Home > Q&A Series > An Exclusive Interview with Mark Adams – ESPN College Basketball Analyst

An Exclusive Interview with Mark Adams – ESPN College Basketball Analyst

Mark Adams

Wichita State basketball is essentially here now. If you’ve been watching the Shocker games on TV, there’s one voice you may be familiar with; that voice belongs to Mark Adams.

Some people call him the “Voice of the Mid-Majors”. He is the guy whose excitement has been sticking out during his commentary in this golden era of the Shockers basketball.

Having broadcast college basketball games for twenty years, Mark Adams started off his career coaching basketball. In those 17 years, Adams spent time as the head coach at Central Connecticut State, Rocky Mountains College and Western Oregon State University, an assistant head coach at Idaho State as well as an assistant coach at Washington State University. He built a reputation for rebuilding teams. In three teams he took over, those teams were a combined 28-54 (.341). In his final season with those three teams, the combined records were 59-32 (.648).

As a college basketball analyst with the American Sports Network and ESPN, Adams has called some of the most significant games in college basketball including Wichita State’s march to an undefeated season and Gonzaga’s first #1 national ranking in 2013. He has also done in studio appearances and NBA Summer League broadcast.

This season you’ll be hearing him call games with Mitch Holtus.

It is my pleasure to have Mark Adams as our latest guest on Wichita By E.B. With the college basketball season officially kicking off this week, I would like to thank Mark for taking the time from all his season prep work to be a guest with us.

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Eddy: First of all Mark, let me say it’s an honor to have you be a part of this small time operation of a blog. You have been a college basketball analyst with ESPN since 1999. After you left coaching, at what point did you decide that’s what you wanted to do with your career? Do you miss coaching?

Mark Adams: When I was fired in 1996 I decided it was time to focus on rebuilding my life as a father as I had focused on rebuilding college basketball programs. It was an easy decision and I committed myself to building a new life not as a basketball coach but to use my talents in another way. I never looked back and moved to Springboro, OH to pursue a business career.

Mark Adams and some legends
you may recognize

I spent an entire year away from the game and concentrated on being a great sales professional for a manufacturing company in Ohio. I was the top salesman for 6 years. During that time in summer 1997, Oliver Purnell was the head coach at Dayton and he knew I lived very close by. Because of his recommendation out of the blue I was offered the opportunity to host a local post game call-in show for the Dayton Flyers. That opportunity and the coaches, players and fans at UD changed my life. The show was a huge hit in the local market and suddenly I started broadcasting Dayton games on local TV. Then the A-10 Network saw my work and I joined that network. From their ESPN saw my work and the rest is history.

During this entire time my goal was to broadcast full time. It took me 18 years before that dream was realized in 2014 when American Sports Network made me their Lead National College Basketball Analyst and ESPN and I have continued our relationship as well. It took a long time but I never gave up or lost faith. Many people think it happens overnight. Maybe it does for others but I’m a grinder and I am persistent, but not patient. I knew I could do it but without the unwavering support of my wife and family I would have never made it. It was and is an Adams Team effort!

Eddy: It’s great to already see your excitement shining through in this Q&A. That’s what so many fans have already come to expect from you. As our program continued to get better and better, Wichita State’s exposure on ESPN has grown significantly. That meant more time for you in good ol’ Wichita, a city I hold near and dear to my heart. What has your experiences been like in Charles Koch Arena?

Mark: I LOVE THE ROUNDHOUSE!!! Koch Arena and UD Arena are my two favorite venues in college basketball. Why? It’s simple, the fans. I feel at home at both arenas and the fans embrace me and I am humbled by their embrace. I know that not every fan likes me for one reason or another but when I am in Wichita I’ve never heard a cross word or felt unwelcome. The fans are knowledgeable, passionate and loyal. The students are very special. I’ve visited Marshallville when it’s 0 degrees and they make me feel like a member of their family. It is a special place and it has become a home away from home for me. I want to personally thank the fans for how I have been treated all these years! 

Eddy: That’s very heart warming to hear. I have been to college basketball arenas and professional sports stadiums all around the country and one thing I always pay attention to is the respect level of which ever team or school’s fan base I’m visiting. Looking ahead to the season, it’s no surprise this is a new era for the men’s basketball team. We have some nice returning pieces along with some athletic transfers and freshmen; lots of potential. What is your outlook for the team this year? How far can they go?

Mark: This team is young and will need time. Wichita State has no recruited scholarship seniors as they embark on an ambitious schedule. The Shockers will travel to Oklahoma City to play the Oklahoma Sooners. The Battle 4 Atlantis will test this young team. WSU also plays in Wichita versus Oklahoma State at Intrust Bank Arena. Shaquille Morris, Zach Brown, Rauno Nurger, and Rashard Kelly are the only true seasoned veterans as this junior class will need to fill a leadership void. Morris can be a load down low and his maturity and improvement are huge keys for the Shockers to remain relevant on the national scene.

