By Philip Sikes // Athletic Communications
Tonight, Tim Bourret will broadcast his 1,000th basketball game as part of the Clemson radio network. Coincidentally, his 1,000th will take place as the Tigers host his alma mater, the University of Notre Dame, for the first time in Littlejohn Coliseum.
Primarily the color analyst, Bourret has also provided play-by-play on a few occasions. His first game on air for the Tigers came on Dec. 28, 1978, and he’s still going strong. I have worked alongside him as Clemson’s men’s basketball communications contact since 2005, and over the weekend I caught up with the 37-year veteran while in Miami to talk about some of his memories, including this amazing accomplishment.
CT.com: Did you study to become a broadcaster, or was it something that just happened?
Bourret: “It just happened, although I did have a couple of opportunities my senior year. Notre Dame had a road trip over Christmas break where they played at Villanova and Princeton. I went to those games from my home in Connecticut. A guy named Sam Smith was doing the games for WSBT Radio, and he let me sit with him and keep stats. He put me on the air, too, so there was a little bit of opportunity there.”
CT.com: Did you broadcast right away when you were hired full-time at Clemson?
Bourret: “My first season was 1978-79. Jerry Arp was doing the color for our radio network. He was our promotions director at the time. It just so happened that when we went to the Sun Bowl Carnival that year on Dec. 28 and 29, it coincided with Clemson’s football team playing Ohio State in the Gator Bowl. Jerry wanted to go to the bowl game, and asked if I would do the color commentary. I said I’d be glad to. I did those two games, and they were exciting. The second night of that tournament was when we beat Texas Tech with about four seconds left to win by one point on a shot by Derrick Johnson. The end of that game was virtually simultaneous with the bowl game. Jim Phillips did the basketball game, because in those days, bowl games were under contract with outside national radio outlets. So he couldn’t do the football game on radio. I’ll never forget the commercial break going into the postgame show. The guy who was at WSBF producing the game blurted out, ‘He hit him.’ Jim and I looked at each other, because we had no TV, wondering what he was talking about. It was when Woody Hayes hit Charlie Bauman in the Gator Bowl. The guy was telling us what was happening, so it was a crazy postgame show.
“The next year, 1979-80, I started doing color for all the road games. We would take a student assistant along to keep the scorebook. That was a great year to do all the road games. I also did the tournament, while Ken Allison did the home games. I started doing all the games in the 1980-81 season. We talked it over with Mr. (Bill) McLellan, the AD at the time, and he was good with it. It’s been a lot of fun.
“I’ve done every NCAA Tournament game and every NIT game but two, one in 1975 before I got here and the other last season against Illinois when my father was being honored by the local church. I’ve done 51 of the 53 postseason games. That’s a pretty good distinction, I guess.”
CT.com: Does one season stand out more than any other?
Bourret: “Whenever you start something and you’re there for a long time, you tend to remember early stuff in your career. The 1979-80 season stands out to me, because getting to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament my first year doing radio really stands out. When we had the reunion recently, I told everyone how unbelievably close we were to being really great. We were 1-6 on the road in the ACC, and five were decided by five points or less. That comes to mind first. Then, winning the ACC regular season in 1989-90. The ’86-87 team winning its first five ACC road games was amazing, too. That team was 24-2 going to Chapel Hill in late February, and I maintain if Grayson Marshall hadn’t messed up his ankle and affected our chemistry, we would have gone really far that season.”
CT.com: What about a particular game or moment?
Bourret: “Looking at it from a broadcast career standpoint, two things stand out. One was the game you and I did when (Terrence) Oglesby hit the three-point shot to beat Maryland (in 2008). People forget that was the game that essentially got us in the NCAA Tournament, ending a streak of 10 years without getting in. That was huge. The second would be when I broadcast the first three-point goal made in the history of the Atlantic Coast Conference in November 1982. We were playing Texas A&M in Alaska, and Milan Belich made a clutch three-pointer. We needed it to go to overtime. That season, we had the three-point shot at a distance of 17-9 for conference games, and also tournaments experimented with it. But the distances were all different. This particular game, it might have been 19-9 or 20-9. It was on a court that had markings of all other sports on it. Jerry Faulkner, our assistant, told me a great line about it. When our players went to the foul line, they didn’t know whether to shoot or serve. That’s how many lines there were. Milan hit the shot virtually at the buzzer to send it to overtime. It was the first game played with the three-point shot. Since I did play-by-play of those two games, they stand out.
“Greg Buckner’s dunk (in 1996 vs. North Carolina) would be right up there, because there have been so many frustrations with that series over the years. That was certainly memorable.
“I did not broadcast the game we beat Duke in 1980, because that was a home game. Getting to the Sweet 16 in 1990, when we beat La Salle, was awesome. We were playing in Hartford, which is my hometown. They had only lost once all year and had Lionel Simmons, and we overcame a 16-point halftime deficit. We did that game at noon, and that night the Lady Tigers played in Storrs against Geno Auriemma’s UConn Huskies, and we beat them in the NCAA Tournament. It’s one of the only tournament games they’ve lost at home since he’s been there. Jim and I did both games in the same day, so that was fun.”
CT.com: Has there been a tougher moment in broadcasting than the final seconds of the 1990 Sweet 16 game vs. UConn?
Bourret: “No. That stands out. It was hard to take, because we were 19 down in the second half of that game and came all the way back to lead. We went up 71-70, and in the Meadowlands, the broadcast area was virtually in the stands. One of my buddies growing up, Mark Fisher, who had played American Legion Baseball with me, was a big UConn fan. When David Young hit the three that put us up 70-69, he shook my hand and wanted to congratulate me on Clemson’s victory. But of course, we missed the free throw on the next possession and UConn got the rebound and Tate George hit the improbable shot. I do wonder what would happen today, the way things are reviewed at the end of games. For him to catch, turn and shoot was unbelievable. And we would have played Duke, who we had just beaten in the regular season.
“The 1997 game against Minnesota in the Sweet 16 was also tough. In the first overtime, we had a six-point lead and ended up losing. That was tough to take as well.”
CT.com: Did you expect to ever reach 1,000 games?
Bourret: “No. I never really thought about it until a couple of years ago. I added it up and was at 928, or something like that. But it’s been fun. I’ve really enjoyed it. For so many years I did all the game notes, so it wasn’t any extra work or preparation on my part.”
CT.com: What do you make of the different relationships you’ve been able to form over the years through broadcasting?
Bourret: “I worked with Jim from 1978 all the way through 2003, so I should count the number of games we did together. And then getting to work with Pete (Yanity), and now Tony (Castricone). I’ve worked with three guys who were tremendous to work with. Jim was a legendary figure in Clemson sports, so it was a lot of fun to work with him. In those days, less games were on television, so you had more people listen to you on the radio than you do today. I had a chance to meet and get to know broadcasters from other teams, guys like Bob Harris at Duke and Woody Durham at North Carolina. It’s been good. There were a lot of great moments, for sure.”
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