NEW YORK – Spent some time with the TBS broadcasting crew for the UConn-Iowa State game, and it’s a familiar one. Verne Lundquist, Bill Raftery and Allie LaForce worked the games in Buffalo.
… Raftery has a myriad of catch phrases, but the one on everybody’s lips lately is “onions.” That’s what he shouted two years ago when Shabazz Napier hit his game-winner at Villanova, and Napier never forgot it. Raftery came up with it, on impulse, doing a Nets game with Ian Eagle a few years back.
“The Nets had been struggling,” Raftery said, “one of those road trips, I think it was the Heat, and Kevin Edwards hit a jump shot at the buzzer and I supposedly blurted it out then. It was just something that I thought described guts, intestinal fortitude, courage under fire, all these things. Every announcer is trying to come up with a new way of saying the same thing. Now, having watched Kemba [Walker] doing so many great things, Napier has taken that torch, that obligation.
“I use it to be descriptive, late in the game, if it fits. Late in the game, it’s a play-by-play guy’s realm and if you do say something, you can’t elaborate. It’s got to be – pow – and get the heck out. That lent to the timing, too.”
Lundquist was working with Raftery during a Siena-Ohio State tournament game in 2009 when he almost ran out of onions.
“Two seconds left, the young man [Ronald Moore] hits a three to tie the game and Bill yells ‘Onions,’” Lundquist said. “Now we go to OT and the same kid cans a three for the win, and he goes ‘onions … double order.’”
That moment lives on YouTube.
“When we walk into a college arena, you hear, ‘man to man,’” Lunquist said, “so I know that’s coming. Somebody up in the rafters yells ‘onions.’ And Bill is such a gracious guy, he waves.”
Lunquist and Raftery did the UConn-Louisville game on March 8, and that’s what has Lundquist so impressed with this Huskies team.
“Yeah, 81-48,” he said. “We did Louisville-UConn less than a mobth ago, 81-48, and here they are in the Sweet 16. I never would have predicted that then. Kevin Ollie has done an amazing job. … I cannot believe that the UConn team we scored 48 teams against Louisville is in Madison square garden.”
LaForce learned last week she needs to be ready for anything with the Huskies. As she was interviewing Kevin Ollie and Shabazz Napier after the game, the entire team rushed up behind them, something the Huskies have done before.
“That was awesome,” LaForce said. “I wasn’t expecting it. I know they’re a team oriented group and you just have to embrace the moment. You can’t predetermine what the moment is going to be after an emotional victory like that. Whatever a team wants to do – I just said, ‘hey, they didn’t get enough air time, apparently, they all want to get on camera.’ I think it’s really cool when teams want to do everything together and they follow through like that. I appreciate that.”
Halftime walk-off interviews can range from boring to awkward, but Ollie surprised her by virtually guaranteeing UConn would win, though they were up only one point on ‘Nova at halftime.
“I joked that he was practicing his halftime speech with me,” LaForce said. “He went on a tangent, ‘we’re going to win this game … we’re the best team … I believe in my guys … I have no doubt.’ I felt like he was giving the audience a motivational speech. I imagine the halftime speech was similar.”