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Interview with Andrew Jones, June 18, 2008 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Andrew Jones, June 18, 2008
June 18, 2008
Interview with Andrew Jones, former sports columnist for the Wilmington Star-News.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Jones, Andrew Interviewer: Jones, Carroll Date of Interview: 6/18/2008 Series: SENC Notables Length 60 minutes

Carroll Jones: Today is Wednesday, June 18, 2008. I am Carroll Jones with Chris Malpass from the Randall Library Special Collections Oral History Project, and we're in the Helen Hagan Room in Special Collections. Our guest today is Andrew Jones, for ten years a sports columnist for the Star News and he's been known as the ACC insider. Andrew has covered ACC nationally as well as UNCW basketball, high school sports, had his own local drive time radio show, and frequently on Raleigh Radio as well as Sports Talk National Radio nationally. He writes for various print media as well. Good morning, Andrew, and thanks for sharing your time with us.

Andrew Jones: Good morning. Thanks for having me.

Carroll Jones: Okay, talk a bit about your background, interest in sports, and a mentor, if you had one, to start with, and go from there.

Andrew Jones: Wow. I guess the interest in sports started when I was very, very young, several years old, three, four years old. Something about sports just appealed to me to the point where it wasn't just playing it but I had to know it. I wanted to know rosters. I wanted to know statistics and was a lot more interested in the Los Angeles Rams' roster at the age of seven than I was about arithmetic, or reading and writing for school, or doing my chores at home or anything like that. So it sort of kind of skyrocketed from there and little did my parents know that I was a kid with a messy room and sports stuff all over the place, I was actually preparing for my career.

Carroll Jones: Well, go from there. You had an interest in sports and how did it manifest itself other than a messy room?

Andrew Jones: Other than a messy room. Well, I played sports. I played sports from kindergarten through high school, played football, basketball, and baseball in high school. And played throughout little league, little league all stars. I was fortunate enough to be good enough to play all stars in football, basketball, and baseball at certain levels, but not good enough of course to play past high school, which I sort of get my fix through college athletics now by covering the ACC, by being so close to it. But one of the things I really look back on and appreciate about having played at a decent level of sports is I learned so much about the game itself and about not just the intricacies of the sport and the fundamentals, but the relationships and how important relationships are off the court, and in locker rooms with teams, whether it's baseball, basketball, football, what have you. And one of the things I've always prided myself on is being able to take people a little bit deeper into a locker room than a lot of my peers, because I played a little bit higher level than most of my peers. And I always find it kind of fun and interesting, and one of the things I've really enjoyed is when I interview and athlete and I've been able to pick up on something a peer can't pick up on because I've sort of had that experience. And you can see the light go on in the athlete's eye, and you can then take an interview from sort of a basic, on the surface, points, rushing yards level to something much deeper. And as a result, I get much better interviews and much better stories out of it.

Carroll Jones: Where did you play most of your sports?

Andrew Jones: Well, I grew up in Northern Virginia, Alexandria, so I played in youth league up there and the two high schools I went to, Bishop Arten [ph?] and Fordan [ph?] High School. Fordan's now closed. Closed about 23 years ago and merged with a rival high school which is now called West Potomac, but that's where I played. My athletic career ended the last time I played something in high school.

Carroll Jones: Was that [inaudible]?

Andrew Jones: Pretty good sports, yeah. We had some pretty good teams and Bishop Arten we weren't very good in football but we were good in basketball, and it was kind of reverse when I was in public school. We were good in football, not very good in basketball.

Carroll Jones: You go to sports camps?

Andrew Jones: Went to sports camps. Oh wow, I went to Pokermon [ph?] Basketball Camp for about four years, which was then run by Duke's basketball coach at the time, Bill Foster. He proceeded Mike Krzyzewski at Duke and it was interesting because one of the counselors at his camp was Dirk Collins whose son Chris Collins played at Duke and his currently assistant coach there. And I probably had three or four conversations with him just about his dad going to camp there, and he used to tag along. So he remembers his dad speaking at the camp I was there at 1978, and he was there. So we had some interesting conversations just kind of sharing some of the stories.

Carroll Jones: Do you remember, didn't you also go to Carolina Camp?

Andrew Jones: I went to the University of North Carolina Basketball Camp one year, and it was the year before they won the ______________ first national title. It was the summer after they lost to Indiana in the 1981 national championship, and it was really interesting because I stayed in, like, an athlete's dorm in the summer when you're at camp there, and I was on the seventh or eighth floor. And I got an elevator to go upstairs to my room and Sam Perkins gets on the elevator, and I'd always heard stories about he's very shy, wasn't really good with the media because he just didn't feel comfortable speaking about himself. And it was interesting, he stood in the corner of the elevator. It was just the two of us, I'm in seventh grade, and he's looking down, and he's putting his finger over by his nose like he's incredibly nervous to be in the presence of anybody, and didn't say a word to anybody. But of course I'm thinking the whole time, my goodness this is Sam Perkins, really cool.

Carroll Jones: Did you attend any professional sports events?

Andrew Jones: Baseball, mainly. I've only been to one pro-football game my entire life. It was a Redskins game back in 1981. Used to go to some Washington Bullets games. They're now known as the Wizards, Washington Capitols, hockey games, but baseball. I've probably been to 500 Baltimore Orioles games. The Orioles, I'm allowed to be a fan of one team now. Because of what I do I can't be a fan of the teams that I cover, so I still kind of hold onto the Baltimore Orioles as the one team I can support and wear my colors for. And I've probably been to about 500 Orioles games in my life, although I haven't been to many in the last ten years since I've moved away from the area. So pretty much, a certain amount of the income that I made from about the age of about 18 to about 30 was spent on financing the Baltimore Orioles. Terrible mistakes in management which continue to this day even without my generosity.

Carroll Jones: When you're writing, did you write anything before the Star News, for example? And also TV, weren't you on a TV show, run a neighborhood sports newsletter? [inaudible].

Andrew Jones: Yeah, well, you know, free for everyone else wasn't free for me. The TV show thing is kind of a funny story because I was rather cocky in high school about a lot of things.

Carroll Jones: Typical?

