBP role that is code I work by. I am almost over prepared and of course you want people to like the job you do, but what he was getting at was that at some point it’s kind of out of your control.
The other piece of advice I recall him saying was, "Not everyone is going to like the job you do, and if you don't believe me just read some of the reviews of my book* on amazon.com." That's a good point, he is a wise man.
*Jerry Schemmel was on a plane that crashed in Sioux City, IA in 1989 that killed 112 people. He wrote a book titled "Chosen to Live" about his experience during, and more importantly, after the tragedy.
Jeremy: You know better than any of us that basketball is a sport that moves very quickly. I cannot imagine how difficult it is to accurately communicate the action over the radio. What is the most difficult aspect of calling an NBA game on the radio?
Koz: First of all let me just say this. I really, really appreciate this opportunity. I thank Jerry Schemmel for wanting to spend more time with his family and I thank Altitude’s Matt Hutchings, Jim Martin and KSE's Paul Andrews for having enough faith in me to do this job. Only 30 jobs like this exist, it’s extremely competitive and almost impossible to get this job. It’s been my goal since the 7th grade to do PBP in the NBA and I can’t believe it’s happened. The odds are just so much against you. I will never forget this portion of my life because a dream has come true for me.
But back to your question, calling a game is not easy. There isn't enough time to get everything in that you want. I’m still growing in this area and expect to get better as the season goes on. To be honest the most difficult thing for me is not calling out the officials. I have been on record for saying that the officiating in the NBA is terrible....let’s just leave it at that. I remember a couple of years ago when I filled in for Jerry and was doing PBP. My Dad was listening and after the game he said something like, "I thought you did a good job but stop complaining about the officials all the time." I have a lot of respect for my dad especially when it comes to sports and told myself that if I ever had the chance to be a PBP guy that I wouldn't do that anymore. But trust me...its not that easy.
Jeremy: I believe you have seen every game the Nuggets have played this preseason and you mentioned more than once on Friday night that the Nuggets were playing great defense against an admittedly short handed Clippers squad. Have you seen a philosophical change from the players putting forth a more consistent effort on defense, not only physically but mentally as well, or was the defense they played against the Clippers a bit of an aberration against a team missing their best offensive player?
Koz: It’s not just the Clipper game, I think they played great in the preseason. I really do. They had one of, if not the best, record in the NBA in the preseason, not that it matters. But they came out and played hard. Playing defense is a mindset. Look at the best defenders in the NBA you are telling me that the difference between Ron Artest (on defense) and say Tracy McGrady (on defense) is talent? No way. Defense is a "want to." The key is for everyone to buy into that. To be on the same page and commit together as a team to play defense. This of course is where the problem lies with the Nuggets, they have talked about it, preached it, now we just need to see them go out and do it.
Jeremy: Nene is probably the most indispensable player for the Nuggets this season. I believe I heard you comment that he has the quickest first step of any big man you have ever seen (if I am misquoting you, please correct me). After the plethora of health issues he has experienced the previous few years is he as athletic, quick and explosive as ever (Jamario Moon probably thinks so)? Could he be in the discussion for an All-Star spot at center this season?
Koz: Yes, I said that and I believe it. Nene’s first step is the fastest I have ever seen for a big man. If anyone knows anyone quicker at 6-10 or taller let me know. I don't know about all the All-Star stuff. My goal is to just keep the man on the floor for 70 plus games.
Plus All-Star voting is lame. I mean look at the west. How is Nene ever going to take it over Yao Ming and his countrymen over there in China? And no one is ever going to get more votes than Shaq, not to mention Greg Oden and Carlos Boozer. If the All-Star voting was based on talent Nene would have a shot, but let’s be honest...it’s a popularity contest.
Jeremy: In my opinion one of the most interesting story lines for the 2008-2009 season is the potential ascension of the Portland Trail Blazers. Some NBA observers think the Blazers could win as many as 55 games this season. I believe they are still a year or two away from reaching that level, but they do seem poised to challenge the Nuggets for not only second place in the Northwest Division, but more importantly the eighth playoff spot. What are your expectations for the Blazers this season? Assuming Allen Iverson spends the entire season as a Nugget, will they finish ahead of Portland in the standings?
Koz: Everyone and their brother has the Nuggets finishing third in the Northwest Division behind Utah and Portland. Ok, I can see Utah, they were there last year, and they have a long tenured coach in Jerry Sloan that knows what it takes.
No disrespect here to Portland...but show me. That's my attitude. I saw a 50 win season by Denver first hand last year and saw that it is an incredibly tough thing to do. Sure the Blazers have the pieces but show me...that’s all I’m going to say.
Jeremy: That leads us to the next question. In your opinion, and utilizing any "inside" knowledge you may have, how likely is it Allen Iverson finishes out the season in Denver?
Koz: No comment.
I would like to thank Koz for taking the time to be interviewed. He definitely knows the Nuggets inside and out and was very kind to agree to be interviewed.