Six newcomers dot this roster along with a bunch of one year guys and while there is talent, it is untested at crunch time talent.

Markis McDuffie underwent right knee surgery in late August but is back. McDuffie was the 2015-16 MVC Freshman of the Year averaging 7.4PPG and 3.3RPG and became a rising defensive star. (Landry) Shamet had a nice run in Canada when the Shockers went 3-1 on a Great Wheat North Tour. He can play, trust me and just might be the most talented Marshall recruit ever in Wichita. (Conner) Frankamp went through a season of adjustment last season. The sharp shooter from Wichita will be counted on heavily as the apprenticeship is now over and he needs to at least partially fill the void left by Fred (VanVleet) and Ron (Baker).

Eddy: Just how far can they go this season?

Ron Baker and Mark Adams in the Roundhouse

Mark: How newcomers and veterans mix and who takes on the leadership roles for this new addition will determine how good these Shockers will become. Early, I expect a team full of guys who need to think versus just play and react. There will probably be early season bumps in the road but in the end I expect another championship level team in Wichita even without Ron and Fred.

Eddy: Is there one player you feel that needs to really step up this season and take the leadership role left behind by Ron and Fred?

Mark: The obvious choice would be a guard but I think Shaq Morris is the biggest key. When he plays big tough and strong the Shockers truly play angry.

Eddy: It just wasn’t Wichita State this year that went through some makeovers. This is a year where the Valley lost other big names like Egidijus Mockevicus, D.J. Balentine, Anthony Beane, and Wes Washpun. What two teams in the Valley pose the biggest threat to the Shockers this year?

Mark: Illinois State Senior Paris Lee is a tough defender and heady leader who could put the Redbirds in position to win an MVC title. Paris averaged 11.1PPG and 3.7APG last season. If Lee can add a more consistent scoring rhythm to his game he could be the next Player of the Year in The Valley. MiKyle McIntosh has been on the verge of stardom averaging 10.9PPG and 4.8RPG last season as a sophomore. (Deontae) Hawkins had similar numbers, 10.3PPG and led the team with 5.8RPG. I love these guys and their talent and for Illinois State to win this thing these two have to step up even more especially with the graduation loss of last season’s leading scorer, DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell (14.1PPG). Defensive dynamo Tony Wills also returns but off court issues have haunted this program in the past and even now. We’ll see..

Eddy: And the other?

Mark: Jeremy Morgan for Northern Iowa is a Swiss army knife of basketball fundamentals (11.3PPG, 5.3RPG and 2.3APG) in a well-schooled, well-planned, and well-coached system. Morgan scored the most points ever for a UNI player in an NCAA Tournament game with 36 points vs. Texas A&M. Morgan is one of those guys I wish I would have coached myself. He works hard, never talks, always delivers and is a flat out winner. Morgan is the best returning defender in The Valley. He is battle tested. Wyatt Lohaus is now a 6-2 junior who is smart and ready to step up. Lohaus could become a quiet and calming influence with solid guard play. I’m hearing rumblings about a freshman named, Juwan McCloud. McCloud is a 5-11 point guard who could step right into the starting lineup. Bennett Koch and last season’s sixth man along with Klint Carlson make UNI a potential championship level team. Koch was named to the MVC’s Most Improved Team last season and Carlson made the MVC’s All-Bench Team.

Mark Adams at GameDay

(Coach Ben) Jacobson always finds ways to mix and match his way to the NCAA tournament. Jacobson has guided UNI to four NCAA Tournaments and has posted a record of 4-4 in those appearances. Jacobson ranks second in MVC history with four tournament titles. Jake (Jacobson) is a perfect 4-0 in MVC title games. You can’t count him or the Panthers out.

Eddy: Having been to St. Louis countless of times, I don’t count anything out when it comes to the MVC Tournament.

Taking things back to Wichita State, you’ve called so many Shockers games in your career. Is there any one favorite moment at Charles Koch Arena that sticks out for you?

Mark: 31-0 game was so special. Not many people know this but I was almost not even there. There was talk that Dick Vitale would take my place for that one. I will never forget when my boss called me and said, “Mark we want you on this historic game. You earned it!” I cried.

#10 UNI vs #11 Wichita State was a blast as Game Day came to town and my wife Judy and my son Robby joined me on the trip. It was really a special time for me and my family.

Fred and Ron’s last home game was very special. Rich Hollenberg warned me three weeks in advance that I was not allowed to cry. BTW, I cry at nearly every senior day celebration even for guys I don’t know! I can be a little emotional. I didn’t cry until the team took the championship picture and Gregg Marshall invited my son, Robby to be in the picture. Gregg knows first hand my love for The Valley and someday I had hoped to win a Valley Championship myself. I never won one but my son was in that picture. I lost it! That was very kind of Gregg! Thank you!!!