Andrew Jones: Fairly. I think I was a little cockier than most, especially when it came to sports knowledge, and a couple of my friends and I who were also rather confident in their ability to analyze sports, we contacted a local independent TV station up there that used to air college basketball all the time. Then when commercials, because they were independent channels, they were nonprofit channels, but they got this idea to buy packages from different conferences around the country. And they would air the games. They would come on and take donations during commercials. And sometimes these guys would try to give an analysis of the game. And my friends and I, it would just drive us up the wall because they had no idea what they were talking about.

Carroll Jones: How old were you at this point?

Andrew Jones: I was a junior in high school. And so my friends and I decided we would give them a call, send them a letter, whatever, and just, you know, you need to put us on the air. That's the bottom line. No training. We didn't care. We'll bypass all that. So they actually brought us in one time and let us tape a baseball winter medium [ph?] show, and in the production meeting before the show we were a little arrogant, and a little bit rude. And I think that they let us do that one taping and never called us back, and it sort of turned them off. So I've learned how to be a little more humble in the years since then, but that was really my first foray into any other media other than writing for the school paper.

Carroll Jones: Is there any particular persons that you would consider a mentor, either a coach, or a teacher, or just somebody you knew?

Andrew Jones: Well, my writing used to be wretched and it's no longer wretched because my father, who is an author, Wilbur Jones, has really helped me out a lot with concising my writing, tightening my work. Brian Hendrickson, for example, he covers the Portland Trailblazers, used to work at the Wilmington Star News, a very close friend. He's also served in that capacity. He's won 20-some odd writing awards, several prestigious national awards. So I would say he and my father have been probably my great mentors in terms of improving my ability to write and communicate the written word, which is quite different from the spoken word. But also I've read for years. I mean I've been reading the sports page since I was in second grade, third grade. I grew up reading the Washington Post, so people like Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon. I really enjoyed their styles of delivering what it was on their mind. It didn't always have to be analytical and kind of bring people down, and maybe sort of what I would call ankle weight writing. People walk with ankle weights on, they get really tired really quickly. You don't want people to get tired of your column halfway through it. They wrote with a certain kind of flare and a certain perspective that would keep people through the end of the piece. And I tried to, over the years, learned to do that more and more with my writing. So I would say that those are the people that I probably learned from the most.

Carroll Jones: Well, that's --

Andrew Jones: You mentioned something about _______________ newsletter. A very good friend of mine, Rick Lothrup and I, Rick's not in this business. He makes a lot of money, therefore that would mean he's not in this business unless he's national, because this is not a very highly paying business. But Rick and I started a newsletter before I officially got into media. I used to work in computers and he found a sort of masthead thing on some Microsoft program, newsletter program or something like that. We started putting together a newsletter every week about 40 times a year, and we'd write our little stories, and I'd take it up to Staples and get both sides printed out, be four pages. I still have a copy of every addition we ever did. It was horrible. I look back it now, people just must have used it to whatever they would want to do, start fires with, but yeah I don't want to say the wrong thing. But it was absolutely pitiful, but it was fun. And the thing I look back on --

Carroll Jones: Who'd you deliver it to?

Andrew Jones: Oh, I delivered it to bars, to office buildings. I would go into the men's room, and office buildings, and a little stop, put ten in the men's room. But this is why it was important. I look back on those days as being very valuable because, you know, you don't know who's reading your stuff, but someone's going to pick it up and read it. So you force yourself to far more accountable for what you're writing and what you're saying, and to think things through if you know someone's going to --

Carroll Jones: Did you put your name on it?

Andrew Jones: Absolutely. And so if you know someone's going to read it, it's a little different than just writing a journal for yourself, and so I look back on those days as being very valuable because I already had started writing to be read. And it's really important to understand what that means, because you're not writing for yourself. You're writing for others. You're writing to serve others and that's when I sort of started to realize how important it was to serve people that if you want to hold people, like I was saying about the columns, you've got to give them what they're looking for. So really that process began long before anybody ever paid me. It cost me money, $37.50 to get a stack of 1,500 of those things.

Carroll Jones: When did you first start with the Star News? And I know that you did a lot of things that early on sports people at the Star News might do, covering various numbers of sports, and not just the big time. But can you take us through that kind of scenario?

Andrew Jones: I started almost ten years ago, September of '98. Actually I had changed my career at that point. I responded to an unpaid writing position offer at a magazine called Inside Carolina, which covers North Carolina football and basketball. They now cover baseball since they've become good in recent years, but it was an unpaid position and I worked for a year and a half for them without getting paid a time.

Carroll Jones: Was this just for practice, for writing?

Andrew Jones: This was my education because my formal education was in the computer field. So I had no formal training in writing, I had no experience. So to me, driving up to East Rutherford, New Jersey to cover a North Carolina / UMass basketball game, or Princeton to cover a University of North Carolina / Princeton basketball game, to me was my education. I had to go through that process --

Carroll Jones: It was a magazine?

Andrew Jones: It was a magazine. Also a website and there's so much training that goes into becoming a journalist other than just sitting down and writing, because you have to learn how to cover games. You have to learn how to prepare to cover games. You have to learn how to prepare for opponents. Learning how to interview players and having the you know what in order to ask certain questions that have to be asked at times. And learning how to process what they say and be able to get into a story where it's quick and where you're quick enough to actually have it set for a deadline within an hour after the game. And I did all those things out of my pocket, my family's pocket for a long time before I started getting paid. And around the time I started getting paid by them was when the opportunity to work at Star News came up, and I couldn't pass that up. And they brought me in just to do agate stuff initially, but they realized I wasn't an agate clerk, and no offense to agate clerks but you've got to start somewhere. But very quickly they created a job for me and I was able to do some ACC writing. I covered one high school football game. In fact, the first thing I ever covered for the Star News was a seven wing [ph?] football game, last game of the season. The teams were, combined, 1 and 17. That's where I was, my status in the Star News that night. And I had no idea who the Hanover coach was because I found out I was covering the game like an hour before the game started. So I had no idea, you know, what he looked like or anything like that, and I was never able to find him after the game. So my game story next day in the paper had no quotes, and that was the last high school football game of any kind of high school event I covered with the Star News, until a few years ago I've done a couple of state championship games. And that's it. Otherwise, I've covered ACC basketball, ACC football, some UNCW basketball stuff, college baseball, and the Carolina Hurricanes the year they won the Stanley Cup Finals. I covered a lot of their games.

