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Welcome to South beach sessions. I'm excited to do this, at least in part because I love talking to people who are top of the food chain, excellent. What they do. This guy has been doing it for a lot of years, has a great deal of craftsmanship in his work. I don't think people understand how hard it is to have your level of expertise and your stamina for what it is that you're doing at this age. And I don't say that as an insult. I know you're a former athlete, but you turned 60 recently and I can't believe you're still taking two flights to get to middle of America so that you can be the expert on guard play come March because you've been watching the game since January. I would think that the ESPN ethos, and thank you, Jay Billis, for joining us, would have, over time, made you work slightly less hard, but nothing is evident in your work that would suggest you're working any less hard.


Well, thank you. That's way too nice. I think as I've gotten older I'm more efficient. But this job isn't nearly as hard as the job I had before this. I was a lawyer and did both broadcasting and practice law at the same time. And so this seems like a layup relative to what?


Well, tell us about that time, because I don't think people know the entirety of the story. You were working for ESPN part time for how long? Law is obviously a full time job. You're a bit maniacal about your work ethic.


I would say I did that for about eight or nine years. So I was an assistant coach at Duke. After I finished, I played pro basketball overseas for a few years and coach K offered me a job as an assistant coach. I was a graduate assistant, and about the time I was deciding whether to take it, I got admitted to law school and it was coach K's idea that I do both. So I went to law school while I was a graduate assistant. And after three years on his staff and in law school, I thought I'd go into coaching and be a basketball coach. But about that time, my girlfriend, fiance, we got married. And when we were deciding what was the best thing for us, it didn't seem like coaching was going to be the best thing for our family.


How so? Just the rigors of it, the stress of it, the lifestyle.


Yeah. I think in talking about it, if I did well, we'd probably have to move every five years for the first 15 years. And both my wife and I grew up in the same. We didn't grow up in the same area, but we grew up in one place. She grew up in Maryland, I grew up in Los Angeles, and we had stable family lives. Our parents weren't moving all over the place, and that's what we wanted. We wanted to pick a place and live there. And obviously, if things didn't go well, we'd move, or if it was necessitated by employment or something else, we would do what it took. But basketball wasn't going to give us that kind of life. We didn't think. So I had a law degree, so I went with a big law firm in Charlote, North Carolina, and I thought, okay, I'm going to be a lawyer. And I started practicing as a first year associate. And I got a phone call from a guy named George Habel, who was the president of something called the Capital Sports Network is a radio network, and he wanted me to do games for the radio.


And I thought, I don't know if I can do this. I can't carry a law of practice and run around doing basketball games. But I thought about it, and I thought, you know what? If I can't handle it, I'll quit. And law is my job, but I'd like to pursue this and see what happens.


The games were more fun. A lot more fun.


Way more fun. Yeah. But this was back in the, didn't have the technology you do now. I'd be able to carry it off with more ease with the technology now, because now my desk is everywhere I go. Before, I'd come back from a road trip, and I'd have to go straight into the office from the airport and get work done. So I was either in the office or on the road.


I want to talk about how this affects family, and I want to talk about a couple of different pieces of the journey. Because you mentioned grad assistant, I don't think people understand that if you're a grad assistant for coach K. I'm guessing you're an intern working maniacal hours outside of your law practice. You're working two full time jobs now, you don't have time for any kind of life other than work, correct?


I thought I did, but I probably didn't because I was doing things I wanted to do. So you had to make sacrifices. When it came to being a lawyer and doing the broadcasting and then family life, I probably wasn't as acutely aware of the sacrifices I was placing on my family because I was focused on doing what I felt I should be doing, and so I definitely shirked responsibilities there. And luckily, my wife Wendy kind of sat me down and straightened me out on that.


Well, tell me about that, because I've got a number of questions. First of all, the guy who's playing in Spain and Italy, my guess is, is having his dreams die, right. He wanted to play in the NBA. Right. And so you're chasing your dreams, and Wendy's supporting your dreams, and she's got her own dreams as an artist, but we're living in service of what Jay is chasing. Right?


Yeah. We were married at the time, so we were dating, but we had decided when I went overseas, we had kind of said, look, let's not put any rules on ourselves here. If we decide we're going to have exclusive relationship from that long a distance, we're going to create nothing but problems. So we know where each of us are, and we'll get together when we're supposed to get together, but let's not put any rules. And to this day, neither one of us have asked each other what happened during that period when we weren't together, which is probably smart for her.


Who's more afraid to ask?


Oh, I'm more afraid to ask her. I don't want to know. But when we got married and I started running around doing games and I was in the office and all that stuff and working during the summer or off season, I would get phone calls from friends of mine, say, hey, can you come host our charity gala? Can you come appear at this, speak at this camp and all that? And she came to me one time and said she was very kind. She said, I'm really proud that your first instinct is to say yes to people, but she said, you need to understand something. When you say yes to someone else, you're saying no to your family. And that was crushing to me. It was a gut punch in a way, but it also helped me realize I got to start saying no to things because I used to think, mistakenly that I was missing something. So I'm on the road, I'm making the sacrifice. I'm missing this family thing, and I was really missing from it. I was the one causing the problem. It wasn't a problem for me. It was me causing a problem.


And I wised up a little bit after that. I wasn't perfect, but I've gotten better. And I kind of realized that no, because she said, if you say no to them, they're not going to cry. They're going to pick up the phone and call somebody else. It's not a problem for them. And you think a request, now all of a sudden it's your responsibility. It's not your responsibility. And my responsibilities were more at home. And so I think I've done a better job. I'd have to ask her, but I think I've done a better job of balancing that. But that was an important moment for me sort of to realize that I wasn't paying as close attention to what was really important. And when our kids were little, when they were babies, she told me one time, she goes, you need to pay attention to this. She says, babies are temporary. Like this is going to be over soon. And that was helpful to me.


They're wiser than we are, I have found at an earlier age, and forgive me if I'm misreading this, but it feels like I can almost see the shame in your eyes as you talk about your wife having to explain this to you.


Not shame, just illumination that, I don't know that my priorities were as set as hers were. She knows what's important. And that was really helpful to me because my priorities were all over the, you know, I think Pat Riley probably said it, but I heard it most from Jeff van Gundy. He said, your decisions reveal your priorities, and my decisions revealed that. And look, this wasn't like I was out drinking all night or running around.


Well, you were concentrating on you, though. It's self involved almost, man, you had to be maniacal to get to the top of excellence about making sure it took all your bandwidth to make sure you could get ahead. And obviously there's going to be neglect and love for others somewhere in there, whether you realize it or not.


Yeah. And I think I was probably raised that in a way or came up at a time when it was a little more selfish, like sort of the idea that men were expected to go out and accomplish and do for the touchy feely stuff is for the women. And even though that's not true, wendy helped me realize kind of what I was missing.


I know that with love, and I don't know if you want to tackle sort of how to articulate. You're one of the great eloquent spokesmen anywhere in sports. You're considered one of the brilliant minds in sports. What you've learned about love with your family and with a union that now goes back 40 years old. And as I'm guessing if it's anything like me, I am being taught how to be a man in some ways, in ways I'd never considered before, because the woman's perspective allows me to see where my blind spots have been and how silly I was in being resolute about some things that I had conviction about because I thought work was the most important thing. Because how could I not continue to achieve? Isn't that what I'm supposed to be doing? Isn't that what coach K and everyone else has given me great many rewards for being all of my life?