Eddy: That doesn’t surprise me about Coach Marshall. Having known Marshall for quite some time now, he’s great with kids. My niece just adores him.

Now, I asked for one moment and you’ve given me three. Is that all?

New Year’s Eve with Fred VanVleet

Mark: New Year’s Eve when I dressed up like Lloyd Christmas. So it’s 20 minutes before game time and my play by play partner Rich Hollenberg and I are getting dressed. I told him we should take a selfie in the locker room. As I stretched out my hand to take the picture my hand was shaking so bad I couldn’t take the picture. I was scared to death! Rich took the picture. As we entered the tunnel I could hear the crowd and I thought this was my last broadcast EVER! I was scared to death until I turned to Rich and shouted, “Let’s own this blanking place!” As I came on court in my orange tuxedo the crowd first kind of hushed in shock but then the students went nuts. Thank God for those students!

Eddy: I was actually quite jealous of the Lloyd Christmas suit. It’s one of my bucket list items to do one year, buying the Lloyd or even Harry suit from Dumb and Dumber.

Eddy: Stepping outside of Wichita State, is there any one team in college basketball that could really surprise fans? For instance, someone currently not ranked in the Top 10.

Mark: UCONN- Kevin Ollie has leading scorer Rodney Purvis coming back along with a defensive stopper and ever improving Amida Brimah. Jalen Adams has a valuable year under his belt and a top-10 recruiting class makes these Huskies not only AAC contenders but also NCAA contenders.

St Mary’s- A top 5 nationally defensive team (60.9PPG Allowed) returns their top 8 scorers led by Emmett Naar (14.0PPG, 6.4APG).

Dayton- Josh Cunningham is a Bradley transfer who will rock the Dayton Decibel Dungeon. I loved his talent level at Bradley, now he’s older and even better after a redshirt year. Archie Miller also returns Charles Cook who is an elite scoring talent who creates mismatches. Watch these Flyers!

Cincinnati- Mick Cronin likes this team led by All-AAC Troy Caupain (13.0PPG) and Gary Clark (10.4PPG). The Bearcats also welcome NC State transfer Kyle Washington and talented freshman Jarron Cumberland. UC is loaded with athletic and rangy talent. The key question, can Cincinnati score enough to beat elite teams? They have the talent, turn it loose.

Rhode Island- Danny Hurley only needs these Rams to stay healthy to make a national statement. EC Matthews, is a dynamic talent now back after an injury riddled 2016-17. EC could play anywhere and his talent makes Hurley’s Rams special.

Middle Tennessee State- The #15 seed Blue Raiders beat #2 Michigan State in the NCAA tournament and Kermit Davis returns a strong cast including sharp shooter Giddy Potts (50.6% 3PT). MTSU plays at Ole Miss and will take on Vandy in Murfreesboro. Expect an upset or two.

Gonzaga- Przemek Karnowski is one huge dude with a high ceiling. Injured after 5 games last season but the Zags have a proven BIG TIME BIG AGAIN!!! Nigel Williams-Goss, is a University of Washington transfer who averaged 15.6PPG and assisted on 33% of the Huskies Pac-12 baskets. He is now eligible.

VCU- Will Wade has the luxury of a Mo Allie-Cox as a cornerstone to build around this season. JeQuan Lewis and Justin Tillman also return to give Wade an athletic trio plus freshman guard, De’Riante Jenkins ranked #59 by ESPN. The Rams have reloaded again.

UT Arlington- Scott Cross is putting the Mavs on the map and this season put a star on Arlington. Kevin Hervey is a stud. Before his knee injury last season, I pegged UT Arlington as a Cinderella. I love his game! HIGH MAJOR TALENT AND THEN SOME!

Eddy: Mark, I’m a big foodie in Wichita and eat out at as many restaurants as possible. It’s something I ask anybody who participates in a Q&A here. In your visits to Wichita, are there any restaurants that stick out for you?

Mark: This one is easy: Doo Dah Diner and Public

Eddy: Good choices for sure. Anything else you’d like to add?

Mark: I just want to thank Eric (Sexton), Darron (Boatright), Gregg (Marshall), all the coaches, players and fans in Wichita. I am blessed to call many of you friends. I have friends across The Valley and it is such a privilege to do what I do. Commissioner (Doug) Elgin, Jack Watkins, Mike Kern and all the coaches and players around the Valley are first class. I appreciate the Valley’s history and I am honored to be a small voice recalling that history and watching new history being made. I am the luckiest guy on the planet. I never mail it in, I never take short cuts, I always announce ANGRY! THANKS FOR WATCHING!!!

Eddy: Thanks again Mark. I don’t need to tell you this but don’t change how you do things. Your style is what got you to this area in the first place. For someone on the National level to take their time for a something like this is greatly appreciated.

We will all see you soon!

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