Carroll Jones: When you get into the ACC, that's big time. That's one of the big groups and to get credentials to become known by the A&Es and to get passes, and where you sit for these games, and how is that happening? How are people perceived at the press, et cetera? Is there a pecking order?

Andrew Jones: There's a pecking order. It leads to circulation size in your paper. If you work for the Charlotte News Observer you're going to be more, sit at court. It depends on the seating arrangements that schools have which has changed over the years and continues to change. The media is getting pushed more and more into the stands where they have tables set up in the stands. They're further away from the action. They want us further away from the bench because they don't want us to hear what a lot of the coaches are saying, which is why I like doing games at Lake Forest because I'm on the baseline right next to the visiting bash [ph?].

Carroll Jones: At this point in your life and for a while you've had good seats, right?

Andrew Jones: Yeah, a lot better now than when I first started. The thing is, the ___________ Star News never consistently covered the ACC as a beat until the job was created for me, and my job involved into being solely just an ACC guy.

Carroll Jones: For all the teams everywhere?

Andrew Jones: Absolutely, and I was combining doing that with Inside Carolina because --

Carroll Jones: They were now paying for you?

Andrew Jones: Inside Carolina was paying me, yes. The reason I continued to do that was, at that point I'd already had plenty of experience. The Star News was giving me a lot of experience, but obviously as I alluded to earlier, this business doesn't pay extremely well unless you reach a certain level. So I needed as many different jobs as I could to make ends meet. So I'm dangling the Inside Carolina things with the Star News. In fact, at times when I had a UNC assignment from the Star News, I would do my Inside Carolina work and then I would file my Star News work or vice versa, and often found myself as the last guy leaving a press room. I got locked into three football stadiums because I was the last person there, Arizona State. I was locked into the stadium there. In fact, I had a 6:30 flight out of Tempe Sunday morning and it was a night game the night before, so by the time I got back to my hotel room I had enough time to sleep for an hour and a half, get up, catch a cab, and fly home, because I was locked in the stadium. I got locked in the stadium at Florida State and I got locked in the stadium at Virginia after football games. Had no way out. I was actually in Scott Stadium in Virginia trying to figure a way to get out because there were no workers there, the lights were off, and I finally, there was somebody that was a grounds crew person that come in and they let me out. But I had so much work to do at the time because I was wearing several different hats. But eventually I left Inside Carolina because my job at the Star News became so big that there was no way I could continue doing that, and fortunately they compensate me a little bit more to make up for what I was losing.

Carroll Jones: So when was the busiest season? Was it football or basketball?

Andrew Jones: Basketball by far. Football, you can get into a routine because most of the games you cover on Saturdays and do just one game on Saturday, and you have your press conferences during the week, and the practices that you go to. It's a nice comfortable routine, a good way to go from the off season getting ready for the chaos of basketball season. But basketball, you just, there are nights when I've covered six games in seven nights and I've done it in six different arenas. So it becomes really busy. It becomes a grind and it culminates with the post-season. The ACC tournament, especially now with 12 schools in the ACC, is as busy as I'll ever get. For those first two days in the tournament it just wipes you out, 16 hours straight with very little time off, very little time to just sit back, take a sip of coffee and just kind of get an extra breath.

Carroll Jones: So this time of year is coming to almost an end for you as far as down time?

Andrew Jones: Pretty much, middle of June here and in five weeks is the ACC football kickoff, which sort of signifies the start of the season. This year it's in Georgia where a couple of the players and the coaches of the 12 schools get together, and we have opportunities to sit at a table like this just to talk to them about the upcoming season, and try to get some feature story ideas. For the media it's good because you get story ideas, but also you start to get back in the groove a little bit. Because it takes a while to get back into once you're used to having your downtime in the offseason.

Carroll Jones: What leaves a journalist like yourself, for example, who covers ACC, now you say 12 different teams, during the season they're everywhere. They're all over the country and what makes your insight of the teams, the players, the coaches, any different from somebody else? Is it in getting to know the players and the [inaudible], and how do you do that? I know that you have probably the only one on one with one of the recent coaches?

Andrew Jones: Chuck Amato.

Carroll Jones: Chuck Amato.

Andrew Jones: I was the only one that got a ________________ office with him, and the second UCF coach.

Carroll Jones: I listened to the real Jeff Amato.

Andrew Jones: I went in there for a 20 minute interview, and he granted me the interview because he liked the questions I asked in press conferences. And, which surprised me because I always thought he hated me because I asked him hard questions. And he didn't really like me, but he respected me, and they let me, ______________ ID there, Annabelle Myers, and Chuck decided to let me go in there for a 20 minute interview. Two hours later his secretary came in to basically drag him out because he had an appointment he had to go to, and I ended up writing a story about him that no one ever knew. Unfortunately for him, he was fired a month later, five weeks later, but it gave me an opportunity to get to know him in a manner that was so different from what everyone else knew. And I really enjoy that, and you asked about the insight. The things that make it easier for someone in my position to really to get to know our subjects, which is the teams, the players, the coaches, the programs, because a program has its own DNA too. Duke's basketball has a DNA in its program unlike any other. There is no DNA in the NC State basketball program now because Sidney Lowe's been there for only two years. Hasn't had time to really infuse itself, but when you get a chance to go into a locker room to talk to a 19 or 20-year-old basketball player about ten minutes after they've lost a heartbreaking game, you get to learn a lot about them. You get to learn about their character.

Carroll Jones: How do you get in there?

Andrew Jones: ___________________ access. Some schools have cut off locker room access a little bit, especially for home games now. At North Carolina, for example, we go to the players' lounge. So you have the locker room here and the players' lounge here. So they just come out and the players sit down on a couch or a chair like this and we're just right there talking to them, sitting next to them.

Carroll Jones: Are there some journalists they don't want in because they think that they're against them, or there's some they trust?