Yeah, I think that's right. I think I keep going back to the priorities thing of, like, my wife and my daughter especially. They deal in beauty like, they're both artists. So my wife's probably, of all the people I've ever met, she's the most comfortable in her own skin of everyone I've ever known. And she's really in tune with her environment. Like, every morning she makes cup coffee and she walks out onto the back porch and just looks out over the yard. She knows every bird. She has all these birdhouses out there, and she's in tune with her environment. I'm not. I'm one of the guys that I go, what's the guy's name across the street that puts the Christmas lights up? I don't know my neighbor's names. She knows everything about our neighborhood. I know very little. And every once in a while she'll say, you know exactly what club you hit on the 6th hole six months ago. But you don't know what trash day is. And she's right, I don't, because it's not something I.


Is she more present than you are? Because my wife has a connection to right now that I envy and covet. It's someplace I want to spend more time in because I'm always off to the next task, the next thing to be accomplished. It sounds like your wife stops with her coffee in the morning and allows all of life to wash over her. And the present moment is just about all that matters.


That's really perceptive because I think that's exactly what it is. Like I'm more focused on what's next and what I need to do and my task list and all this stuff. And she gets more done than I do. She has the same task list in her world, which should be, I should say our world, but she is more present. She experiences the day to day better than I do. And when I get on a plane, my first instinct, all I'm focused of is getting off the plane. She going to enjoy the flight and talk to the person next to her and get to know people.


Do you envy it? Because it sounds like life can pass you by that way? I know it's happened to me. It's the only reason I recognize it is the only reason I ask you the question. If you're that task oriented, if you're always off to the next thing, you're not as present as you need to be in the thing. That is where you are.


I've gotten better at that. I wasn't good at it years ago, but I've gotten better at it. And I think that's part of getting older is you realize, kind of what's important. So my world has been shrinking over the years. I'm more likely to stay away from things that don't do me any good and people that don't do me any good. It's not like I give everybody the heisman if they're toxic or stuff like that, but I just kind of remove myself from stuff like that. And she's always been good at that. Her world is smaller than mine in that regard, and that's a good way to put it. Like, she's present about everything. So she's taught me a lot, and I've learned a lot about how to do things from her and how you're supposed to experience this. That's the whole reason we're doing it. We're not doing this to get to the end of it. We're doing it to enjoy it while we're doing it. And so I've gotten better at that because of her.


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When you think of the reasons that you admire Wendy, because I don't know if you went from law to something that was more creative, at least in part because you have a creative part of you that was stuck in the architecture of whatever your parents wanted for you because you had to go to law school, you didn't have an option, right? That was your parents choice for you. And basically that's what you had to do.


I could have said no, but it would have caused some problems. My parents grew up in an area called San Pedro near the port of Los Angeles, and his parents emigrated from Yugoslavia, former Yugoslavia. So my dad didn't speak English till he went to school, and he was born here but didn't speak English till he went to school. And neither one of my parents had the opportunity to go to college. So school was a big deal for them. And they were concerned that at that time, my friends that I grew up with, we never asked each other, where are you going to go to college? The question was, are you going to college? Are you going to go to college? And I think my parents were a little concerned that what if he doesn't go? So college was a big deal. And then after I got through college, my dad really wanted me to go to law school. He didn't care whether I was a lawyer. He just wanted me to have that in my back pocket. And he used to tell me, you don't have to be a lawyer when you go to college, but you'll be able to handle your own affairs.


And if things ever get bad for you, you can just hang out a shingle and make a really good living. And I didn't want any part of being a lawyer. I didn't want to go in the first place. But it worked out and I went, and I'm really glad I did. They were right. But I thought law school was going to be this broadening experience. In a lot of ways it was. I learned a lot, and I was around some amazing people that are great friends of mine to this day. But law school is also a narrowing experience in that law schools spit you out into big corporate law firms. Law firms will come interview, and if you want to use your law degree in a way that's nontraditional, you have to be really proactive and do it yourself, because otherwise you're going to get spit out into a law firm. And those law firms can be like, I bet you I would have been voted of my law class least likely to stay with a law firm for a long time, and I've been with my firm for close to 31 years now. But if I'd had to practice those 31 years as a full time lawyer, I never would have made it that long.


I don't think I could have taken. I didn't realize, Dan, how stressful it was until I quit. When ESPN made the offer to me and I took it, I gave my firm notice that I was going to leave. And they asked me, I had a couple of cases going to trial, and they asked me would I stay and see these cases through and said that I would. And I had a case going to trial. And I was getting up in the morning and I was putting my little suit on and getting ready. And back in our house, we had a little tv on, an armoire in our bedroom, and Charlton Heston was on, like the Today show with an NRA thing, and he was saying something, and I'm arguing back at the tv set because what he was saying was total bs. And I was going back at the tv set, and my wife Wendy says, you need to stop. You need to stop this job. And then when I quit and went into basketball with ESPN, all of a sudden all this stress went away. I didn't have sheets. I didn't have to worry about some client calling stuff that when people say, oh, you work really hard, you're so prepared.


It's not close to what I did as a lawyer. And so to me, it was a layup, relatively.


But it's not just the work. It's that you love this. And I'm not saying you don't love law, but I don't think you love law the way that you love college basketball. Still the way that you love college basketball. But is there a creative person who was stuck in the labyrinth of, I've got to do basketball discipline, I've got to do law discipline. I've got to be tough. Like, what is your imprinting from your parents when you talk about both work ethic and you wrote a book ten years ago about toughness, where do both of those things come from?


Well, it evolved. I think law taught me a lot about a lot of what I am now, I think came from having gone to law school and been a lawyer. There was always a part of me when I was in law school that, do I belong here? Because there were so many amazing minds there that I could not keep up with. I shouldn't say I couldn't keep up with. I knew I wasn't in the ballpark with them. It was kind of like as a player, when you realize I'm in high school and I was considered one of the best high school players in the country, and then I get to college and I played against Michael Jordan and Lyn Bias and Ralph Samps, I go, okay, there's a different level here. I'm never going to be able to, do I. When I was in high school, the more I worked, the better I got, and I didn't see a ceiling. And then you got to college and you played against those guys going, all right, they don't have a ceiling. I have a ceiling.


You know, then that you're not going to make it as a pro or you're still trying in Italy and Spain, right. You still think you're pretty close.


Well, I was a good player, but I wasn't that good. I mean, there's a difference between, it's like being a golfer and playing on the corn ferry tour. You're really good. You're just not as good as Tiger and Jack and that stuff. And Michael Jordan was the tiger of basketball. So you're seeing.


It's a crushing realization, though, isn't.


It? Was a realization. It wasn't crushing because I knew I could still play, and I felt like I could still play in the NBA, and I think I could have. But back then, you get drafted, you're going where you get drafted. So I was a fifth round draft pick. I'm going to Dallas whether I wanted to or not, and they had 13 guaranteed contracts. They were Pacific division champions. So I went over to Italy. That was my level, and I made more money in Italy than I could have made if I made the Mavericks back then, which is really kind of bizarre, but it was a really fun period because I went from being a high school star to a college kind of role player on a great team to being a star in Europe again. So being a load carrying star was fun for me again. But after three years of it, and then when I got the offer from coach K, I realized, like, okay, how long do I want to stay over here and do this? I've kind of proven to myself what I want to prove, and there's other things out there for me, and if I turn this down, I'm turning down something that can set me up for the rest of my life.


