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SPORTS BABE OF THE DAY: Jeff Goodman, ESPN Basketball Insider

SPORTS BABE OF THE DAY PRESENTS: Jeff Goodman, ESPN Basketball Insider, @GoodmanESPN

A select few people are able to say that they have their dream job, and absolutely love what they do, day-in, and day-out, but Jeff Goodman is one of them. From his first professional interview for his High School newspaper, at age 14, Goodman had a clear idea of what he wanted to be when he grew up, and through hard work, determination, and a solid grasp on the importance of networking, he got there.

After working as a national writer for the Associated Press, a Senior Basketball Columnist at, and working with FOXSports, Goodman has found himself as a part of the ESPN Family, working as a Basketball Insider.

This Boston native credits his time spent at the University of Arizona as the influencing factor behind his love for NCAA Basketball, which I was lucky enough to pick his brain about. Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Jeff Goodman!

21 Questions with Jeff Goodman

1. Have you always known that covering Basketball would be your end goal?
I didn’t know what my end goal was. I just knew (and I knew from a pretty young age) that I wanted to be a Sports Writer in some capacity. I didn’t know I’d be covering basketball – It could have been any sport to be honest.

2. When did you know that working as a Basketball Insider was the job for you?
I interviewed James Worthy when I was 14 years old. He came in to Boston with the Lakers, and I just hounded him for an interview, for my High School newspaper. He was kind enough to let me interview him, and I asked him a bunch of questions that were basic as basic can be, and it took off. I got aggressive and assertive about what I wanted to do. When I went to Arizona, that’s when I picked up the passion for College basketball. I’m pretty certain if I didn’t go to Arizona, I probably wouldn’t be covering College Basketball now. I would probably be writing about another sport. That’s where I really developed the passion for it, based on what it meant to the city, and with it being such a high-level program.

3. What was your official major at the University of Arizona?
Communications at Arizona. I majored in Journalism, and minored in Communications.

4. Based on what and who you’ve seen in your career, if we were the bright-eyed 14 year old like you, hounding someone for an interview, who would nominate for us to feature on BDB as a SBOTD?
There are so many that you could chose from. That’s a thinkable one… this takes some thought. My initial reaction is someone like Tom Izzo, who is great and terrific, and probably one of the best of all basketball coaches to interview, but there’s probably someone more interesting. Wait, here’s one. Austin Hatch would be an unbelievable interview. This is a kid who is now in High School, out in California, and I’d love to hear more of his story. He’s a Michigan Recruit who has survived two plane crashes, in which his entire family has passed away. His dad was the pilot of both. This is a kid who was in a coma for a little while, and who came back from that. He’s originally from Indiana, and moved to LA to be closer to his surviving family, and he just made his return to the court, maybe three weeks ago. It’s an inspirational story, and that is a kid I want to meet. That’s a kid I want to know. If you want to talk about people who have overcome adversity, Austin Hatch is the guy who has done it. Everyone I’ve spoken to about him says he’s the most upbeat and positive kid you can find. That’s who you want to talk about. He deserves recognition, but more than that, he deserves success. Austin Hatch, to me, is a kid you can root for. He can put a lot about life into perspective.

5. So pretend for a second that you’re at a game, not covering it for work, and you can relax and enjoy it for yourself. Where would your ideal seats be?.
Courtside! I’ve become… spoiled, I guess is a good word. I like being courtside, because you can hear and feel what’s going on with the coaches and the team. I love the human part of the game, which is hearing the players talk trash, and hearing the coaches yelling at the kids, or even catching them being positive. I remember in November, in New York, I saw the University of Washington come in to play, and just watching a coach like Lorenzo Romar, and how positive he is with these kids… it’s cool to see the difference and the interaction. I even like to see the coaches and the referees interact!

6. Working in a position like yours, you’ve seen some of the best-of-the best plays. What is a play or game that stands out in your mind?
Early on when I started covering college basketball, it was the atmosphere of the play, and the overall feel… It was Butler, who were playing Southern Illinois. It was Brad Stevens’ rookie year as Head Coach, and maybe only 10 or 12 games into his career. The atmosphere in Carbondale Illinois was amazing, absolutely amazing. Two major teams were playing each other for the right reasons – all these kids were playing hard for the right reasons. Brad Stevens’ was in his 12th game as a head coach, and it was won on the half-court heave, by a kid named AJ GRaves. He hit it at the buzzer, and Brad walked off the court just as calmly as he did when he got the National Title Game. It was early on in my career, and I was appreciating what’s’ good about College Basketball.

