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SPORTS WEEKEND | TV-RADIO / LARRY STEWART

Try to Stop Walton From Talking Now

April 24, 1998|LARRY STEWART

When Bill Walton was attending UCLA, he would have never thought he could someday make a living in television.

Problem was, Walton stuttered. Particularly in front of others.

"I remember a speech class I had at UCLA," he said. "I was a three-time college basketball player of the year and we were toward the end of our 88-game winning streak."

He was also a good student, a GTE Academic All-American.

"But when I got up in front of that class to give a speech, nothing came out. All I could do was go back to my seat.

"My classmates just laughed at me, right to my face. It was the lowest moment of my life."

It wasn't until 1981, when Walton was 28, that he finally solved his stuttering. He credits Marty Glickman.

Walton's longtime friend, Ernie Vandeweghe, knew Glickman, an Olympic sprinter and basketball star at Syracuse in the 1930s who later became a legendary New York broadcaster and also was a voice coach for announcers at NBC. Glickman and Walton got together one weekend in San Diego, a weekend that would change Walton's life.

"I'll tell you how far-fetched it is that I'm now a broadcaster," Walton said. "It's as far-fetched as me speaking at a Notre Dame basketball banquet, which I did April 1.

"When they called and asked me to do it and told me the date, I thought it was an April Fool's joke."

Not only was Notre Dame the school that ended UCLA's Walton-led 88-game winning streak, Walton has always hated Notre Dame.

"Over the years, when I had to discipline my sons and lay down the law, if they were really mad at me, they'd say, 'I'm going to Notre Dame,' " Walton said. "They knew that would get to me."

Walton's two youngest sons, Luke, a senior at University High in San Diego, and Chris, a sophomore, led their team to the Division III state championship this season. Walton said Luke was named after a Portland Trail Blazer teammate, Maurice Lucas.

Another son, Nathan, is a sophomore at Princeton and the sixth man on the basketball team, and his oldest son, Adam, who transferred from Louisiana State, is a junior at Cal Poly Pomona, where he is a teammate of Shane Lantz, son of Laker commentator Stu Lantz.

"I'm a very proud father," Walton said. "I'm the luckiest man in the world. Things couldn't be going any better, and I love this time of year."

This weekend, Walton can be heard talking a lot. He's working two NBA playoff games for NBC--Game 2 of the San Antonio-Phoenix series on Saturday and Game 2 of the Portland-Laker series on Sunday.

On Tuesday, he'll be Channel 9's NBA analyst on a special 7 p.m. edition of the "Final Quarter" as a prelude to Game 3 of the Laker-Portland series that night, which Channel 9 will televise.

Since learning to speak publicly, Walton has been like a kid with a new toy. He loves to talk.

Besides working for NBC, he is Fox Sports West's UCLA commentator and is also the Clippers' television commentator on Fox Sports West 2 and Channel 9.

"I'd work every day if I could," he said. "There is no such thing as too much work. I can't get enough of it."

ROSE GETS A TRYOUT

Fox Sports Net this week tried out Pete Rose as a partner for Jim Rome on "The Last Word," the nightly half-hour show that is on Fox Sports West at midnight. Fox Sports Net plans to use New York Post columnist Wallace Matthews in other roles.

It was better having Rose and Rome in the same L.A. studio, but if Fox Sports Net hires Rose full time, baseball might not be too pleased, nor will viewers who believe Rose continues to lie about betting on baseball.

"We're not going to over-analyze and make a big deal out of this at this time," said Arthur Smith, Fox Sports Net's executive vice president of production. "He was just guest hosting."

Rose got in the last word on Wednesday night's show during an argument over the severity of Seattle pitcher Randy Johnson's suspension for throwing at Kenny Lofton's head. Rose said Lofton should have been suspended too for overreacting and causing the benches to clear.

One problem is Rome and Rose both have faces more suited for radio. Rome isn't bad looking, but he needs to lose the goatee.

SHORT WAVES

Fox Sports West and the Kings are teaming up on a "Blackout the Blues" promotion, asking fans attending the Monday and Wednesday playoff games at the Great Western Forum against the St. Louis Blues to wear all black. . . . On Monday, "The Big Show" with Steve Mason and John Ireland will be broadcast live from the Forum at its normal time of 6-9 a.m. on Fox Sports West 2 and AM 1150 and then be rebroadcast at 3 p.m. on West 2. The show will feature lots of King guests as a prelude to that night's playoff home opener. . . . On Thursday's show, Mason got a little carried away and suffered a broken heel when he tried to hurdle a bar a trick-cyclist was jumping. Paramedics were called, and it was all part of the show.

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