I thought it would be coaching, but the law degree was a set up for the rest of my life that I just didn't realize how valuable it would be.


How much do your parents have to do with both toughness and work ethic. It seems like you couldn't have arrived at the things that you are unless you were a bit maniacal about how you work.


I don't know that I was that. I think when I was in high school, there were certain things that came easy to me. I don't know that I was a big time worker. I worked hard, but I don't know that I was as intelligent a worker as I should have been, both athletically and academically. I got really good grades, but I didn't really bust it. I could have done way better in college. I realized pretty early that you want to get an a at Duke, you're going to have to work your ass off. B is not that hard. And I was going, I'm okay with B's. Because basketball was more important to me in the school. It wasn't. The school wasn't important, but basketball was more important. I kind of figured early on, ten years from now, nobody's going to ask me how I did on the test the night before the game, they were going to ask me how I did in the game. So I felt like that was more important. But when I grew up, my dad was a really hard worker and he was gone a lot. He'd be at his shop working.


He didn't go to all my games when I was a kid, but in high school, he didn't miss a game, went to every game. And he had gotten to a point where he could leave work to come to the game. But watching him work, I couldn't keep up with him. And I don't think my work ethic even compares to his. And I kind of thought he was the toughest dude that ever lived when I was a kid. How do I measure up to that? But he never got the chance to play. He worked from the time he was a teenager. He was a commercial fisherman, as my grandfather was. And then he started this tv. He went to technical school and became learned electronics and started his tv business. And that was his thing. He was a tv sales and service guy and did very well. So I had no wants as a kid.


Toughest how, though? How was he tough? How did you see that in childhood.


The way he worked? He did not. Outside of our family, I didn't realize how much he took at home. Like, my mom ran the house. I didn't realize my dad was kind of afraid of my mom, but outside of the house, he didn't take any bs from anybody. He was very nice. But his thing was like when I was in high school. I had a girlfriend in high school, and my mom did not like her at all. And she gave me the what for about it. And I kind of asked my dad, like, what do you think? And he said, why do you care what I think? I don't have to go out whether you do. And I was like, okay. That was the kind of guy he was. And if I ever had a problem with a teacher, like, I had a teacher at my high school who gave me a hard time. I was sick the day of one of the playoff games that we had in the California state playoffs. And so I didn't go to school that day because I wanted to be prepared for the game. I was in pretty bad shape with a sort of flu or illness or something.


So this teacher decided that, wait a minute. There's a rule that if you don't go to school, you can't play in the game. So he tried to keep me from playing in the game, and it didn't work. I played. But my dad said, stay away from that guy. Like, he's trouble, and you don't need to cause a problem. You don't need to talk to him. Just stay away from him. Like, avoid him. And he could handle things in a way that I never thought of. And so he was pretty tough in that regard. And he never yelled at me. My dad never criticized me about my play after a game. He would just say, hey, he wanted to know what happened in the huddle. That was funny. But he didn't compliment me much, either. It was more, hey, you played good. Yeah, I had 40 points in a game. He says. He says, yeah, you played good, but he meant it. But he wasn't throwing compliments around like rose petals at my feet.


You're better at that with your kids, right?


Way better. Yeah, way better.


Because you learn. You don't like how that feels, right? To always be.


Well, I don't know.


I mean, you can have the respect, love, and admiration of your father. You could do the translations on his behalf, but you probably also would have liked to have felt his pride slightly stronger.


I felt it, but it wasn't like now where you talk about everything. So I stayed totally out of my son's basketball career or baseball, whatever it was. I didn't want him thinking that how he played mattered any more than him just enjoying it and being prideful in his own play. So I tried to stay out of that stuff. But when he played well, I let him know that I enjoyed watching him play. And, man, you really busted. I was great stuff like that. I was a little more outgoing in that regard.


How was your mother, or how was your family life able to conceal from you that your father was a little bit afraid of your mother? Because I know in my household, a traditionally cuban household, I can only see this now in retrospect. I didn't see when it was happening that my mother was running the household, but making it seem like my father was in charge. And they presented such an important united front that I got to 30 years old. I'm not even kidding. Being in the backseat of a car before I saw them argue, and I was reduced to sort of a toddler, like, confused by it because my mother was sort of concealing my father's limits for me. How is it that they were able to conceal from you that your father was afraid of your mother?


Same way, the exact same way that they were very united front in front of me. I never saw my parents argue in front of me. I heard it maybe once or twice in another room. But it became clear when I became an adult that there was one person running in the House. It was my mom. My dad would have to sometimes make excuses to get out of the house and do something he wanted to do. But I don't know that at that time was that horribly unusual. I think now, at least with my relationship with my wife. This sounds corny, but it really is beyond love. It's a partnership, you know? And one thing we've done well is we don't keep score. And if I go on a golf trip, she's not saying, well, wait a minute. That entitles me to do this. She wants me to go do what I want to do when I can, and I want her to do what she wants to do when she can.


What a great freedom to have in a relationship that if no one's counting, there's not a lot of room for resentment there.


Yeah, and that's because of her. But we have talked about it, like, let's not keep score on stuff, and we've never done that. It's because of her and how sort of easy going she is about things. But there's a we. First thing about our relationship, it's whatever decision is made, I'm not making the decision. Well, I take that back. She makes all the decisions on decor in the house. We actually had to talk about that. I made a suggestion. It got shot down right away. She's in charge of the decor. But outside of that, every decision we make is what's best for us. What do we think, what do we want to do? So it's very we oriented.


Why do you think it's corny to say we have beyond love. We have a partnership. Romantic love is lovely, but I would think that your definition of love at 60 is a hell of a lot different than it was at 25.


Oh, yeah. It's deeper and more appreciation for what she is and how little I bring. All I've really brought, I provide as best I can. But she's the emotional center of everything.


You feel it sounds like, as I do, almost inadequate in the size of its light. Right? You sound like you're deeply admiring of your wife for making you a better husband, father, son. I know my wife has helped me a great deal there because I didn't know what I didn't know until I loved so much that I couldn't help but learn it.


When did that hit you? Oh.


Because early in my relationship, I had been making the same mistakes that I had made all of my life, of just sort of succumbing to what I thought were the patterns that were the right way to live. And then I just had my perspective change by someone gently, ever so gently, showing me stuff. It wasn't with reprimand. It was always with understanding and acceptance, so that I would see things myself and then just sort of be horrified at what was looking at me in the mirrors. Things that I couldn't unsee because I was succumbing to the same patterns that had always made me unhappy in relationships. Until I realized that there would be great light and looseness in following instead of feeling like I had to lead, because I thought that I knew things. And it didn't seem like, in retrospect, it's clear. I didn't know shit. I thought I knew everything and I didn't know anything. But I'm arriving like this. You're arriving at a 40 year relationship with that understanding. I'm arriving with it at 50. I'm getting too deep into adulthood and just having things stripped away, that they caused me great shame that I didn't see them before now.


But as my therapist says, well, be glad that you saw them at all. You can still.