7. Based on how the college season is going now, who do you think we’ll see picked first-round on June 26th?
The first draft pick? Who do I think will go Number 1, or who would I choose to go Number 1?

8. Both, if you like – I’m sure a lot of our readers and your followers would love to hear your take on both!
I think now… boy it’s tough; it’s really down to a three-horse race right now, between a kid I’m sure you know plenty about – Andrew Wiggins, the kid from Canada, playing as a Freshman at Kansas. His teammate Joel Embiid, also a Freshman at KU, and Jabari Parker, who is a Freshman at Duke from Chicago.
It has changed throughout the year, and it will probably continue to change.
If it’s me, I’m probably taking Jabari Parker first. I think he’s the safest pick of the three of them. He’ll be an 18-point scorer in the NBA for a few years, and you know what you’ll get with him. I don’t think he’ll be Number 1 though, I think it’ll be one of the Kansas boys. The NBA guys are salivating for Embiid, who is 7 feet tall, so good, and hard to pass up with his size and potential.

9. While we’re talking about College potential, do you have any March Madness predictions for us?
I’ll stick with my take on who is going to win it all – Michigan State. Tom Izzo is one of the best coaches in America, and it’s rare over the past decade or so, he’s gone into the tournament with as much talent as anybody else. I think if you give him comparable talent to everybody else, he’s as good if not a better coach than anybody out there. If they’re healthy, I’ll take Michigan State. They have the experience, at least four guys who will be playing in the NBA for big money, with at least two of them who will go first round. They just need to stay healthy. They’re a great combination of coaching, experience, talent.


10. So much of what these teams do to stay focused and pumped up revolves around music. During their workouts, their pre-game rituals, their travel… if you were in the locker room with one of these NCAA teams, and you had to pump the team up, what would your go-to song be?
I’d play the song they play at the end of the Final Four. One Shining Moment. I’d play them that to let them know what they’re striving for at the end of the year, which is for that song to be played. I’d tell them “this is what we want to hear, when we win it all… this is the song we’re going to hear”. That would be something to really motivate them.

11. Winning it all would definitely be a memorable experience for them. What has been one of the most memorable parts of your career as a basketball insider, to date?
For me, it’s about the relationships and experiences and watching the kids grow up, so I think one of my favorite days… well there’s a kid that was at Purdue, Robbie Hummel, and he overcame two torn ACLs, and he spent one season in a back brace. I was there for his first game back after his injury, after he missed basically a year and a half. I was there for his first game back, when Purdue played Northern Illinois at home. I spent the whole day with him, wrote a story about how he felt, and his comeback, and it may sound corny, but those are the things that are most memorable to me. I know you’re not supposed to report this stuff, and you’re supposed to be objective, but how can you not root for a kid that’s been through two torn ACLs, and a major back injury, and is coming back? I saw him in Boston, he’s on the Minnesota Timberwolves, and he actually started against the Celtics. That’s what it’s about.
I’ve seen a lot of these players grow up since they were 15, and seeing moments like that are what it’s about

12. Who is your favorite NCAA team to watch?
Creighton, without a doubt. it’s not even close. I could watch Doug McDermott from Creighton every single game. I’m a little biased, I know him really well, but he’s what’s right about College ball. He’s a kid that came in with no hype, no one thought he was good enough, he can’t jump that high, he doesn’t talk trash… he’s kind of boring! He’s kind of a boring kid! But he is such a good kid, such a high character kid. No ego whatsoever. He’s the most humble College Basketball superstar I’ve ever seen, and boy, can he play; he can shoot from anywhere, he can drive the ball, he scores around the basket, and there’s not much he can’t do from the offensive end. Not just him, but his whole team! The way they share the ball, the way they shoot the ball. They’re not great defensively, but they’re fun to watch. We saw that with them against Villanova, when they were up 40 points at Villanova, and won the game by about 28. They’re good to watch when they’re clicking.

13. So who is your favorite NBA team to watch?
OklahomaCity. I’ve known Kevin Durant since he was about 14 years old. I think I wrote the first story on him ever, when he was about 150 lbs at the time, and another one of those kids that was so humble. He was such a quiet kid off the court, and mellow, and then you get him on the court, and he’s a killer. To watch how far he’s come is amazing. He was very very very quiet in high school, and his one year in college at University of Texas at Austin. He’s matured, and is such a phenomenal player, and he’s another guy I can watch for, every game. They have a great team, but Kevin Durant is someone I’d pay money to see any day.

