NEW YORK (AP) — Bill Raftery called the regional final when Grant Hill led Duke to the 1994 Final Four. The All-American couldn’t help but greet him with one of the announcer’s signature phrases — simply because it’s fun to say “with a kiss” even when no bank shot is involved.
More than two decades later, Raftery and Hill are going back to the Final Four together. The popular veteran and the promising rookie are taking the place of the suspended Greg Anthony for the broadcasts of the NCAA semifinals and national championship game.
Raftery and Hill will work as analysts alongside play-by-play announcer Jim Nantz, CBS and Turner Sports said Tuesday. Anthony was suspended for the rest of the season Jan. 17 after he was arrested in Washington on charges he solicited a prostitute.
Raftery has been telling fans defenses are in “man-to-man” or that a player’s clutch shot took “onions” for more than three decades during the NCAA tournament. But this is his first Final Four for TV after 23 years of handling the radio call.
The 71-year-old Raftery said he hadn’t thought much over the years about the chance to call a Final Four on television. But now that he’s been afforded the opportunity, he added, “It’s quite a thrill.”
And Raftery looks forward to getting more in-depth with his analysis on TV.
“On radio, you’re a bump in the road for the play-by-play guy,” he said.
Hill, meanwhile, didn’t start doing NBA games until this season and will be making his college basketball debut for Saturday’s Duke-Notre Dame game on CBS that will bring him back to Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“I feel like I’ve come a long way,” he said, “and apparently so did Turner.”
The 42-year-old Hill reached three Final Fours and won two national championships with the Blue Devils, when he took part in two plays that still get replayed every March. There was his gravity-defying alley-oop from the 1991 title game, and what may be the most memorable moment in the history of March Madness: Hill made the three-quarters-of-the-court pass that Christian Laettner caught to hit the winning shot in the 1992 regional final against Kentucky.
Hill played 19 seasons in the NBA, making seven All-Star teams, before retiring and joining Turner Sports in 2013. He was a studio analyst during last year’s NCAA tournament.
Anthony called his first Final Four last season after swapping spots with Clark Kellogg, who moved back to the studio show. He and Nantz were in a three-man booth with Steve Kerr. Kerr left broadcasting in the offseason for an NBA coaching gig with the Golden State Warriors, creating a potential opening on the Final Four team even before Anthony’s suspension.
Billy Packer worked every Final Four from 1975 to 2008 before Kellogg took over in 2009. Kellogg held the job for five years, with Kerr joining in 2011 when CBS and Turner started their partnership.
Hill remembers Raftery’s calls back during the heyday of the Big East in the 1980s when the future ACC star was growing up in Northern Virginia. The former Seton Hall coach has worked for CBS Sports since 1983 and spent more than three decades at ESPN, before following the reconfigured Big East to Fox for last season.
Raftery hopes his experience in a successful three-man booth on ESPN with Sean McDonough and Jay Bilas prepared him well for the new partnership. Raftery and Hill will work alongside Nantz and sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson for the first time for the Big Ten tournament semifinals March 14 on CBS.
The NCAA semifinals in Indianapolis are April 4 on TBS and the national championship game is April 6 on CBS.
Back when Raftery called that 1994 regional final between Duke and Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson’s Purdue team, he already knew Hill was the sort of guy who could someday call a Final Four as a novice announcer.
“Nothing he does or will do surprises me,” Raftery said.
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