Marty Brennaman talks Reds, college basketball

Published 5:30 am Friday, February 22, 2019


During the last few years Marty Brennaman has had to recall some advice he once got from former Indiana basketball coach Bob Knight.

“He once told me, ‘If the horse is dead, stop beating it.’ I couldn’t go on air every night and just talk about how bad they are,” said Brennaman, the Hall of Fame play-by-play announcer for the Cincinnati Reds since 1974.

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Brennaman has already announced this will be his final season with the Reds and he says there is “no question” the Reds will be better this year thanks of players they have acquired since last season ended.

“They have added three veterans to the (starting pitching) rotation. The bullpen should be good,” Brennaman said. “The offense was good last year and could be really good. The only problem is that they play in what might be the best overall division in baseball. But if they could got to .500 and then get two or three games above that, who knows. They might have a legit chance at the playoffs.”

Brennaman got spoiled early in his career. His first eight years, Cincinnati had winning records. He thought it might always be that way. He still remembers asking Vin Scully, another Hall of Famer, what it was like to broadcast a bad season.

“He said no matter how bad the team is there will always be a couple of guys having a good season and you have to accentuate the positive,” Brennaman said. “I have tried to remember that the last four seasons and hope this year will be better.”

Despite his Hall of Fame baseball career, Brennaman is even more passionate about college basketball.

“Nobody loves college basketball more than me. That’s why working for Kentucky where everybody loves basketball was so good,” Brennaman said. “To some extent, I am a basketball junkie. I pay attention to recruiting and who is going where and who is recruiting who.

“There’s nothing like college basketball. The World Series, NBA Finals, Super Bowl … nothing like the NCAA Tournament. I have done the World Series three times but nothing on this earth equals the NCAA Tournament. There’s nothing like it.”

Brennaman worked two years on the Kentucky TV Network calling UK basketball games about 30 years ago. His analyst was former uK star Larry Conley.

“The biggest thing I remember is how well I was treated,” Brennaman said. “They treated me royally at UK. I enjoyed my two years and would have continued.”

Instead, UK ended the relationship and Brennaman went to work for Jefferson-Pilot and did a season with Tom Hammond. But when the SEC got ready to expand and Jefferson-Pilot wanted him to do more games, he said no thanks.

“I had no aspirations to go to another conference. The only reason I went into the SEC was because I was only doing 12, 13 games. I could live with that,” Brennaman said. “Kentucky was not very good back then, not like now, but I had a great time. I’ve often said if the same situation was in effect today where there was a statewide local TV package I would do it in a minute.”

Brennaman said he appreciates the time he got to spend time in various settings with legendary Kentucky broadcaster Cawood Ledford. He also became friends with Bill Keightley, UK’s long-time basketball equipment manager known as Mr. Wildcat.

“The best thing that ever happened out of being at Kentucky was that it began my friendship with Bill Keightley,” Brennaman said. “Nobody loved that man more than me. He would want to talk Reds baseball and I would want to talk UK basketball. I thought the world of him.”

Keightley died on March 31, 2008, after suffering a fall getting off a bus on his way to see the Reds open the season.

“I thought he was the greatest guy in the world,” Brennaman said.

He also has fond memories of former Cats’ Pause publisher Oscar Combs.

“I had great respect for him and what he did. I really did,” Brennaman said.

Brennaman doesn’t like the one-and-done but doesn’t fault Kentucky coach John Calipari for taking advantage of what the NCAA and NBA have mandated.

“I am not a big fan of the NCAA, the most hypocritical organization ever,” Brennaman said. “Go back to when I worked the tournament and they wanted us to refer to players at student-athletes. Just be honest. Don’t be so hypocritical. One-and-done is not a student. They are in college to get to the next level (NBA). That’s not a knock on Kentucky or any coach or team.”