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Cheryl Miller Can't Escape From Reggies

May 03, 1996|LARRY STEWART

Cheryl Miller and Reggie Theus are almost like brother and sister.

"He's like part of our family," Miller said of Theus, who is sometimes mistaken for Miller's younger brother Reggie even though Theus, 38, is eight years older.

"People will say they saw Reggie someplace, and I'll think that's impossible. Then I'll realize they've confused my brother with Reggie Theus."

Theus said, "Cheryl and I have become very close over the years."

One connection is Fred Williams, Theus' close friend and former teammate at Inglewood High who was on Miller's staff at USC and then replaced her as the women's basketball coach there.

And now, besides both being friends and former basketball players from Southern California, Miller and Theus have something else in common. Both were hired by Turner Sports about the same time late last summer and are now playing prominent roles during the NBA playoffs.

Theus has been working the Houston-Laker series as a commentator, and Miller has been working in the studio with Ernie Johnson on TNT and TBS. Theus will be used in the studio later on, and Miller at game sites.

Both are doing well. Miller offers more than marquee value with her insightful and informative comments. And Theus has been impressive for someone with limited experience.

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Mike Pearl, the executive producer of Turner Sports since January 1995, said Theus was hired in the traditional way, Miller more by accident.

Pearl was looking for a former player to use in the studio and a woman to work a variety of roles.

Theus is not exactly a big name because 12 of his 13 NBA seasons were spent with losing teams. He was a star for the Chicago Bulls in the pre-Michael Jordan days. But he had broadcasting experience, including sideline reporting for Turner. So he was one of more than 50 candidates for the studio job.

"We had been looking at a lot of tapes and asked Reggie for one," Pearl said.

Said Theus: "I had a lot of tapes of my work, but I didn't have an audition tape. You always hear it's important to have a good tape. My story proves that.

"What I did was grab up 14 tapes, get a friend who was good at editing, go to a production studio and spend six hours the next day putting together a 10-minute audition tape. I then overnighted it to Atlanta."

Said Pearl: "We didn't have to look at that much of the tape. We saw Reggie was good in the studio. That's what sold us."

Also playing a role in the hiring of Theus was Michael Jackson, former Georgetown star who was Theus' teammate with the Sacramento Kings for a little more than a season. Jackson is now the assistant to Turner Sports President Harvey Schiller, and is the person most responsible for picking the TNT and TBS studio guests during the playoffs.

Charlotte's Kenny Anderson, Golden State's B.J. Armstrong and Milwaukee's Vin Baker have done surprisingly well, showing Jackson is giving serious thought to picking guests.

Even with the Jackson connection, Theus' job didn't just land in his lap. He worked summer league games for Prime Sports free, to get experience. He also worked CBA games for a Midwestern shopping network. One time he was working the Aloha Classic in Honolulu for ESPN and had a CBA game in Harrisburg, Pa., the next night.

Theus is also an actor. He is the star of a Saturday morning sitcom, "Hang Time," carried by NBC. But these days broadcasting has his full attention.

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Pearl said he hadn't even thought about hiring Miller, believing she wasn't available.

"I was having dinner with [ESPN's] Hank Goldberg and some other people in Miami," Pearl said. "A lady at the table--I don't even remember her name--mentioned Cheryl Miller."

Miller said leaving USC for Turner Sports was difficult.

"I certainly wasn't looking when this opportunity popped up," she said. "What attracted me the most was the potential to grow."

Miller's departure in mid-September was sort of mysterious because she left a statement saying she was leaving "for a broadcasting opportunity" without saying what it was.

"The statement was mostly for the players," she said. "I didn't think it was my place to announce who had hired me."

TV-Radio Notes

Craig Janoff, the director of "Monday Night Football," will direct ABC's Kentucky Derby coverage for the first time Saturday. Janoff will use eight cameras at the starting gate alone. ABC will also experiment with putting microphones on some of the jockeys. . . . Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino square off from Cabo San Lucas on his weekend's edition of Shell's Wonderful World of Golf on ABC Sunday at 12:30 p.m. . . . A first: A prime-time figure skating show, "The Great Skate Debate," to be taped Tuesday and shown on CBS Thursday 8-10 p.m., will allow the audience of 5,000 at Green Bay's Brown County Arena to score the performances by using computerized handsets. . . . XTRA's "Loose Cannons," Steve Hartman and Chet Forte, celebrated their fifth anniversary this week. . . . Class act: Wayne Gretzky is still regularly calling the Jim Rome show, serving as an unofficial correspondent.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Tuning In

A sampling of L.A. Nielsen ratings for sports programs last weekend.

SATURDAY, April 27

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Event Ch. Rating NBA: Houston-Lakers 4 11.5 NBA: New York-Cleveland 4 5.9 Wide World: gymnastics: 7 2.8 Baseball: Angels-Chicago 9 2.5 Golf: PGA Greensboro 2 1.8

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SUNDAY, April 28

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Event Ch. Rating NBA: Miami-Chicago 4 9.3 NBA: Phoenix-San Antonio 4 8.3 NBA: Detroit-Orlando 4 6.0 Golf: PGA Greensboro 2 2.8 Track and field: Penn Relays 2 2.3 Baseball: Angels-Chicago 9 2.1 Auto racing: Indy car race 7 1.9 NHL: N.Y. Rangers-Montreal 11 1.0

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