Behind The Scenes With 'Basketball Playbook'

Around lunchtime on Monday, the Pac-12 Networks were taping a segment for Basketball Playbook in which host Mike Yam and analyst Don McLean discussed the fortunes of Arizona State. Part of the segment included taped sound from Arizona State coach Herb Sendek – sound that didn’t exist a couple hours earlier.
That’s because about 90 minutes before taping that segment, Yam taped an interview with Sendek, with Yam in the Pac-12 Networks studios in San Francisco and Sendek at the athletic department at Arizona State. The 6-7 minute interview was quickly parsed down to three minutes by the show’s crew, and was ready in time for Yam and McLean to incorporate it into the segment on the Sun Devils.
That’s one of many things going on throughout the day on Mondays at the Pac-12 Headquarters. The crew arrives early in the morning to produce Playbook, which must be completed by early evening to air at 9 p.m. that night.
The crew produces 19 segments, some of which are shown to all of the networks’ audiences and some appear only on one of the six regional networks across the conference. Others are designated for digital production to be aired on Viewers see some common content and some that is specific only to their region of the conference. For example, an interview with Cal coach Mike Montgomery might be shown in its entirety to the Pac-12 Bay Area audience, while the rest of the conference’s markets see just a snippet.
Each team also has its past week recapped by the on-air talent, a player is highlighted for his performance and there is a look ahead to the week to come as well.
“There are so many moving pieces,” said Playbook producer, Bob Schmelzle. “I’ve never had a show in my 20 years doing this where you have so many moving parts. You have all the different segments. You have to be very flexible.”
The behind-the-scenes work for the show begins on Sunday and it’s a full sprint on Monday. Basketball Playbook has to be put together much faster than its football counterpart in the fall because there are games on Sunday and the show airs Monday. For football, games were completed by Saturday night and the show aired on Tuesdays.
“Football, you are running a marathon,” Schmelzle said. “Basketball, you sprint here for three minutes, you go there for three minutes. Basketball is every night. For football, you had a full day to prep for it. Here, we’re turning it around in two hours.”
The taping begins with Yam’s interviews with the coaches in the mornings. One of the reasons for that is McLean and fellow analyst Ernie Kent are typically flying in from another city for the show, and may have just called a game the night before. McLean also is the radio analyst for UCLA games, as well as the Los Angeles Clippers television analyst.
On Basketball Playbook, McLean does the segments on the Pac-12 South teams while Kent handles the North.
“There are so many different segments that we do,” Yam said. “Trying to come up with different angles that are not repetitive is a challenge, but a good challenge to have. And outside of the volume, sometimes we’re taping out of order so it’s hard to know what you’ve already talked about on the show and what you’re going to talk about on the show. A lot of times, I like to reference something Don or Ernie said, but I can’t always say it because you just don’t know if he’s said it yet. On the fly, that can be one of the bigger challenges.”
Like he did with Rick Neuheisel and Ronnie Lott with football, Yam has developed a nice chemistry with Kent and McLean. Yam, who is 5-8, said the analysts joke about his height and not being able to dunk or even touch the bottom of the net. So over the holiday break, Yam took a picture of him dunking on his nephew’s mini-basketball hoop and sent it to Kent and McLean.
“I had my tongue hanging out like Michael Jordan,” Yam said. “It’s great to be at a place where everyone gets along. There is a bond that forms between everyone. It’s helpful when things get a little crazy and Don or Ernie will just sort of make fun of me and everyone on the crew and on the set laughs. It’s mind-boggling how great it is to work with everyone here and the chemistry that has evolved between us.”
Below are some images during a day producing the show:
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