Former Arizona standout player Richard Jefferson was in McKale Center to make his color analyst debut for the Pac-12 Network. He said he had “goose bumps” but he was very, very good at what he did in announcing Arizona’s 82-61 win over Cal Poly. He recently retired from a 17-year NBA career.
Here is my question & answer with him after the game.
How was your first day?
“It was good. It’s college and college is very different (to do) because you don’t know all the players because of the turnover. In the NBA you know what he did to get here, this is who he is and when you’re in college they are young men who are still trying to find themselves.”
Have you found what type of announcer you will be? Critical or sympathetic?
“No (but) I want to be honest. I don’t want to be sympathetic and I don’t want to be critical just want to be honest. If someone should have made a layup you say that’s something he knows he should have made. He’s not going to get mad at me … I didn’t miss it. I think it’s about having fun and to laugh. One of the things I want to do is to talk freely to the guys and if anyone has any issue, they can always reach out to me.”
You played here and dominated here how is now talking about the team? How was that?
“It was good. I got goosebumps. I haven’t been here but maybe five games, maybe less than that. To be here and see the guys get the win and all the things the program has been through in the last year I think anytime players can come back in any capacity it’s important to make sure the program stays where it should be.”
How do you think you did?
I think I just did OK. I know I can do better. It’s one game out and you try not to be too critical. Just like anything you do you want to be great. I have a long way to go to be great, so I have no problem in being critical of myself.
Back in the day did you think you’d turn out to do this?
I didn’t know but I did think this was something that I gravitated towards. You still have to do it and see if you like it just to see if it’s something if you’re going to be good at. There are a lot of players who play basketball just for a paycheck. They don’t love the game, but they like it. This is something I’m enjoying and trying to figure out where I can have an impact and how much fun it can be.”
What did you think of the team?
It’s going to be by committee. There won’t be one or two guys (who dominate). You saw that tonight. It was (Ryan) Luther, it’s been (Brandon) Randolph. Chase Jeter at times. This is not going to be by committee. (Cal-Poly) wasn’t a very good team so I’m glad they dominated. If this would have been a tight game, then you would be like – this is going to be a long year. But that’s not the case.
And here’s a bonus:
My column on Jefferson from the Tucson Citizen from 18 years ago. It showed what he was capable of doing once he was out of basketball. He’s a funny, witty sometimes sarcastic guy. Enjoy
Jefferson is forward in more ways than one
MINNEAPOLIS – If you listen to Richard Jefferson and watch him work on and off the court, you wonder about his future, his unbelievably untapped potential.
There is a lot to like about the explosive 6-foot-7 junior forward, whose defense and key shots helped spark Arizona’s Final Four run and boosted his chances of jumping to the NBA after this season.
Jefferson can be affable, witty, engaging and confident. He knows what to say and when to say it. He has an aura about him, a presence.
But there’s another side, an unlikeable side. It is a coarse, obnoxious and arrogant – almost condescending – side.
Jefferson is different all right. But that’s the way he likes it. You never know what you’re going to get.
There’s the unbelievable person who spoke at Bobbi Olson’s public memorial, delivering a speech so bright you wonder whether he has a future in politics or as a trial lawyer one day.
There are also days when he could be the leader of three-ring circus. He’s a kid who sometimes wants to fool around and not be productive. Mr. Inconsistency.
He went as far as admitting he’s been trouble for Arizona coach Lute Olson because of that inconsistency.
“Oh, yeah,” he said of giving Olson grief. “That’s his job, to deal with characters like me. I know it’s been a struggle, and I think that coach has done a great job with me. I’m still working on it. I’m still nowhere near the player I want to be.”
Knowing one’s faults is the first step to correcting them, which means Jefferson will continue to improve.
“He’s got a lot working for him, but what he needs to continue to do is develop his consistency and dependability as a person,” said Olson. “With players, the guys you see who are consistent on the court are consistent off of it.”
Reserve forward Luke Walton told Jefferson he was a schizophrenic “but that he was in control of all his different personalities.”
Not upset, Jefferson said, “I think that’s a good way of putting it.”
Jefferson is always in control, yet you’d never know it. He’s a reporter’s dream because you never know what he’s going to say – good or bad.
For instance, last week when a reporter asked him if he was concerned about being a 12-point favorite over Mississippi in the Sweet 16, he said:
“I don’t think so. We don’t have any money on the game.”
He’s a No. 1 smart aleck. Yet he can also be curt and unresponsive at times. Last year, after most games, particularly after losses, he told reporters he wouldn’t answer any dumb questions. In fact, he even berated a reporter for asking a question he perceived as dumb.
Just last week, Jefferson gave another reporter a “you-know-the-answer-to-that-question look” after he was asked if he’d be satisfied with just making it to the Sweet 16.
“They get paid to ask questions because they’re journalists,” he said. “You’d think that they could find a better way to ask a more intelligent question.”
What would have been the better question?
“I don’t know,” he said. “That’s not my job. I know it’s tough, but there are also no hard feelings.”
That’s Jefferson, a player who will speak his mind no matter what or how it’s said.
“My responses vary from question to question,” he said. “You never know if you’re going to get an intelligent answer or a smart-ass answer; it depends on the question. That adds the fun to it for me.”
Which brings me to say, I think I’ve seen Jefferson before, in a different time, in a different sport and in a different spotlight. Having followed boxing for some time and witnessing the Greatest – Muhammad Ali – deal with the media, I see a bit of Ali in Jefferson. It’s the young Ali, Mr. Verbal Jab. The guy who hammed it up with the media, all the while berating them.
Intelligent, articulate, yet at times crass.
Jefferson has some of the same bravado, some of that same swagger and sass. Because of the magic of ESPN Classics and old fights, Jefferson has seen Ali in action “handling the media and having fun.”
Others watch Jefferson, finding him unusual and remarkable.
“He has got to be the most confident person I’ve ever met,” said teammate Justin Wessel. “At least he portrays himself to be the most confident person by the way he talks and walks. I don’t know how he is inside, but he’s confident outside.”
Jefferson said it is important to believe in yourself.
“Once you do that you can accomplish anything,” he said. “There’s a fine line between confidence and cockiness, and you have to be on that line at all times. I straddle it, going back and forth with it all the time.”
Jefferson is hardly flawless. For instance, he missed a couple of free throws at the end of the UCLA game that would have won it for Arizona.
“That was super tough,” he said. “Then I think that maybe we shouldn’t have been in that situation.”
He admitted it took him a couple of days to get over those misses.
“Then you recover and turn them into learning experiences,” he said.
Spoken like a true optimist.