Andrew Jones: Well, they inherently trust, well I don't want to say they don't trust us, but they probably don't like us that much because everyone at some point has written a piece that they perceive as negative, with a negative slant. But our job is to write the truth. The NC State fans, for example, think that, I've gotten emails from many of them, why are you always writing about our losses in basketball? Well, because you're not winning games. So they think there's a slant. We always write about Carolina winning. Well, let's see, NC State wins 15 and 16 in basketball this season. North Carolina went 36 and 3. My job is to report what I see, and what I saw were a lot more UNC wins than NC State wins. So the average fan's going to perceive a bias. People even that are sports information directors that are not supposed to view things that way are going to see it that way as well, and I think it clouds their vision and their perceptions of some of us. But when it comes to access, you only lose your access if you violate their trust, if you're gambling. If they find out you're gambling, if you go in and ask a player for an autograph or try to get too personal with a player. I've asked for phone numbers. I'll ask for their numbers. I'll ask for their parent's numbers, but I want the numbers so I can talk to them away from that environment, the athlete being for interviews, or to call their parents to help get more background on a player for a future story that I would do. But if you cross the line, everyone pretty much knows where the line is, then you might get your credentials taken away.

Carroll Jones: You had a local radio show, two?

Andrew Jones: I had two in Wilmington.

Carroll Jones: Okay, how did you perceive the Wilmington audience? A lot of them are natives but people are here from all over the country and mainly the Northeast. And would you say this is an ACC town, or people just show a lot of interest?

Andrew Jones: I think that if you're a sports fan and you come down here and you're from Ohio or New Jersey, and some of my, I'll say biggest fans, some of the people I've gotten to know best through doing this happen to be from other parts of the country. And they come down here and they're just captivated by the ACC because of the intense following, the passion, and the level of interest. And that's not just one school. You know, if you go to Kentucky, Kentucky or Louisville it's two schools. If you go to a lot of states, you go to Nebraska, it's just Nebraska. But here, it's Duke, it's Carolina, it's State, it's _______________ and in football you can even include East Carolina in the mix. In fact, some of my most memorable moments on the radio shows were with what I would consider crazy East Carolina fans calling up, trying to put their hat in the wring as if they're an equal of the ACC teams. Which, maybe some of the local teams they've been somewhat the equal of but across the board, that's foolishness. But that's what made it fun because you had NC State fans with a chip on their shoulder, East Carolina fans with a bigger chip on their shoulder, and you had Carolina fans as arrogant as they come. And then you have Duke fans as sort of a minority because it's a small private school. A lot of their students come from the Northeast and other places, and they don't always graduate from Duke and then start working in the State of North Carolina, certainly not down here on the coast. But they were there, and there voice was pretty loud when they decided to voice themselves. And then Wake Forest, I've always found Wake Forest fans just like the University, they're happy to get any coverage they get because they're sort of the forgotten school out there in Winston-Salem. With Wake Forest I'd get access to a lot as a journalist because they want and need coverage.

Carroll Jones: Were you on every game?

Andrew Jones: Monday through Friday, yeah.

Carroll Jones: Two questions, I don't know which comes first. Let's say this one. You had regulars that used to call? Were they veterans or wanted to be heard?

Andrew Jones: Well, you know, you're always going to have your hecklers. You're always going to have people out there that think they know as much as you do, and about certain subjects they do. That's one of the things I admire about sports talk radio hosts, the good ones, the ones that actually try to serve their listeners. There's no way you can know everything. I mean to me, it is a tremendous task knowing what I want to know about the ACC and that's a very narrow scope. If you have a talk show you've got to know about a lot more stuff. So there's always going to be listeners out there that know more than you do, and there were times when that was the case with me. There were also times when they thought they knew more, or they thought that their opinion was more on target than mine. They would call up and call me out on it, and that made it fun. One of my favorite callers, I would say my favorite caller I had in both the shows I had in Wilmington was a guy named Pete. I called him Pete the cab driver and I even alluded to him in my final column of the Star News last week, because he was so much fun. In fact, I can't remember what it was. He won some kind of contest, some of them come in and co-host the show for an hour. And he's an obnoxious New Yorker, Yankee fan, you know, by the book, and that's what made him so much fun. He knew what he was talking about. He had strong opinions on things and at times he would challenge him and I liked that. Same even with writing. I'm not on the air when I write but I get a lot of email response, and some things challenge what I write. And I always appreciate that because when someone challenges something it makes me rethink my position, and I'm either further entrenched in that position or I rethink things and think, you know, maybe they have a point. Maybe I'll look at it a little bit differently next time. So I always appreciate when people call up and have a different point of view, and certainly challenge things because it makes for better radio, and as a writer and a journalist it makes me a little bit stronger in what I'm doing.

Carroll Jones: How did you manage the radio show and all the traveling you had to do?

Andrew Jones: Well, I eventually had to leave the radio show because of that, because I went from living here in Wilmington, I had to move to Raleigh. In fact, I've spent the last almost five years in Raleigh covering the ACC because --

Carroll Jones: They're close to an airport.

Andrew Jones: They're close to an airport is going to take me places other than this one here, which doesn't seem to fly out very often. More than that it's the drive up by 40. I mean I couldn't do that anymore. 146 miles from NC State, from the RBC Center here in Wilmington. When I moved to Raleigh, I was eight miles from the RBC Center. It made it much easier for me to do my job, and again, we talk about that. We're talking about the grind. It was just an unbelievable grind.

Carroll Jones: The time when you were up there, is that when they added some of the new schools in the ACC?

Andrew Jones: Yeah, in recent years, in the last four years they've added three schools, Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College, which I still don't agree with Boston College for several reasons. And I haven't been up there. It's the only ACC school I haven't been to yet.

Carroll Jones: [inaudible].