I mean, that's a really good point. I don't know that, at least for me. I hear what you're saying. I'm not sure shame is the right word. I mean, I'm grateful that these things were illuminated to me through her, that she saw these things and she would say, oh, I didn't do this, or I didn't do. She did. But when you are with that every day, I've probably been a project of hers. She's accepted and tolerated a lot of my shortcomings and worked on them with probably a longer view than I've had. It's not just, hey, you don't do this well, and you need to stop doing this or whatever. It's come over time. So she's been accepting of things, but she's nudged me in the right direction. And so when, in all these different things we're talking about, when I've come to the realization that, hey, I screwed up there, I've not done this right, I was grateful that I've had that in my life to help. It's been, that's kind of been a partnership too, of making me a more feeling person, caring about things I never cared about before. I've gotten better.


Who's the comedian? Bill Burr. That we're this unfinished building that's got scaffolding around it and my wife is museum quality under glass, all finished. But I tend to think that's, that's more the truth.


Well, and I don't know if that's true of you in some ways. My wife married a gorilla, and only because I am feeling so accepted and so understood at every turn. Am I not defensive or don't let my ego get in the way of where it is that I have to be a better person, because to be a better person is to live in better service of her, which then allows me to love myself better because I'm happier in general. And when I tell you I'm unforgiving with myself. So I do assign shame there. But she's inherited that. Your wife has known you for 40 years. So she basically, I'm guessing she knows you in some ways better than you know yourself.


No question. She would probably say that I don't need any help in loving myself.


I think most people would say that about you.


But she's really helped me in kind of realizing that, look, I'm falling short here and I'm not paying attention to this. I think she knows that it's inside me, like, I feel the same way other people feel, but I haven't allowed myself to in certain instances, or I shut off this because of something that happened years ago or whatever. I've had situations like that.


Are we talking about repressions there, coping mechanisms? We're talking about you being scarred somewhere and just not wanting to show people more of yourself.


Sure, yeah. I don't know anybody who doesn't carry scars from things that have happened. But she's been really helpful with that. And especially as we've gotten older and our lives have changed. Like, we were talking recently that we're both 60 now, and we were saying, this is going to end pretty soon. We've had a run of each stage of our lives. We've enjoyed more than the one before, and we're going, that's not going to be the case all that much longer. There'll be health issues. Something's going to happen where the next stage is not going to be as good as the last one. We're going to hit that stage.


What a magic carpet ride, though, to feel like it's always getting better.


It's always gotten better. Like, when the kids went to, we've got two kids, they're 29 and 27, and especially her, but we really enjoyed them. When they were little, we had a blast with them. And when they got to high school, we were starting to dread my wife more than me. We were starting to dread, they're going to leave soon. They're going to be in college. But it seemed like our kids exhibited their readiness to go, and that made it way easier on us because they're ready. And we might not have been ready to let them go, but when they left and went to college, we had this whole new world open up, and we're like, we don't have any obligations now. We can say yes to anything. Somebody called and says, you want to go to dinner? We're like, yes. And we didn't have to guard the liquor cabinet anymore or take kids to this thing or that thing or worry about.


So you transitioned well into emptiness, because you can get right back into the relationship. Not that you weren't in it before, but the relationship could be yours again, as opposed to just living in service of the kids all the time.


We started dating again, kind of, and it became incredible amount of fun. It was different. So we're still chasing the kids around, but we're not obligated. We don't feel obligated to. We're doing it because we want to. It'll be fun. Let's go see them, or let's see what they're doing. Let's go to our daughter's horse show, or let's go visit. And it's been really fun and everything. Now, when I was a kid, there was a lot of have to in my life for all of us. I have to do this, I have to do that, I have to go to school, I have to go to work. And now we're at a stage of life where because we feel like we've handled the have to pretty well, most of what we're doing now is want to. I still have some have to, but not as much. And that's been a fun way to live. Where you feel like most of my life is want to. And at some point we're going to quit our jobs and move on. And there's a part of me that's not lamenting that. Like, I'm not lamenting retirement at some point because I think it'll open up yet another.


As long as we're physically and emotionally and mentally healthy, there's going to be a fun there that I'm really looking forward to.


Well, you have part of the pie chart on happiness figured out. If you're walking most steps with gratitude, like, if you're taking inventory of your life as you're living it, it's pretty present to be like, right now is the best time. This is the happiest we've ever been because our life keeps getting better. I mean, you can fear the doom on the horizon, you could fear the mortality, or you could spend all your time in the happiness of knowing that your now is better than it's ever been.


And that's another influence of Wendy is I know there's going to be a problem at some point, but I'm not worried about it because the now is so good. So I want to enjoy the now. Winnie and I have these really close friends. A buddy of mine from college, so I've known him for 40, whatever, 41 years. I met him in 1983. And he married a girl that he met in law school. And they were married for up until four years. She passed away about four years ago. And he was hopelessly devoted to her. Kind of like me and Wendy. That was his whole life. So she passed away. We've got another friend that was a neighbor of ours, woman who lost her husband twelve years ago. And she was devastated and took her a long time to feel normal again. My wife decided that she wanted to introduce those two and I was totally against it. I'm like, don't do this. This is not an area for us to get involved in. And I'm thinking, like, let's not lose two friends over this. But she said, no, I think they would really appreciate each other.


So she introduces them at our house and they got married a couple of years ago, so they're happier than they've been in a long, long time. And my thing was my friend. The man. Longtime friend. I thought that when his wife passed, it was going to be this long period of him. And she said, no, he's going to be okay. Like, this has been devastating, but he's going to be okay because he's a social animal. You're not reading this the right way. If I were in his position, I wouldn't have been able to function the same way he does. He's a different personality than I am. If I get hit by a bus tomorrow, I don't think Wendy will wear a red dress to my funeral. She might, but she'll be fine. She'll handle it. I would not do as well. I'm so reliant on her for every bit of emotional happiness, I think I'd have a problem. I never thought I would be this reliant on someone. That never occurred to me.


Because you're so self sufficient, because you're proud of your self sufficiency?


I guess. I don't know. But when I dated before I met Wendy, and even in the time we were kind of separated by distance, I never felt that way about anybody else. So I never had to think about it. And now when you've had all this and you've seen your friends go through it, you think about, how would I do? And I know I wouldn't do well, I'd figured out. I mean, I wouldn't, you know, hopefully wouldn't be a complete blob that couldn't leave the house. But I don't know. I don't know how I do, but I know I wouldn't do as well as she would do.


You would have been an unhappy lawyer after how many years, if it's all you had done? Because it sounded like you were already getting to a place where you couldn't abide that that was going to be the next 30 or 40 years of your life. And only that.


I don't know, Dan. I don't know that that's the case. One of the things that was really illuminating for me after I quit was I didn't know that. I was stressed. I was handling it.


You only saw it all in retrospect.


Yeah, I was really happy. Look, my job was hard. There were aspects of it that I didn't love every day. I love what I'm doing now. I don't love the travel. There are times I wake up and I'm thinking, God, I got to get to. Like you were saying, I got to get to Lubbock, Texas.


I can't believe you're still doing that, like two flights and a two hour drive to Lubbock, Texas, for a February game.


It's not that bad. I mean, I enjoy it more now because I don't have. I think my wife gets on me about. I take the first flight out after every game, so sometimes I'm waking up at o dark 30 to get a 06:00 flight to get home. I was doing it years ago because the kids were little and I wanted to get back. Now I just want to get out of where I am. I feel better when I get home, even if I'm tired and even if Wendy's. I get home and Wendy's out of the house running around with her art career or something, and I get back to an empty house. I'd rather be at home than be in a hotel somewhere. So the travel wears me out a little bit. And the older I get, the more I have to pay attention to making sure I sleep and all that stuff. But I don't sleep during the season, and I can't sleep if I've got a flight the next morning. It doesn't matter what time the flight is. I'm not going to sleep, at least not sleep like I do at home. So the travel kind of wears you out.


