MADDEN: Sports analyst Brennan adds unique perspective

Daniel Madden

Sports analysts simply get no love. No matter what they do, someone is always there to bash them. They rival the president for a tougher job. Charles Barkley can’t talk. Tony Kornheiser talks too much. John Madden sounds like he is eating while he talks. But one analyst stands out.

Tom Brennan spent 19 years as the University of Vermont men’s basketball coach before being hired by ESPN in 2005. He led his Vermont team to the top of the American East Conference during his last three years, and in his last season he carried them past Syracuse in the first round of the NCAA tournament. While coaching, he also co-hosted a radio show in Vermont, offering up thoughts on almost anything. On Friday the show started at 5:30 a.m. and he wrote and recited poetry. He has always been well-liked and even our own Jay Wright would often talk to Brennan when Wright was at Hofstra. Brennan also served as an assistant under Rollie Massimino.

Although Brennan’s name may sound familiar, few could regonize him as he spends the majority of his time as a halftime analyst. Even then it is rare to see him as his segments are dominated by highlights.

Since Brennan has been at ESPN, he has predominately been stuck in the studio and only occasionally allowed to announce games. Most of the time he works with Doug Gottlieb, who just happens to make Brennan look that much better. Gottlieb does a fine job, but his nerdy nature makes Brennan look flat-out cool. Brennan’s experience as a radio host gives him the ability to work with anyone. Gottlieb once tried to relate a basketball team to a Civil War general, and his analogy would have failed if Brennan were not next to him with all his knowledge to fill in the answer. Brennan simply knows everything.

Bob Knight was ESPN’s prize catch when he quit on his Texas Tech team last season. Now he is on College GameDay. But everyone knew about him before and people still watch him. Why? Because he is not a nice guy. He was once in the studio picking games when he simply skipped over a Big Ten game saying that he did not care about it. Brennan would have picked the game and he would have said something nice about the teams. He always has a smile on his face. I have never seen Bob Knight smile. Knight throws chairs at you. Brennan just sits in them. For some reason, people would rather have Knight make them angry than have Brennan make them feel good.

The College GameDay crew all played or coached at high-profile schools, often on TV. Jay Bilas from Duke, Digger Phelps from Notre Dame, Hubert Davis from UNC and, of course, Bob Knight, most famously from Indiana. The current crew does a fine job, but I want a different perspective. Brennan hails from a small school, which allows him to bring fresh views and ideas. He watched his players value each game because their basketball careers ended when they graduated, learning was a reality for them, not just basketball.

College basketball is raised to such a lofty status, but Brennan humbles the sport and makes college basketball about college. He understands what it means to everyone involved, but he does not buy into the celebrity status that the other college basketball analysts with their big-school backgrounds give it.

Brennan’s humble nature allows him to relate to the common fan. I met him when he came to Hoops Mania last year. He was incredibly nice and asked us questions. And he was nice enough to let me get a second picture with him after I accidentally deleted my first one as I was walking away. So I would like to say that I am on a first-name basis with him, even if he does not remember mine.

Brennan is better than his flawed colleagues. Jay Bilas is smart but stern, and it hurtsto listen to him. Digger is so pro-ND that he is turning green. And when Hubert Davis makes a joke, you can hear the crickets. Brennan is always relaxed, always gives quality analysis and the laughs he provides always make you want to listen to him more.

He makes people want to root for both teams. And because Vermont is never on, he will never have a biased judgment. He is a great asset to college basketball.


Daniel Madden is an undeclared sophomore from Cincinnati, Ohio. He can be reached at [email protected]