Andrew Jones: With my new job I'll go and I'll probably go a lot, I'll be in Boston a lot of times for football and basketball from Miami to up to Boston. Be a lot of traveling. Different kind of traveling. It's nice that I'll actually be near a big airport now doing this kind of traveling, because a lot of the traveling I've actually done has been by car, and that can be a real grind. I'll never forget when I was living in Wilmington, had my drive time radio show. I covered a North Carolina-Maryland basketball game. It was a nine o'clock game in College Park, Maryland and the next morning I didn't get my wakeup call in my hotel room. So I woke up a little bit late. I had to get up. I showered. I had to race to the radio station in Wilmington, which was a seven hour drive here, and I walked into the studio as soon as my intro music for my show started. I stopped one time on the way just for about four minutes and that was it. I had to race literally from College Park Maryland to Wilmington to start the radio show. But when I moved and I left the radio show, when I was living in Raleigh, those things I didn't have to deal with stuff like that. So it was a little bit easier in that respect.

Carroll Jones: Were you energized by all this?

Andrew Jones: Yeah.

Carroll Jones: So it's like adrenaline.

Andrew Jones: It's a rush. You know, whenever you talk to someone who's, like, they rock climb, or they hike and they get a rush, or ___________________ or there's a gallery opening or something like that, they get a rush about it. I get a rush by the thought of what I do for a living. Every year is new. The beautiful thing about college sports is that there's not much monotony because the rosters change over quickly and hopefully in the ACC some coaching will change over in the next year so we can have some better basketball to watch. But it's always different. It always changes and nothing ever happens the way you think it's going to happen to a tee.

Carroll Jones: Talk about a press conference. I heard you speak [inaudible] as you call it, either for particular players, or the team, or the coach, or the new season coming up. Did they cover all kinds of things?

Andrew Jones: Well, a general press conference there's several kinds. In football, we have regularly scheduled press conferences early in the week. Basically it's to preview the game coming up where the coach will take some questions about the previous weekend and talk mostly about the team they have coming up.

Carroll Jones: With new players as well as the other ones?

Andrew Jones: Well, for example let's take NC State with Tom O'Brien. Tom O'Brien's press conferences are Mondays at two o'clock. They actually bring in two players with NC State to talk at the little podium for 15 minutes a piece, 2:15, and Tom O'Brien's out in the Murphy Center lobby area doing TV at that time. He does the TV interviews. Then they switch. The athletes go out and Coach O'Brien comes in and he meets with the print media, print and radio for a half hour.

Carroll Jones: Does he take questions?

Andrew Jones: Yeah, they take a lot of questions. That's when Chuck Amato used to routinely put his foot in his mouth during these sessions, because he would say something so stupid that we couldn't let it go. So somebody in the media would then pick on. A lot of times he would come out with an agenda of finding whatever member of the media who was in the room that wrote something he didn't like. And he would goof and raise his voice, and holler at you, and say some of the most ridiculous stuff. And then once he would finish he would just leave the door wide open for us to ask questions. You got to explain yourself. What do you mean by this? An absolute character. He drove a yellow Corvette. The guy's 60-years-old driving a yellow Corvette. I mean that's __________________. He wore red shoes and sunglasses, and the sunglasses at night, but you know, I'll tell you what, though, he was the most colorful person I've covered. And you can criticize a lot of these things about him, and I certainly was very critical, and Chucky the Chest because the guy's 60-years-old, he's still bench pressing 300 pounds. He's a different kind of character for sure. In fact I heard him say something I've never heard another character say and this was his way of trying to be, you know, just showing his personality which I don't think was fully appreciated by the media or a lot of NC State fans. But it was after practice about three years in the middle of August. It's like 100 degrees out and it was an afternoon practice, and we're only allowed to watch, like, one practice a year, but we're allowed in for the last part of every practice, watch runs, that kind of thing. And then we talk with Coach Amato, how did practice go, how's the team taking shape, that kind of stuff. It's about 100 degrees and there's a sports writer there from one of the bigger papers who was just sweating profusely. He's not a fat guy, so it's not like I'm sweating because I'm in the heat and everything. He's a fairly slender guy and when Coach Amato comes up to him, this is classic of him, he says, "Oh, what, too many brewskies last night?" That's the way he'd start it off and you would never hear Coach K. say something like that, or ______________ Williams, or, Butch Davis will talk about personal things, but he's a North Carolina football coach, but Chuck was just in a world of his own. And ultimately I think that that was probably his, it worked out to his detriment because he was very misunderstood. And that's one of the reasons why I really enjoyed the interview I had with him and the opportunity to write that feature story, because I got a chance to explain a little bit more about him and what drives him. But seven game losing streak, losing at home to, really North Carolina and East Carolina the last two games of that season cost him his job.

Carroll Jones: In all the players that you've talked to and been able to observe, do you have any who you felt were really extra special as far as their demeanor in the game, playing the game? I guess you could be an outstanding player and still be not much of a human being.

Andrew Jones: Absolutely.

Carroll Jones: But some that you had respect for.

Andrew Jones: Some are a little bit more genuine than others. It just is in people in general. I was actually speaking with my friend Brian Hendricks the other day about, when Brian was a sports editor here one of his points of emphasis was to have me do a feature story, a centerpiece feature story for every Tuesday during basketball season. And it was great here in the ACC. In fact, early in that season all four, what we call the big four schools, Duke, State, Carolina, and Wake, all four were ranked in the top ten at one time. And so it was a great year for ACC basketball especially in this state where it's literally a religion. And in a five week period I had a one on one interview, and this goes back to what you were saying before about access, how when I first got to the Star News I didn't get access for one on one interviews with the better athletes. But during this period, I had JJ Reddick who was the all time leading score in ACC history, the all time leading three point shooter in NCAA history. He was the superstar at Duke, National Player of the Year. Two weeks later I had Sean May who later that season was the most outstanding player of the final four for North Carolina, won the national title. And then two weeks after that I had Chris Paul at Wake Forest who's widely regarded as one of the top five or seven players in the NBA now after just two years. And certainly the best young point guard in the NBA. And all three of them, very fascinating stories about the maturity issues that JJ overcame after his first two years, very immature guy his first two years, needed a lot of growing up, needed to be humbled personally. And as he became more humble personally and matured as an individual, his game blossomed. With Sean May it was about, he was from Bloomington, Indiana where his dad was a star at Indiana and he told me for the first time, he never told anybody else this, that everyone knew that Indiana didn't really recruit him that much. But he said that Mike Davis, the Indiana coach, he's the guy who succeeded Bob Knight, didn't even talk to him. I mean he was there at Indiana --

Carroll Jones: I bet he could kick himself.