But I'm lucky it's seasonal. So I busted from travel wise from basically October until April, and then I got a little bit of time off.


But I think you have an unusual sort of pain threshold. I believe you're writing a book about toughness ten years ago, because you can endure a whole lot of stress without acknowledging that it's stress.


Maybe I wrote that book because I wrote an article on it. I was watching a game, and some announcer like me had praised a player that was nothing but a big bully, and he said, he's a tough player and all that. I'm like, he's not a tough player. He doesn't do anything tough. He's a bully, is what he is. And for some reason, it motivated me to write an article of what toughness means in basketball. So I wrote this article and I sent it in. This might be 15 years ago. I sent it in to my, and basically said, you didn't ask for this. Nobody asked me to write this. I just felt moved to do it. Use it if you want, don't use it if you don't want. And they used it. They put it up on the free site. Some of my stuff was on a paywall back then, but behind a paywall, so they put it up, and I couldn't believe the response. You've had this, but I've never had this. I've never had something I've done or said get reactions from literally all over the world. I had coaches, teachers, military leaders reach out to me because of that article, and I was floored by that.


And it was Wendy's idea that I write the book. She said, you need to write a book about this, and it needs to go beyond basketball. And so I did and had no idea how to do it, but learned about it and figured it out.


Explain to me how she helped you write it or where it is that she knows you in these places that you don't even know yourself.


She's an english, or was an english major and started her career as a writer, essentially not a writer like you, but she worked for companies and did writing for companies, annual reports, all these different things. And so when I started writing the book, I had no experience in that, so I had no idea how to do it. I had no idea to order things. So I did months of research and gathering the information I needed and interviews and all that stuff. And then when I sat down to write it, I wrote it. I can't remember how many months it took me, but I just went into my law office and I treated it like a job. I wrote for like 8 hours a day or whatever it was.


I don't think you realize how disciplined you are. I think you're used to being so disciplined that you shrug your shoulders when I say you're a hard worker because you cannot be this excellent at this number of things, not applying yourself well.


But I was boxed into know it was kind of one of those things where. So when the book idea was being sold, I was asked to go up to New York and meet with publishers. And so my agent got me a publishing agent, and this publishing agent had three or four, maybe five different publishers come in to sit down with me for meetings, kind of back to back to back. And I mistakenly thought I needed to go in there and sell them on the idea of this book so they might be interested enough to go forward with it. And I sat down for the first one they were pitching me, and I'm like, what? They're making offers. And by the time after I did the four or five whatever, it was different things, I hop in the car to go back to the airport, and my phone rings and said, all right, here are the offers. You need to choose which one. And I'm like, you're kidding me. I had no clue. But once I accepted the offer from Penguin, it came down to Penguin and Amazon. Amazon was paying more money, but it wasn't going to be a book I could hold in my hands.


It was going to be an ebook type deal. And I was like, all right, what's more important, money or the book? And I went with, for some reason, I wanted to hold in my hand old school. I don't know why you're 60.




Yeah, I took less money. So then when I was locked into it, I was like, I have to do this. This isn't an idea anymore. This is an obligation.


Because of the feedback? Because of the feedback you were getting or just because the deal is now signed?


Because I signed a contract, like, I'm obligated to do this.


You don't sign a contract without being obligated to do it. There's no backing out now.


And what I didn't realize, this is where wendy's way of doing things was really illuminated to me. So my wife's an artist, and she's very thoughtful in what she paints. From time to time, she would have an unfinished painting. She just put it on the wall in the house. And to me, I'm like, what are you doing? It's not done. I'd say, when are you going to finish that? And she'd say, I'll get around to it. She just wanted to leave it alone. And she'd walk by it, take a look at it, and then she'd go back to it later on and she'd have a different perspective on it.


You don't even understand that.


No clue.


You've got to complete. You have to complete the task.


No clue.


Whatever the task is, it must be completed.


Right? So this one I think you'll understand better than almost anybody. So not knowing the book process, I finished the manuscript, I send it in to the publisher, and I thought, this is great. I'm done. And the weights lifted. I'm done. And I moved on with my life. Like, they'll edit it, I'm done. Then 45, 50 days later, they send it back to me, redlined all the notes. They hadn't accepted it yet. And I finally realized, wait a minute. So I dug back into it and the whole thing was new. And I thought, wait a minute, this is better over here. And all of a sudden, I've got a completely different, new perspective on it. And I was so into the weeds on it when I was working on it that I couldn't really see what it should be then I leave it alone for 45, 50 days, whatever it was, before I get it back. And it was a completely new project to me. And so not only did I do some of the things they suggested, but I did a whole bunch of other stuff.


They made it better. They made you make it better?


Well, yeah, like, just putting it away in sort of my wife's way of like, there's no time limit on this. I'm going to do it when I feel like doing it, and you can't do that with everything, obviously. But that was really helpful, and it caused me to take. Since then, I'm taking a step back a little bit more and not as focused on, all right, let's get this done now. Let's get this done. Take a step back and kind of think about it a little bit more, and it'll be better if I do it that way. That's been helpful, and that's sort of her way of seeing the bigger picture.


What did you learn about toughness when you started doing, reporting and research? It goes from an article to now becoming a life project. Right. Writing a book is hard, and it takes a lot of time. So what did you learn that you didn't know from the time that you wrote the article that the feedback helped.


You learn the perspective of others on what toughness meant. That I think when I was a kid and coming up, you heard it from coaches, but it was never really defined. It was sort of what I learned kind of through osmosis. Okay, this is getting rewarded for being tough, but it was really more about your everyday life and what it means. I remember Bob Knight saying something to me about, and it resonated with me about what I said before. When my wife know, when you say yes to somebody else, you're saying no to your family. And Knight said something, he says, no is a word that's used by tough people. And I really thought about that, that I don't say no very often. My first instinct is to say yes. Somebody says, hey, will you do this? Sure. And then I have to go and fix all the things that saying yes to that person caused issues for me instead of just saying no. My priorities over here, that's not my priority. So, no. So that was helpful. The project helped me kind of define what it was for me in my life. And to the extent it may have been helpful to somebody else, the best part of the book for me wasn't it was really weird for me having a book with your picture on it with the word toughness over it.


Because I don't think I was the toughest player or anything like that. That should have been done by a military person or a nurse or doctor, somebody who does really tough things. But the best part of it was hearing from coaches, teachers that used the book with their team or their class, and it started a conversation about what was important to them. Like, I got all these letters from teams and all that. We use this or get a letter from a kid who couldn't make his high school team, tried two or three times, read the book, and then did all these things and made his high school team. That was pretty cool. I really enjoyed that. But look, this has been your life, and you know this one better than I do. You have a successful book. And I was lucky that book was successful, at least they thought it was. They want me to write another one right away, and I'm like, I don't want to go through that again. And one, I didn't have anything that I felt that deeply to dive into that again. But writing a book sucks. It's hard, and I don't know, how do you do that?


