Jan. 30, 2014
PORTLAND, Ore. -
By Evan O'Kelly, GNAC Information Office
Spending the morning chasing around one of his grandchildren is one of the few things that keeps Dave Harshman on his toes as much as basketball does. The long-time broadcaster, coach and basketball connoisseur still gets plenty of the latter, and just enough of the former to keep him sane and help him remember what life is all about.
"It's just like anything in life," Harshman said regarding basketball. "You get out of it what you put into it."
Lately, what Harshman has been putting into the sport is his rendering of Great Northwest Athletic Conference basketball, live in action as a color analyst for ROOT SPORTS. Harshman and broadcast partners Brad Adam and Bob Akamian are teaming up this season to bring a series of eight GNAC men's and women's basketball games live on television to viewers across the Northwest.
The exposure for the GNAC, which has historically been one of the top basketball conferences across Division II, and its student-athletes and member schools is beneficial to everyone tied to the conference.
To have its message conveyed by one of the premier Pacific Northwest basketball sports figures takes the games to a different level.
THE HARSHMAN TRADITION
In 1984, Marv Harshman was named the National Association of Basketball Coaches Division I Coach of the Year after leading the University of Washington men's basketball team to a 24-7 record and a berth in the NCAA Sweet 16. The award highlighted a season in which the late Marv Harshman, who passed away last April at age 95, eclipsed the monumental 600-win mark as a head coach and that would be the second-to-last in his storied 40-year legacy.
Following his retirement after the 1984-85 season, Marv Harshman was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame after compiling a 635-464 career record.
While his father carved an historic collegiate basketball career, Dave Harshman developed his own craft as a head coach, broadcaster and talent-seeker whose goal was to provide opportunities for promising young players to extend their careers. "I've been working in basketball for 45 years and I've seen the highs and lows," said Harshman. "The thing that I really appreciate about the GNAC is how many good players and coaches are consistently present in these programs."
Harshman's involvement in basketball in the Northwest has covered several decades, and his knack for identifying young talent is one of the defining qualities of his basketball persona. In particular, it is the connection he holds with several current GNAC student-athletes that adds a valuable perspective to his broadcasting on ROOT SPORTS.
A PERSONAL TOUCH
"I got Austin Bragg when he was a scrawny 14 or 15-year-old," Harshman remembered about the current Western Washington men's basketball standout who he helped develop into a college-level player. "He didn't play varsity basketball until his senior year of high school, but when I first saw him I thought right away that he had great potential."
Seven years later, Bragg's team-high averages of 17.3 points and 8.9 rebounds per game indicate Harshman was spot-on with his prediction. "I remember telling him that the most important thing was for him to go to a program where he would have the opportunity to play quality basketball in a quality league," Harshman said regarding his advice during Bragg's collegiate search. "I'm proud of the way he has played and developed into the player he is today."
"It's funny how many times I will bring up a player and Dave will say, `I had him in third grade,'" Adam commented on Harshman's uncanny ability to recall the most obscure details about players throughout the GNAC. "He knows basketball in this part of the country so well, and it seems like he has a story for everybody."
"When we were in Bellingham a few weeks ago all of a sudden I heard a voice yell, `Harsh!' and it was Sydney Donaldson who ran up and almost tackled me," Harshman said regarding being reunited with one of WWU's top women's players who he mentored during her prep career.
While Harshman's roots in the Northwest span deeper than most, Adam's experience in several media outlets over the past 15 years make him another well-qualified figure to call GNAC basketball games. "I worked at KATU news in Portland after I graduated from San Diego State with a degree in telecommunications," Adam said of his background in the Pacific Northwest. "In 2000, I came up to Washington and this is where I have called home for the past 13 and a half years."
As part of his ROOT SPORTS resume, Adam has served as a reporter for the Seattle Mariners, hosting pregame and postgame shows and traveling with the team during the season. "We used to have a nightly show, and as the organization has shifted I started doing some Pac-12 basketball play-by-play about three years ago," Adam said regarding his recent work with the network.
Another familiar face among college and professional sports in the Pacific Northwest is Akamian, who serves a dual role as broadcaster and producer of this year's GNAC Game of the Week series. "Bob does a great job producing and I have known him since I started working in Portland," Adam said. "He has really good knowledge about the teams and even a lot of the high school players in the area, which allows him to tell us what current student-athletes did in their prep careers and how they ended up where they are today."
While the GNAC Game of the Week series is relatively new within the context of Adam's lengthy broadcasting career, he holds a special connection to the conference and its players much like Harshman. "I played Division II basketball at Cal Lutheran before I went to SD State, so for me it is really cool to see this level and the talent of the players in this league," Adam said. "I'd like to remember that I was once as good as David Downs or could take on Travis Thompson in a shooting contest, but in reality I don't think I ever could have," Adam commented with a laugh as he paid tribute to two of the league's best players in Downs of Seattle Pacific and Thompson of Alaska Anchorage.
PLAYING THE RIGHT WAY
"Not very many people understand how good the basketball is on both the men's and women's side in this league, and across the country at the Division II level overall," Harshman commented regarding much of the hidden talent in the GNAC and fellow Division II conferences. "There are good players and good coaches, and the teams are really consistent in that people stay in these programs for quite awhile."
While Harshman's expert eye tells him that the quality of basketball being played on a regular basis in the GNAC is as strong as it has ever been, he noted that what truly stands out is the way in which the league's players and coaches go about their business.
"In the Western and SPU game that we did a few weeks ago, we saw two real, genuine programs of student-athletes that went out and did the best they could, shook hands after the game, and went their separate ways," Harshman commented regarding the lack of any instance of negative sportsmanship present between the two teams. "On the court, both teams wanted to do everything they could to win that game, but there was nothing to indicate that the coaches and players showed anything less than top-quality sportsmanship."
Adam agrees that the combination of quality basketball and developing rivalries are what spark interest and make the GNAC a unique Division II conference. "I have liked seeing how the players have grown and improved over the years," Adam said, adding, "it's cool to see the devotion both the players and coaches have and the love of the game that is present at this level."
The ROOT SPORTS crew will next be in action this weekend, as the Alaska Anchorage men's team makes the long journey down to Bellingham to take on Western Washington inside Sam Carver Gym on Saturday at 9 p.m. Pacific time.
With Adam handling the play-by-play duties, he is thankful to have a partner as well-versed and knowledgeable as Harshman by his side. "I've known Dave for a long time but this is actually the first time that we have done games together," Adam commented on this year's GNAC Game of the Week series. "What's great about Dave is his personality, and his connection to the game through his life and his dad."
"Brad has a lot of passion and is very effervescent," Harshman said regarding his youthful-hearted counterpart. "These schools are really thankful that we are coming in to broadcast their games, and that makes it up to us to represent them in the best light we can. We try to have a good time and tell stories, and it's almost like building a team of your own and creating good chemistry."
Saturday's game between the Vikings and the Seawolves will look the same on paper as any other GNAC game. The box score will appear in the same format, the teams' records in the standings will increase and decrease by one game, and its lasting history will occupy but a single line of text in the conference record books.
When Adam and Harshman take their respective places behind the ROOT SPORTS microphones however, they will bring the game to life and add an element that can only be appreciated in the heat of the moment. Who better for the task than a pair of the Northwest's finest?