Andrew Jones: Certainly, and he helped Carolina win the national title. And then Chris Paul, that's my favorite story I've written, and it's my favorite interview. I drove out to Winston-Salem on a Monday night to interview him in the SID's office, Dean Bucken [ph?] who's now at Georgia Tech, and Chris forgot to show up. So I'm sitting in Dean's office and he catches Chris on the cell phone. Says, "Dude, you know, this writer's here waiting for you. He came all the way up here from the triangle, and Chris couldn't do it because he had to study for an economics test or something like that the next day, I can't remember what it was. So Dean said, "Look, I can get him up here tomorrow night. Can you come back?" I'm thinking, okay, well I'll drive all the way back to the triangle, which is 120 miles or so and I'll come back the next night. Well, it was worth it. I'm glad I did. I almost didn't do it because I sat in a room sort of like this, just Chris Paul and me, and we started talking, and next thing you know, the interview was 45 minutes long. We spent two minutes talking about basketball and he told me a story about his grandfather. In fact, there was a Nike commercial this year that showed old footage of several different start basketball players, and the last show they show is Michael Jordan as, like, a middle school kid here in Wilmington. And one of the shots is Chris Paul as a high school player shooting a floater. And he put the number 61 on the scoreboard. Well, the day after his grandfather was murdered, he was murdered in his driveway, he went out to get the mail and he was murdered by some hoods in his driveway. This is in Winston-Salem. The next day, Chris had a high school basketball game and he played. He played in the game. His grandfather was 61 when he was killed. His grandfather, they talked basketball all the time. He was extremely close to him and he said that he had to play in the game because he couldn't sit still and not play in the game. And he said he felt like it was the worst he'd ever played in his life, but he scored 61 points. He said every time he put the ball up, he thought there's no way it's going in, and he felt like a higher power would come in and guide the ball through the basket. And he felt infused by his grandfather throughout the entire game. So from that point on, and he said a prayer for his grandfather before the game, but from that point on he says that during the national anthem, and he doesn't want to be disrespectful to our country, but he said during the national anthem he takes that moment and he communicates with his grandfather before games. And he gets infused by him. He gets to that point where he felt like he was that night in that high school game where even if he's not playing well, it's still going to happen because he's got the power, and the strength, and the guidance of his grandfather. And it's an amazing story, and he's an amazing young man, a wonderful kid, a self described momma's boy. Said he went to Wake Forest because his mom was ten miles away, could still do his laundry for him. But that was probably my favorite interview because you get an athlete to a certain point, I like having these interviews when I can do this, and it doesn't always work, when you can get them off the playing field and to talk about something that means something to them personally, that's very important to them. And they're people just like everybody else. They just have a particular talent that puts them in the public eye.

Carroll Jones: Tell us about Jim Wainwright. You got close to him when he was here at UNCW.

Andrew Jones: Coach Wainright, for UNCW success that they have now and forever, he should be credited with that because he put UNCW basketball on the map. He also made it a really hip thing to do here in town because everybody loved Coach Wainwright. He was the easiest person I ever interviewed. I had him on my radio show one time and I asked him three questions, and the interview was 24 minutes long. Because you just ask Coach Wainwright, "Hey, how you doing?" Nine minutes later, you're asking the next question because he'll go on, and on, and on about stuff and he'll tell a couple of really cool stories in between. But he's a really, really wonderful person, someone very misunderstood.

Carroll Jones: He ran a good program.

Andrew Jones: He ran a clean program. He still does. He left here and went to Richmond and took Richmond to the NCAA tournament within a large bid, and he's currently at De Paul which is in Chicago. That's his hometown and very misunderstood person. The reasoning why he left, a lot of people took it personally. They were upset with him, but Richmond was a step up from UNCW as much as people want to disagree with that here. It was financially a better deal for him and I don't want to go into specifics, but he was an extremely generous man. He didn't make a ton of money here but he was certainly comfortable and he made sure that a lot of people that were around him were taken care of, and he exhausted a tremendous amount of his-- let's just say that he wasn't exactly saving up, because he was helping a lot people out that were less fortunate than him, some that had run into some problems. That's just the kind of man that he was and is, and he looked at moving to Richmond as an opportunity to continue doing that, but also at some point in time you've got to be able to take care of yourself, become more financially independent. And that's why I felt really good for him when he got the De Paul job, because he's making over $1 million dollars a year there. And finally a man who had paid his dues, and he was the one who identified Tim Duncan for Wake Forest when he was an assistant at Wake Forest. And if it wasn't for Coach Wainright, Tim Duncan may never have gone to Wake. He may never have gone to a major program in the States and he was one of the great NBA players of all time.

Carroll Jones: Didn't he bring a lot here?

Andrew Jones: He brought along a few here. I'll get to that in a second, but here's a man who paid his dues for years, and years, and years, and years, from a high school coach right on up, and it was really good to see someone like that, someone who has respected the game, someone who has never broken an NCAA rule, someone who has treated the game with respect, professional respect, to see him get rewarded with that king of a job in a major conference like the Big East with a nice income, and also in his hometown of Chicago. So now he gets to watch the Cubs all the time. But yeah, he had some great players. Brett Blizzard was the best player he had here. He was playing professionally in Italy and I wrote a column ___________________ New York that I felt he would have been a big time ACC player had he gone to the ACC, which he almost did. He had sort of a deal on the table with Florida State which was pulled away at the last second, because they wanted to bring in some other kid that was a little more athletic. He sort of dealt with the stereotypes of being not as athletic and maybe someone that would be more of a walk on type. In fact, you know, Florida State said, "You know, you can come here and walk on your first year. We may have a scholarship for you your second year," and it probably wouldn't have worked out like that. It really worked out really well for Brett because he came here. He's all time everything UNCW and he's making a pretty good living overseas.

Carroll Jones: So you would say, then, that UNCW basically is a pretty good sports town.

Andrew Jones: UNCW or Wilmington?

Carroll Jones: UNCW, I mean Wilmington.