Well, I haven't done it well. It's my greatest demon. The idea of writing. Writing an article is lonely enough. A book is 150 articles strung together. That you did it in your spare time or that you did it off to the side suggests to me that you enjoy things that have a degree of difficulty, especially if you're working from a place of inspiration. If it's you yelling at your television about something, that's a decent place to start on any creative endeavor. But I don't know what you've learned from your wife and your daughter, who are artists, about creativity, because you work very creatively within our space. But I don't know. A book seems to be the toughest creative challenge I could imagine you partaking in, although ballroom dancing might have been one of them. Once upon a time.


That was brutal.


Were you good at it?


I was pretty good. My mom wanted to beat me to be a cultured person. She was worried that somehow, because of our background, that I wouldn't be cultured. And so I say she encouraged me to be kind. She forced me to do a lot of things. One of them was, I had to take ballroom dance when I was a kid. And so there was an instructor. She was a former high level ballroom dancer, older lady named Margaret Michael. And so I didn't tell any of my friends I was doing this. I wanted nobody to know. And so I went to this thing, and I would take these classes, and then we went to competitions. There were ballroom dancing competitions, and my partner was an older girl, and that was kind of fun. But we won some of these competitions, so I got trophies for it. I never put them out with my other trophies. I kept them in a closet somewhere because I didn't want anybody to know. But the best thing, it turns out that my mom had me do was she sort of encouraged me. She made me take speech and debate courses when I was in junior high school.


Why do you keep doing encouraged? It doesn't sound like it was encouraged.


It was forced. Yeah, she forced me to do it.


You're just being nice.


Being nice. Yeah, but it's probably the same thing. But I felt like I was forced. And so when I started doing that, I met a teacher at my school named Billy Kramer, and he was a drama type teacher and taught speech and debate and drama and very effeminate gentleman. And he's probably the most influential person in my life outside of family or my coaches, like Coach K, something like that. It would be Mr. Kramer. And lucky for he, when I went to high school, he got a job at my high school. And so I wound up having him for, like, six straight years. And he got me into. We went to forensics competitions. So I had to do these impromptu competitions, extemporaneous speaking competitions, all these speech and debate things where I had to stand in front by myself in front of a panel of judges. Sometimes they would give you a topic and you'd have five minutes to get your thoughts together. Other times they'd give it to you, and you had to start there. And nothing that I've ever done in my life has been that frightening. And if I could handle that little red light going on on a tv camera is no big deal.


And, in fact, arguing in front of the fourth circuit court of appeals or going up in front of a judge in a motion hearing was nowhere near as frightening as that was. So that was really helpful to me. And it made me more confident, more secure in my ability to handle myself.


It's probably the first time you felt confidence, real confidence about your intellect, right. Getting good at that or overcoming that fear because you're somebody who comes off as very confident about how smart he is.


When I started, it wasn't necessarily about me. It was more like I wanted to do well and I wanted to rise up just like anybody else would. But I always remembered the idea that when I was in college and our games were on tv, my parents kept the tapes of those games, so they would record them. Back then it was VCR days, so they record them on a VCR. And God forbid the announcer made a mistake about me. My mom was like, how could he say that? So I remembered that. And I thought when I first started, there were some games I was doing where that game might have been. The only time that team was on tv that year, or at least on ESPN. So I felt obligated to know everything I could know and be able to present it like it was the NCAA championship game, because that was meaningful to those players and to their families, and I wanted to make it important. And if it's important to them, it better be important to me. And I think that was helpful to me in rising up. And I got lucky, too. Like the first game I had, there was a situation at the end of the game and last second play and the play by play guy says, jay, what's going to happen?


I don't know, but I said, this guy is, in all likelihood, this guy is going to get the shot, but it's not the shot that can beat UNC Greensboro. It's going to be the offensive rebound. So your first shot defense has to be really good, but you'd better pay.


Attention exactly like that.


You missed the shot and somebody tipped it. In my bosses, I think that, well, this guy's not an idiot, but I got lucky. It could have been a 20 point blowout and nobody would have ever. That never would have been a resonating moment. So there's luck involved in this.


I wanted to circle back around on Mr. Kramer, but before I do that, does this inform the way that you cover this kindness you speak of and the fact that you're putting out history that a family will remember about in the way that you're announcing it? I cannot imagine that Jay Billis, who is taking that kind of kindness to his approach or care with that approach, loves the way sports are covered these days. Everywhere where it's criticism, it's blame, it's scathing, it's hot takes. I can't imagine that the modern media sort of aligns with where you are philosophically modern sports media coverage.


It's a good question. I know it's substantially different because games, there weren't as many games on television back then, and there's so much more data now. 30 years ago, we didn't have all these analytics to tell the average Joe exactly how good this team is defensively. People still might not know why, but they can say, okay, Miami's ranked 110th in defense. They can't guard anybody. They don't know why. So you're trying to help them with the why. But you try to maintain a balance of in basketball, I think football, the football culture has really affected basketball, that you lose a game and everything's dissected. College football team loses a game, are they out of the playoff? They're done. Why? Who's to blame? Basketball. Now teams lose basketball games. There hasn't been an undefeated champion since 1976. Their basketball games. You play one game on Saturday, you got another one on Monday, and you got to make that turnaround. Football has the luxury of a week in between to prepare. Basketball doesn't get that. So you're going to have losses and some things that seem inexplicable, but that's part of the game. So I try to stay away from that hair on fire.


What do we do now?


But how often when you're watching television, are you disgusted? I'm not talking about ESPN. I'm talking about all coverage. I'm talking about social media being pervasive. I'm talking about what seems to me like a real. And the coverage to me feels generally crueler, more dehumanizing and less about celebrating sports, which is what covering your Duke basketball team felt like the celebration of sports to now something that's more poisoned, more contaminated.


I don't know that it's changed all that much, except for the volume of it and the amount of it. So 30, 40 years ago, there was still the same questions being asked. But they were asked the next day in a newspaper, which got folded up and thrown away or lining the bottom of a cage or whatever you want. And there was talk radio, but that floated off into the ether. Now you got the social media. There's way more coverage. So the coverage is what, from the 80s till now? A multiple of ten, maybe more. So you can't get away from the amount of it, even though they're kind of saying the same things. There is some more sensationalism maybe than there used to be.


I guess I'm attaching something to you that you're not doing, though. You're not generally disgusted by how much coarser coverage in general have become. And maybe in college basketball it's not entirely so. I was talking about the more overarching thing of all of sports. I'm talking about argument television. I'm talking about the things that get fed daily to just blame. Instead of celebration, we have to argue about something. And talking about how excellent people are is harder to do.


It's harder to do. And there isn't the celebratory nature of it that there used to be. I'm not disgusted by it as much as I am. This is the way it is, and my disgust is not going to change it. I had a really interesting experience over the last couple of years. I was on the NCAA's competition committee for about almost ten years. Jim Delaney, the commissioner of the Big Ten at the time, asked me to be on it, and it was about rules of play and basically officiating. So first it was called the men's basketball officiating committee, and then it morphed into competition committee because it sounded better. And so I got into the weeds on how the rules should be, how the game should be officiated, things like that. So we made recommendations, the rules committee, all that stuff. I was going to games, and now I'm watching officiating in addition to the game, and I cycled off the committee two years ago and give or take. And when I did, it was kind of like when I stopped being a lawyer. All of a sudden, responsibility for officiating was off my table.


