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NBA columnist discusses sports comm industry

By Emily Houston
On October 30, 2012

  • Beheading West. Vinnie Pagano

Legendary NBA columnist and television analyst Peter Vecsey visited Marist to speak with students about the industry of sports communications, his experiences and lessons he has learned along the way. The lecture was sponsored by the Sports Communication department and held on Wednesday, Oct. 24. 

Vecsey covered the NBA for 36 years, and his presentation started with an overview of his many accomplishments. He is a part of the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame; in 1976 he became the first ever NBA columnist; and in 2009, he was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame and was awarded the Curt Gowdy Media Award, which is given to a basketball journalist or broadcaster who shows exceptionalism in the field. 

Vecsey started by addressing Dr. Keith Strudler, saying how he enjoys coming out and talking to schools. Referring to how he himself did not graduate from college, Vecsey then said, "I'm probably this school's worst nightmare to come up here and talk."

The crowd let out a laugh as Vecsey moved on and began discussing his career in sports communication. In 1960, as a junior in high school, Vecsey took a full-time job at the New York Daily Newspaper, one of only eight newspapers in New York at the time.

While his introduction to basketball came when he made the freshman team at Archbishop Molloy High School, Vecsey first started writing while in the Merchant Marine Corps. He would write letters and others told him that he could write pretty well.     

As he tried to break into the industry, Vecsey said, "I truly believe life is luck, but you make the luck."

He then emphasized how important connections and contacts are to get into the sports media industry. 

"Nobody helped me. Nobody but my father," Vecsey said. "I've always tried to go the other way and help kids because nobody helped me but my father."

Freshman Cassie Carroll said her favorite part of the speech was "Mr. Vecey's encouragement for all of us to take initiative and do everything we can to get ahead in our careers."

Vecsey wrote three columns a week for 36 years for the New York Post and said you "learn to deal with the deadlines" and it "makes you good at what you do."

Even though many big papers followed in Vecey's footsteps by starting sports columns, Vecsey never saw basketball as a breakout industry.  

"[I] never thought [basketball] was the next big sport," Vecsey said. "It was my sport."

While Vecsey's dad told him not to lock in on one sport, Vecsey has a different view.  

"[I] truly believe you have to be a specialist," he said. "You can't know everything [about every sport.]"

He emphasized how it is better to dedicate oneself to one sport than speculate about many. Vecsey then said that his two goals were to educate and enlighten people through his work.  

"Rumors are for people who don't know what's going on," Vecsey said. "You'll never see me using rumors."  

Later in his career, Vecsey transitioned into his job as a NBA television analyst.  

"[I] was asked to audition for NBA insider because I was breaking so many stories," he explained. "NBC was adamant about not having me. Terry O'Neil convinced NBC to hire me."

While similar in content, a newspaper and a broadcasting job differ in execution. Vecsey said he became good at it by "making mistakes."  

Given the nickname "The Viper," Vecsey is known for his sometimes brutal, yet honest style of reporting.   

"I don't like not being liked, but you have got to do your job," he said. "It doesn't matter if it's Michael Jordan, or the fifteenth man on the team, if I thought I was being truthful, I was going to do it. We have both got to do our jobs."

Vecsey has worked with many basketball stars over the years, and said he has always rooted for "guys that are humble," such as Earl Monroe, Tiny Archibald and his personal favorite, Larry Bird.  

"[You] never knew they were superstars or played in the NBA," Vecsey said.  

Being a part of the business for multiple decades, Vecsey said the best eras were the '80s and '90s because of the ease of access. He also reminisced on how in 1986, the two weeks he spent traveling with the Celtics were the best two weeks of his career.     

It is harder to be a journalist nowadays, said Vecsey, because, "[The access] is so much more limited" and it is "harder to trust agents," but one way it is easier is that you "just have to get online."

"Take any job you can to get into the field," he advised. "It's tough out there."

Vecsey advised students aspiring to be a part of the sports communications field to know the history of sport.

"To have an appreciation of today, you need to know where it started."

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