Andrew Jones: I'd say Wilmington's a good sports place.

Carroll Jones: I'm not saying just UNCW. I'm talking about Wilmington.

Andrew Jones: Well, you know, I grew up in the Washington D.C. area and now I live in the triangle, and I've been removed from here for almost five years. I still have a connection here because my parents live here, my dad was born and raised here, and I've always considered Wilmington my adopted hometown and will always have a special place for Wilmington in my heart. But Wilmington is a town that sometimes wants to act bigger than it really is, but somehow always kind of falls short. And I don't mean that with disrespect. It's just that, you know, the Wilmington Hammerheads are what they are. Let's not make them out to be bigger than what they are. They are what they are. UNCW basketball is a very nice thing. It's a nice solid program in a better than average conference. They've done pretty well but let's not make them out to be more than what they are. You know, I think that people here have a tendency of sort of over projecting the capacity of the teams here, especially with UNCW. I mean the reality is UNCW and the ACC would have gotten blitzkrieged in basketball on a routine basis. Even some of Coach Wainwright's best teams would have struggled some in the ACC. A one game shot here or there, sure, they could beat a team. They could compete with a team. They almost beat Maryland. They were the defending national champions in the NCAA tournament. But having them night in and night out having to play that kind of schedule which is wear these teams down, but it doesn't demean, it doesn't demean what they are. I mean I really enjoy games, in fact I enjoy games at Trask Coliseum more than just about any other arena, because it's a wonderful environment, sort of like a mini-Cameron indoor stadium.

Carroll Jones: Because I've been there. Sometimes I've looked up and seen you walk in and take your place at the table just to be there.

Andrew Jones: Yeah, just to be there because I enjoy it, and it's good basketball.

Carroll Jones: Do they ever kick you off the table?

Andrew Jones: Well, no. I let them know I'm coming ahead of time. That's why the seat's there. If I just walked in and took someone's seat, of course they'd make me sit with Rudy the Finger. But UNCW, what people need to understand --

Carroll Jones: I don't know who Rudy the Finger is.

Andrew Jones: I can't describe him without being disrespectful.

Carroll Jones: Ricky Meeks.

Andrew Jones: Ricky Meeks, yeah, you know, D, D, D, Defense. He did that. You could hear him on the radio during UNCW broadcasts. He's cheering defense when UNCW had the ball. Poor guy.

Carroll Jones: He's an interesting case. How many games, how many playoffs have you done?

Andrew Jones: Well, I just did my second final four. The Star News budget kept me from several final fours because the travel expenses when it comes to certain points, they kind of draw the line, but it's just too much. I did final four this year in San Antonio. North Carolina's wonderful performance against Kansas. In fact, I heard Kansas just scored again, ______________ just turned the ball over again. I've done five straight regional finals, I guess. The last five years I've done an elite eight game and I don't know how many bowl games I've done. I've done a lot of bowl games. I've done the NCAA tournament for as long as I can remember. I've done 12 straight ACC tournaments, which is my favorite event I cover because you get all 12 ACC schools there in one place, and I have a passion for the ACC. So I get to see them all in 36-hour period, 40-hour period, get to see all the cheerleaders and dance teams, and hear the fight songs, and see the fans, the color, the pageantry, the tradition. And it really is, you know, it's a culture and it's a part of our culture and I really, really enjoy it. Plus it's the greatest challenge I think I have as a journalist because you get four games on Thursday and four games on Friday. So just, it kicks your butt, but you're standing at the end, and when you produce good work you feel really good about what you've done and what you've provided for people, and you get to watch eight ACC basketball games in a two day period. That's a pretty good deal.

Carroll Jones: You've got a wife and two kids at home. How lenient are they about all this?

Andrew Jones: You know, I think that they like it for several reasons. My wife likes what I do because she knows that it's my passion, because I would be completely miserable doing anything else for a living. The boys like it, now especially that they're getting older. They're boys. They're not originally my boys. When I first met her, you know, that's cool, whatever, you know, nine, ten-years-old, they don't have any understanding of exactly what it is I do. I would just bring them home media guides and their stack of media guides continues to grow. But now they're starting to understand it and they understand when they hear me on the radio. They think it's kind of cool and now they realize, wow, you know, you talked to Coach Kay and you talked to, you know, Coach O'Brien, and _____________ Williams.

Carroll Jones: Ever taken them to Wilmington?

Andrew Jones: I've taken them, I've taken Chris with me some. Cameron is not as interested in it. Chris is the younger one. I've taken him to several press conferences, but I always call in advance because you're not really supposed to drag your kids around. But there are times when some people do because they have younger kids. They're out doing things. They have to bring them somewhere. So one thing that was really cool is on the same day, and this is before Kimberly and I got married, I had Chris for a couple of days during spring break, and then Cameron. In fact, that was when I asked if it was okay if I proposed to their mom that particular week. Well, on the same day with Christopher, Phillip Rivers who is a former quarterback at NC State. He's the quarterback for the Chargers now. Probably the best college quarterback I've ever seen in person and that includes Charlie Ward who one a Heisman Trophy at Florida State. He had his pre-NFL press conference at NC State and I had Chris with me so I took him to that. Well, later that day Julius Hodge who was the reigning ACC player of the year also for NC State also had a press conference to announce whether or not he was going to go pro or return to NC State. So I took Chris to that and Julius announced that he's returning, and I was almost late to that press conference. So I had to watch it almost from a doorway and Annabelle Myers saw Chris and she's fine, she's been really good about letting me bring him around. So when Julius finished his press conference he got up from the table, and came to the door, and saw Chris, and just kind of gave him a little punch in the gut and said, "What's up little man?" And at the time, Chris thought that was cool but he couldn't process it. Now he can process what he experienced that day and I think it makes them feel pretty good about things.

Carroll Jones: Okay, you're moving on. You've got a job you're going to, which is going to take a lot of time. You're going to do a lot of travelling. Without getting into the particulars too deeply, can you tell us about it? What's the next step?

Andrew Jones: I think my family will like it because I'll be gone a lot more. My wife will have total control of the TV and dinner, all that kind of stuff. Well, actually I think they like when I do travel because they think it's fun, because I also bring back stuff.