And now I go to games and there's a bad call here. I'm like, so what? I don't care. Two years ago, I was like, that's a bad call. That shouldn't have been called this, that. The other I'm opining on officiating, and the reason was because I felt responsibility for it, and I don't feel responsibility for it anymore. And I don't feel responsibility for anything my colleagues say. And by that I don't mean my colleagues at ESPN, but I mean my colleagues in the media. I don't feel any responsibility for it. I may like it or not like it, but I'm not bothered by it anymore. I was at first.


You seem super responsible. I don't know that about you. I can't know that about you. But you seem like someone who has been largely responsible his entire adult life.


I hope so. I make stupid mistakes like everybody else, but I'm trying not to internalize stuff that I can't do anything about. And I'm getting better at it. That's been a challenge because I would go to say this isn't right. I've railed on unfairness seems to bother.


You a great deal. Injustice, in fact. When you speak out critically, it matters more because you don't do it that often, and you seem to be righteous about your rage when you do.


I hope so. But I hope I'm thoughtful and prepared when I do the NCAA stuff has been a difficult balance because I've felt since I was in college and I was on an NCAA committee in college. So I was talking about this when I was in my early twenty s. So I feel like I understand the system, both the way it works and the legal side of it. So on the athlete compensation side, I've been on this topic for a long time. I don't go to games. I don't go to a game and walk in the building and say how horribly unfair is. I go to enjoy the game and I'm able to separate the two. So when it's time to talk about basketball, I talk about basketball. When it's time to talk about policy, I talk about policy. And I feel like I'm informed and I'm using my good judgment as best I can. I've tried to make it about policy and not people, because not everybody at the NCAA is stroking a hairless cat trying to control the world.


Just many of them.


Yeah, just some. They're by and large, good people are trying to do the right thing, but aren't doing the right thing. And there are a lot of bad rules and all that stuff. And I think you can see it changing.


Now, a couple of questions to finish up with you. I wanted to circle back on Mr. Kramer. Why was he such an inspiration to you? The value of teachers and role models have been pretty important in your life. Why was Mr. Kramer so influential?


He was so different and in such a different realm than I saw myself in. I didn't see myself as a drama type. And I think back then, especially kids in high school, are stereotyped. So you had the drama nerds and the jocks. And where I went to high school, anybody that had any association with the wacky weed or all that, we called them gels. So everybody was in their click. And he got me out of my jock click.


He gave you permission?


A little bit, but I still kept it at a distance. So I did the speech and debate thing, but that was off campus, so my friends didn't see me do it. Just the people I was with that were on the forensics team or whatever. I feel like mean girls and I was on the Mathletes, but that's kind of what it was. We had a thing my senior year. He came to me and said, you're going to be the lead in the school play. And I'm like, no, I'm not. He's like, yes, you are. I'm the director. You're going to be in the lead in play. And it was Lillian Hellman's watch on the rhine. Kind of a heady thing for a bunch of 17 year olds to do. So we had these intense rehearsals for months before the play, and college coaches came to see the play. One of coach K's assistants came to see it. And so we're in rehearsal one day and I missed a queue, like I was probably screwing around backstage or something, not paying attention. And he jumped my ass like no coach to that point had ever done. And he basically said, when you play in a basketball game, you've got somebody guarding you.


You've got some guy as big as you trying to stop you from doing what you're trying to do. He says, nobody stopped you. He said, you have an opponent. He says, nobody stopped you from hitting your queue. Nobody stopped you from being engaged in what you're doing right now. And he said something I've never forgotten. He said, don't be your own opponent. And I didn't get that all the time in class. I got that from him. And he was really supportive, had really high standards. So this play does well, right? I don't remember how long it ran for. Four or five nights. And I won an award for it. I won the bank of America best actor award. I don't know from how far and wide it was, but I got this thing and it kind of embarrassed me, and I didn't feel right about it. So I told him, I don't want this. I don't want to accept this, because so many of the other kids that they'd spent their whole lives doing that, that's what they wanted to be. And this basketball player just jumps in there, and now all of a sudden.


And maybe I was getting the award because people knew who I was from basketball, so I told him I wasn't going to take it, right? So he says, you will accept this award, and you will accept it with appropriate pride, because I told him, I'm not an actor. And he says, you're correct. You're not an actor. You're an award winning actor. That was pretty cool.


Yeah. He sort of taught you how to respect what you were doing, right?




Can you tell me where those ballroom trophies are now? Where the bank of America actor of the year is? Like, where are these trophies now? Do you know?


I still have the bank of America thing, but it was a certificate, so it's digitized. So I have a digital photo of it, all my trophies. My brother was a really talented athlete. When he was younger, he's seven years older than me. So I grew up in a room that had all of his trophies in it, which made me go, okay, I want to have that many. So when I started winning, he had well over 100, and I think I got even with him by the time I was a senior in high school. So I had gotten just as many. And it used to really piss me off. Like, I had my little league stuff when I was a kid, and one of my mom's friends would walk by and they would marvel at my brother's side of the room, and then my side is know nothing. So I did that. But my mom, when Wendy and I moved to Charlote, my mom boxed all that crap up, and she sent it to me. And so it was boxes and boxes and boxes, these old trophies. Like, what am I doing with that crap? So we just kind of tossed them, and there was nothing we could do with it.


We were young.


All of your childhood prides are gone. All of them.


But even if I had them now.


Family heirlooms, the ballroom dancing trophies, I.


Probably should have saved one of those. I think I saved, like, one or two of them that were good looking trophies, but other than that, I got rid of all that stuff, and maybe I shouldn't have. I should have just taken a picture of all of them together, but that would have been weird.


What can you tell me about what you have done with your children that is either the same or different than what your parents did as it relates specifically to them now, having what sounds like friendships with you, where they call you on your birthday cake, old fat bald guy, or whatever it is that they do to make sure that, you know that Jay Billis isn't quite as up here as Jay Billis might be perceived as on television.


We had fun. So we're very irreverent. Like, I've got an irreverent sense of humor. I'm more likely to make fun of the people I'm closest with. We make fun of each other. If we're not making fun of you, you just join the group, and we don't know, well, you enough to make fun of you. There's nothing sacred in our family. If you make a mistake, it's going to be fodder for fun down the road. So my kids have really good senses of humor, and they're really good at giving it back. Like my wife and my daughter, when I'm doing a game, their favorite thing is to get on Twitter and look at the mean tweets about me, and they love it. And they'll even text me during a game going, look at this one, dad. Like, this guy's. And I'm like, I'm busy.


So the meanest things they can find on the Internet, they love it.


Yeah, they love that stuff. Because we don't take ourselves too seriously. So if anything happens, we love that stuff. But they're really support. Like, my daughter and my son are really supportive of one another. And it's not like they talk every day, but they're friends. In addition to brother sister. I think my wife and daughter would probably say they're closer. And then they would say, well, they tell me you and Anthony are closer. And I don't know why it shakes out that way or why people feel that way, but our daughter is very forthcoming. She tells us kind of every detail. Not every detail, but things that are going on with her. There's meat on the bone. My son's still a little more. How are you doing? Good.




How about you? But you get into it with him, and then he'll tell you most everything.


But never more united than they are in mocking dad.


Yeah, everybody's united there. It's three against one all the time.


You're held in the lowest esteem in your family by a lot.