14. In your opinion, what would you say is the biggest difference between playing at a College level, vs playing in the NBA, apart from the salary?
The athletes of the NBA… they’re all in such a high level. You play every single night, 82 games. You can’t take a night off, because it’s the elite-of-the-elite, whereas in college, you can get away with that a little more. The lifestyle of the NBA, too. There are so many factors and influences that can throw you off track, so you have to be extremely focussed; It’s a business. In college, you can have a couple bad days, because it’s still college; In the NBA, if you’re struggling as a player, you have to be open to criticism because you’re making money.

15. You have seen a lot of these kids mature, and overcome adversity… so if you could hang out with any major player that you’ve seen grow into a shining NBA player, who would it be, and why?
Probably LeBron. I’ve seen LeBron play many times through High School, and now pro. You never really get a chance to get close to him, ya know, because of the people around him, whether it’s Nike, or his PR people. I’d really like to just hang out, and get to know the real him, see his real side. He’s a once-in-a-lifetime not player, but athlete. We’ll never see somebody like him again. He’s overcome adversity, and handled a lot at a young age, like the mistake he made in how he announced he was going to the Heat. I don’t think he’s a major show-boat. He has every right to be on the court.

16. As a lot of our own writers can attest to, getting into the Sports Entertainment industry is pretty competitive – what advice would you share with prospective columnists, journalists, insiders?
To me, I try to be honest as much as I possibly can, but it’s about doing your homework, and working as hard as you can. Build relationships. That’s such an important part of my job, and how I’ve gotten fortunate enough to be where I am is through relationships. Get sources, and don’t burn them. Outwork people, as hard as you can. I’m the first to admit I’m not the best writer or reporter, but I got an opportunity, got fortunate, took advantage of it, and every day, I make sure no one will out work me. Now I know that no one could ever fire me for not working hard enough. And again, relationships are a part of everyday life, no matter what job you’re in; meet as many people as you can, and treat people well. I remember the people that treated me well when I was a recruiting writer, and those are the people in turn that you want to treat better while you work up the team a bit. You never know who someone may know, or who they may be.

17. Speaking of relationships and treating people well, you’re extremely active and engaging on Social Media, and spend a lot of time interacting with people. Is that always easy?
It’s tough, because I pride myself on being honest and not being fake, and sometimes it gets me in trouble. On Twitter, a lot of fan bases don’t like me, because I tell the truth. I’ve been probably a little harsh with Andrew WiggIns, and when people thought I was too tough on him, it was because I wanted to temper expectations before the season started; this is not going to be a kid that comes out to dominate every day. People took that as me killing him, but it’s not! It was me saying we built him up too much, myself included, so we need to understand what he actually is. I try to be honest, but it backfires a lot of the time with fans.

18. In terms of your career, what do you want to be remembered for?
My honesty, being hard-working, a being a family man.

19. If you weren’t an NBA insider with ESPN, and couldn’t do something related to journalism or communications, what would you be doing?
Oh boy. Luckily I’ve never had to think about this. I started out of College in Public Relations for a couple years, in a small company that specializes in Biotechnology. Loved my boss. I’ll say this, I’m not really outgoing in person – my job kind of forces me to do that, so I don’t know. That’s a great great great question. I don’t know, I might be working in McDonalds. I’m not really sure.

20. So this is your above-all dream?
I’m just so fortunate that I knew what I wanted to do at a young age, and just went after it. I never really thought I’d make a living doing this, and I thought I’d be scrambling to make enough money, and that I’d have to give up, and maybe go back into PR. People don’t get this. People don’t get their dream job, and I got it. I make a good living doing what I’m doing, and loving what I’m doing. I got it from when I worked at FOX and had an opportunity there, then went to CBS Sports, and worked with my best friend in the Industry, Gary Parrish. Now, I’m with ESPN. Honestly, this IS my ultimate dream, and people ask “how did it happen”, and I look back, and I don’t know how it did. There’s no job I’d rather have than what I have right now. I think about it sometimes – where would I be, and what would I do if I didn’t have this? I don’t know. I’m not good with technology, I don’t fix things well. I can screw in a lightbulb and that’s about it, so my skillset is limited. Let’s hope I don’t have to think about what else I could do, and let’s hope I can ride this thing out!

21. Last question that everyone gets asked… Are you single, dating, or locked down?
Happily married for going on 14 years! We have a 10-year-old daughter who is tremendous. My wife is about as understanding as you can be with someone who works in this industry, which is not easy to do.


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