Carroll Jones: This is a national thing?

Andrew Jones: This is a national thing. I'm going to, soon I will start-- I can't go into specific details right now, because we haven't had a press release and certain contracts.

Carroll Jones: But we'll all be able to hear you?

Andrew Jones: Oh, you'll be able to hear me. It's going to be a national ACC radio show, Monday through Friday, and I'll be writing for the website that accompanies the show. And I'm going to be traveling to the best games. I'm not just going to cover the big four anymore. If it's Miami at Florida, I'll be there. If it's Georgia Tech, or for example, Virginia Tech plays at Nebraska in football in late September, and I'm slated to go to the game. I'm excited because I've never been to Nebraska before, but I get to go see --

Carroll Jones: [inaudible].

Andrew Jones: I get to go see these other programs too. You know, Southern Cal's at Virginia on the first weekend of the season. In fact, the first college football game of the year is NC State at South Carolina. It kicks off ESPN's coverage. I'll be there on a Thursday, two days later, I'll be at Southern Cal at Virginia.

Carroll Jones: So are you doing any writing?

Andrew Jones: Oh, a ton of writing. I'm going to do a ton of writing. I'm writing columns, blogs, analysis, features for the website. Doing what I've been doing but I'm also going to add the radio component to it, and it's going to be on a national scale. So I have to know Boston College as well as I know North Carolina. I have to know Miami as well as I know Duke, which excites me. I've always wanted to be in a position where I could write and talk about the ACC, and go to the best games. And as far as travel purposes go, at least it's good that the two best programs are right in my backyard for basketball. I won't have to fly as much, I guess, as I would if I lived in L.A., you know, because we have a lot of schools here, but also Duke and North Carolina, especially North Carolina they're going to be a huge story next year with Tower Hansburg [ph?] going after all kinds of individual records, and perhaps, you know, building a resume that would lead one to believe he's the greatest ________________ basketball player of all time. And the basketball team has a chance to maybe be the best ACC team of all time. So it could be a very historical season, so having them in my backyard and Duke being the second best team in the backyard, too, will make travel a little bit less burdensome as it would be for football. Because I don't think I'm going to do all of the triangle football games this year. I'm going to spend a lot of time, in fact my schedule has me going to Florida at least seven times during football season.

Carroll Jones: I know you have an awful lot of fans here in North Carolina and Southeastern North Carolina, and this area who communicate with you often either by telephone or email. Do they know about this yet?

Andrew Jones: Some people know, but, you know, again--

Carroll Jones: I know you're very close with Wendell Murphy. He knows about this?

Andrew Jones: We're not supposed to tell the world that. I'm just kidding. Actually, Wendell sent me an email last week. Wendell just had back surgery and he's recovering from it, and he sent me an email last week, and I think his assistant sent me an email for him. But Wendell's a really good man, and his name is on the football center at NC State because he donated $25 million for that. And he's donated a lot of money for other things. And he's one of the reasons why, you know, it bothers the you know what out of me that NC State loses so much. I mean, I want to cover an NC State team that wins because it would be such a unique story to write. But there's so many good NC State fans that don't have that chip on their shoulder, or at least don't wear it that much, and Wendell Murphy is one of them. I mean he is as die hard a fan as there is. He can afford to go to every game no matter where they play, so he goes to every game. A lot of people just, you know, throw money at something and wait for the bandwagon to come by and hop on. He's there. I mean they play, you know, Albany State in basketball on a Tuesday night, Wendell Murphy's there. And that's one of the reasons I really, really admire him and respect him, because he's put his money into those programs because he wants to come in and try to help them win. And hopefully for him he'll see some success at some point.

Carroll Jones: So you got a lot of emails when you wrote your final column?

Andrew Jones: I got quite a few. The emails were positive but when people aren't accountable and they post stuff on message boards, that stuff wasn't all that positive. But that's okay, that's part of the business and doesn't, it doesn't bother me in the least bit. You know that going in. You know, if you get 50% of the people who like what you say then that's not bad.

Carroll Jones: So you're looking forward to this new adventure?

Andrew Jones: This is great. With all due respect to Wilmington and the Star News, I'm really excited to move on and do something bigger, something more challenging, something that's better for my career. The pay is a lot better, significantly better. So my wife's happy about that and it's just time to move on. Ten years here is great. This was a wonderful place for me to make a lot of mistakes and get better, and like I said, to build a relationship with a town so it could be my adopted hometown, but it's absolutely time to move on.

Carroll Jones: Well, Andy, thanks so much. This has been interesting and I think a lot of people will continue to, I know a lot of people are going to continue to follow you. Of course, they can this time.

Andrew Jones: There'll be a press release and follow me on the internet. I mean everything's on the internet now. So I appreciate that. Thanks for having me and--

Carroll Jones: You got a lot of fans in Wilmington.

Andrew Jones: I have a lot of detractors too. So, you know, but the detractors are important, like I was saying before, because they keep you on your toes, and they challenge you, and they force you to get better. There are too many peers of mine that poo poo the detractors. They dismiss them as being ignorant because they disagree. Some of my detractors are ignorant. Some of the things that they say is pretty ignorant and I don't really respect it that much, but by and large, you know, you do want to have some people keeping you challenged.

Carroll Jones: Well, you're showing a sign of humility. I hope you keep it.

Andrew Jones: Well, without that then, you know, without that I don't think you could be that successful in this business. There are a few that have been, but for me personally, you know, I'm not in this for the accolades. I'm not in this to have my picture in the paper. I'm not in this to have my name on a banner. I'm not in this to hear some deep voice say, "Welcome back to the Andrew Jones Show." I'm in this to serve because, A, I love doing it. I love being around the sporting events and learning more about this, but I used to be that guy a long time ago that was a huge fan and wanted the kind of access and coverage that I think I can give to people. And I do it to serve those people because there are a lot of Wendell Murphy's out there that don't have a lot of money, that, you know, can't afford to go to the games and the access that he has. I try to give it to them, and if I became arrogant about it, and big headed about it, then I don't think I would do as good a job.

Carroll Jones: Thank you.

Andrew Jones: Thank you.

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