Archive for Friday, December 1, 2000

ESPN commentator Conley just like Vitale only quieter

Like his motormouthed networkmate, Rupp product has keen basketball mind and long tenure; unlike Vitale, he’s not outlandish

December 1, 2000


Larry Conley is the anti-Vitale.

He can expound expertly on the quality of freshmen in college basketball without using the words "diaper" or "dandy." He explains, without hyperventilating, why something will happen on the court. And he isn't exactly a staple of ESPN promos.

What Conley does share with Dick Vitale, his better-known and louder colleague, is a keen basketball mind, a love of the game, and a 20-year tenure at the cable channel.

"Dick has his own shtick. He has his own way of doing things that works for him and that would not work for me," Conley said Thursday. "I have a tendency to be more analytical about what I see. The fan sees what I see. Where I come in and where analysts are important in any sport basketball, football, baseball is explaining WHY it happened."

Conley, who played for Adolph Rupp at Kentucky in the 1960s and was an Academic All-America, does just that.

He is adept at telling viewers what to look for before it happens and can break down a game's inner workings with the best of announcers.

And he does it without making himself larger than what's transpiring on the court, rarely interjecting a comment more outlandish that, "How about that?"

"It's amazing to me how he can be so well prepared when doing sometimes five games in a week," said ESPN announcer Bob Carpenter, who has worked with Conley for more than a decade. "He has a wonderful rapport with coaches around the country and really knows the game. Plus, he's a guy who never tries to hog the spotlight. He's a team player who wants to work with his play-by-play guy."

Conley, who will join Carpenter for Tuesday's game between Georgetown and Louisville, might not have as large a following as Vitale does, but he makes one claim to fame Vitale can't.

"I'm part of a great trivia question," Conley said with a laugh. "There are only three people in the history of professional basketball that have played exactly one game."

While the Elias Sports Bureau says there are dozens who can make that claim, cut Conley some slack.

He got into a single game with the Kentucky Colonels during the 1967-68 ABA season before being sent off for National Guard basic training. He never resumed his playing career, instead doing a bit of coaching before starting broadcasting in the early 1970s.

Conley has never been as happy to crisscross the country for games. That's because he recently went through "the most difficult six months I've ever experienced."

On March 30, two days before the Final Four, he had surgery for colon cancer.

"Any time you hear the word 'cancer' you hear that red flag thrown up. You think you're going to die. I wondered how long I had," Conley said.

"But it worked out great. If it had to happen, it was the best time of the year for me at the end of the season."

After chemotherapy, he is cancer-free and back on the job.

Viewers should be thankful.

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