Yeah. And my flaws are pointed out constantly. I've got a lot of flaws, but one of the worst ones is when I talk on the telephone. My cell phone. I get louder than when I talk normally, and they go, dad, there's a microphone in that phone. You don't have to yell into the phone. And I do it all the time. I can't stop it. And I don't know. I should be smarter than that, but I've never figured it out. It's like I feel like I'm talking into a soup can with a string attached to it, and I got to talk louder so the string vibrates. It's so stupid. And I've got a lot of those things where they call me out all.


The time, but the birthday greetings have what? Old, bald, fat fuck?


Yeah. So my birthday is December 24, so most of my birthday stuff is just the family, which is great. And my favorite birthday cake is just the grocery store birthday cake. We got a place called Harris Teeter, and I would rather have it from there than have some high know, kind of fancy cake. So my wife brings home one of those cakes. Uh, I can't remember what I was doing, but she also bought these kind of candy letters to write happy birthday, dad or, happy birthday Jay. Or whatever. And as soon as the kids saw that, they were both like, oh, we can do better than happy birthday. So they laid all these things out and it came up with happy birthday, you fat fuck. It said fuck. And then they had Y-O-O. And that was the end of it. That's the favorite cake I've ever gotten because all I did was laugh. And then my son got me a bottle of wine, a really nice bottle of wine. But he had the wine bottle done up. I don't know where he got it, but the name of the wine was bald fuck. And apparently the company he had it done by actually called him and said, are you sure this is what you want?


He goes, yes, that's it.


That sounds like a cool relationship to have in adulthood with your kids, though, where you're friends and you've lived an entire life of love and wisdom, where you can just appreciate them most for who they.


Oh, yeah. Like, and we're really proud of them, but they're know, whatever they're going through and doing, hopefully we're supportive of them. I think we are. Wendy definitely is, but hopefully we're there all the time if they need know.


Wendy definitely.


She definitely. But whatever their path is, whatever their dream is, we want them to go get know. Go do whatever you want to. Don't. I'm not living your life. You are. So whatever you want to do, you don't have to look behind you and wonder if we. When, you know, it's funny, like, Wendy and I have talked about this when we kind of drop them off at school. I think I wrote a letter to my daughter and told her a couple things, but told her, your safety is now your. Like, it's always been ours. We're still there to help. But I can't make your safety decisions for you. If you decide something while you're at school, that's on you. You're going to have to make those decisions for yourself. But we've always felt like, okay, they're adults now and their decisions are theirs. We can help. So if they ever need help or guidance, whatever, we'll tell them what we think. But it's your decision. And if they were to make a decision we didn't agree with, we may tell them what we think. I don't think we would hold back there, but Wendy and I have talked about this.


My perspective is if we have a problem with the decision they make, we're the ones that raised them. So then we need to look, did. How did they make that decision? We gave them, the foundation.


There wasn't that freedom with your parents, though, right? It wasn't. You made it encourage, but you were forced into certain things.


Well, when I was a kid, yeah, they were forced into stuff, too. There were certain things they didn't have any choice in when they were growing up, but, yeah, I think I felt more of an obligation. I can't speak to how obligated my kids feel to what we think. I don't know that. I don't believe they think that we're kind of trying to pull strings on them. I hope they don't. I felt a little bit of obligation to do what my parents felt was the right thing. I don't think I would have gone to law school had they not been so adamant that I go. I'm really glad that I did. I would have regretted it, knowing what I know now if I didn't follow sort of that obligation. But it was different. At least it felt capable. I think they allowed me to make my own decisions, but they pulled more strings than we pulled.


You are awed by the mother. Wendy is, yes.


Oh, yeah. I couldn't have imagined that. Every decision she made, she was engaged in everything, and they would not have had the opportunities they had if I were in charge. She was on top of everything and not in a negative way, in a positive way. She wanted to know, what does this take? What is it going to take to get it? She was so dialed into the college thing, and I would not want to be a kid right now. The college decision is awful for these young people. Awful. I would not want to deal with that. But she helped them navigate it. She directed them in the right places and made sure that they had what they needed to be, where they wanted to be. But at the same time, we were trying to let them know that, do this, try to go where you want, but don't worry about this. I think I even showed my son at one point. These are where the ceos of some of the top companies went to college. Like, show me the pattern. It doesn't matter. Chase after what you want, but if it falls short or this place doesn't want you or whatever, who cares?


It's not that big of a deal. And so my role was to kind of say, not that big of a deal. Don't worry about it. Everything's going to be fine.


But your life wasn't like that. Your childhood had pressures in it, right? You had to strive, succeed. There has to be something inside you that makes you experience law stress as not law. Stress when eight years of ambition and getting ahead is stressful and to only see it in retrospect suggests that you weren't very aware while you were doing it.


I definitely wasn't aware. So my life was way easier than my kids lives when it came to those kind of things. Like, I got good at basketball. By the time I was a sophomore in high school, I knew I was going to go to college on a scholarship, so I wasn't pining to go somewhere. I was being begged to come play at this school or that school. So I felt like I get to choose. That was not the experience of my kids. They felt like, well, I need to hustle to get here, I need to do this to get there. I never felt that. And it was what a privilege for me to have that in my back pocket. And my mom wanted me to go to Stanford, and I think part of it was she just wanted to have a kid that went to Stanford. Growing up in California, Stanford was like this unattainable thing, and I didn't want to go to know. Back then, Stanford wasn't very good in basketball. I wanted no part of that. But she made me visit there. I visited Stanford. I had no interest in going there. And then my daughter applied to Stanford.


I got admitted to Stanford. I wasn't the student my daughter was. And then Stanford's gotten even harder to get into, and she's like ten times the student I was. And she got waitlisted at Stanford. And I'm looking at that going, I mean, my life was a magic carpet ride going to college. My kids, they had it harder, and they have it harder with social media. They didn't have as much like they didn't have Instagram or all that when they were coming out of high school. But I didn't have to navigate any of that crap. I didn't realize how good it was back then relative to what the kids. There's way more stress now on a kid than there was when we were kids, in my view.


I appreciate your time. I appreciate that you spent so much time with us. And I also, if I haven't said it enough, deep admiration for what a shining light you are in how thorough you are, and how long you have been a very strong voice on behalf of a sport that is both advocacy and eloquence. So thank you for spending.


You're way too kind, and I feel the same way about you. You've been the standard for me as to how to handle a career, and I've been a big fan of yours.


Oh, thank you. I did not know that.


Of course you knew that. How would I on your show?


Well, you do keep coming on your show. I didn't realize on the show. I didn't realize that was the highest compliment that the highest compliment you give is return visit.


No, it's not. I don't want to make it sound like that, but I enjoy the authenticity of your show and always had, from the time you're on ESPN, it's not only entertaining, it's informative. And you can tell, like, when I go on your show, when I go on other shows, I know what's coming. You're going to be asked about this, asked about that, same as anything else. For me, it was like you and Tony Kornheiser were the shows that I would go on, and I didn't know what was going to happen. And it was like I enjoyed going on because it was going to be fun for me and I was going to get to experience you. And same thing with Tony. Maybe it's the fact that you guys are real journalists. Like now, people who get on tv get to call themselves journalists. You guys are journalists. You hoofed it back in the day where you had to go in anonymity and write something. And whenever I see on 30 for 30, like on the University of Miami, you hear all this stuff and then you get your perspective. You go, that's what happened.


That nailed it. And I always remember you saying about the NCAA, but they're mall cops. And I was like, God, I wish I had said that. He's right. That was perfect, Jay.


It was good seeing you.


Great seeing you.


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