John Walters on the New Era of Cyclone Hoops

CN had the chance to sit down and chat with ‘Voice of the Cyclones' John Walters to get a glimpse into his mind going into the new era of Cyclone basketball. This is Walters' fourth year broadcasting Iowa State Cyclone athletics and we discussed everything from what he expects out of this year's team to his favorite cities in the Big 12.

Blum: How has Coach McDermott been to work with early on?

 

Walters: He's been great to work with so far. He's a real likable guy and he's had a real connection with the fans already. I think it's going to be a good working relationship with the media too. He's been around the state for a longtime and understands how the media works. He can probably tell the difference between somebody who's out to get him and somebody who isn't. I really look forward to working with him. He's really professional in the way he goes about his business, his whole staff is that way; very organized, very professional and friendly. He's going to be a pleasure to work with.

 

 

What was it like on the summer circuit with McDermott?

 

Walters: The summer outings were great. He was a big hit on them. He has a good sense of humor-- a dry sense of humor, which we've become used to at Iowa State with Larry (Eustachy).  It is a different sense of humor, there's not another Larry anywhere in the world. But he definitely connects with the fans and you can see that right away. The thing is, he knows a lot of these people already. If we are in northeast Iowa or southeast Iowa, he's met these people already and knows so many people in the state. It's just an automatic for him to fit right in.

 

Blum: What should fans expect this year and in the rest of the McDermott era?

 

Walters: The biggest thing is to not go into the season necessarily trying to pin how many wins and losses there are going to be. Everybody is going to speculate and guess and that's fine, but I think the thing that the fans want to see, and I know the thing I want to see, is a team that plays hard every night, hustles, plays together unselfishly, and gets better as the year goes on. If you see those things it's going to be a real satisfactory year regardless of the record. People are going to see a lot different basketball team in March than they will in November.

 

I think it's going to take a little time, people have to give him some time and space to implement the things he wants to do. Because when you have a complicated offensive system-- he uses a lot of plays and a lot of sets that are designed to get the ball in the hands of the player that can have success with it. That's great and that's what you want, but it doesn't happen overnight. The expectation should just be to be proud of the team, to end the season saying, "Wow, I'm really proud the way that team played. That's a team I can be happy to call Iowa State."

 

Blum: Can Iowa State get back to the position they were in the beginning of the decade?

 

Walters: I think so. I definitely think so. He's in this thing for the long haul. And the most exciting thing for me is if he does have that kind of success, and if Jamie Pollard takes care of him and I know he will, I don't see Greg looking for greener pastures. For him this is a green pasture. This is where he wants to be, where he wants to build a great program and continue a great program. I think it can get back to that level. I think they can get to that level and sustain at that level where Iowa State is one of the top two or three in the Big 12 every year.

 

Blum: Do you have a favorite sport to broadcast—basketball or football?

 

Walters: I love them both. There's nothing that compares to gameday for college football, nothing that compares to a Saturday on a campus with a college football game. That is just unbelievable. But, the atmosphere inside Hilton is incredibly special too. And when you consider the changes that have been made with the new scoreboard, the light ring and the seats, people are going to be excited to be in the building. And if they see an exciting brand of basketball on top of it, season ticket sales are going well, I'm real excited about basketball. It's a special thing at Iowa State and I think it's the start of a special era.

 

Blum: What's it like being courtside every game to experience the great atmosphere?

 

Walters: I always get a chill down my spine when the place goes nuts and the teams are introduced. That goes back to when Johnny Orr was here and he'd come out pumping the fist and the place would go bananas. It's just a special building for basketball. The noise is just incredible. Being right there on the floor, you feel like you are right in among it. It's a great feeling. There is not many things that can compare to broadcasting a game right next to the Iowa State bench in Hilton Coliseum.

 

Blum: What did you see from watching the new guys in the summer?

 

Walters: I saw some good players. I think these guys are going to be better than people think. You and I both liked Michael Taylor a lot. He can guard, create off the dribble, shoot it. He's a real hard-nosed, determined player. I can't wait to see him play; fans are going to love him. Corey McIntosh is going to be a creator—quick off the dribble. Our guards are going to be the smallest in the Big 12 in terms of weight and size, but they are going to be fun guards to watch. I didn't see Wesley Johnson, but from everything I heard he's extremely athletic. With him and Rahshon Clark you have the potential for two tremendously athletic defenders, guys that can really impact a game. Cory Johnson plays really hard, hustles all the time. He is every bit as comfortable facing the basket as with his back to the basket. I think he is going to be a fan favorite for four years.

 

Blum: What preparations do you make going into the season and basketball games?

 

Walters: Going into the season I try to make it to practice a couple times at least. You can learn a lot from a coaching staff and a team from watching them practice. Once the games start and you're into the routine, most of the preparation isn't about your own team as much, you are in tune with that from seeing it on an everyday basis. Your preparation is mainly on an opponent and it's a matter of getting as many games taped as I can. That's my favorite way to get ready for a team and get familiar with their personnel. The other part is researching notes and media guides to put together a chart of their players. That way I have little notes about them and it may not even be a statistic, it may be why they chose this school over another one, or what they did in high school. And there are stats on there to so I can refer to them as the game is going on. It's pretty simple. You get into a routine and it feels like part of the week.

 

Blum: Going into your fourth year do you feel like you are getting more comfortable?

 

Walters: It's my senior year (laughs). I'm definitely feeling more comfortable. It was such a tough transition because everybody loved Pete so much, myself included, and I still think about him every single day. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about him. I miss him and wish he was still here. I always dreamed of doing something like this but I sure didn't like the circumstances that it happened under. But I definitely am starting to feel more comfortable and a lot of that is because of Eric Heft. He's great to work with, has a great sense of humor, understands the game inside and out, and he's just a lot of fun to be around. He's made me more comfortable too and that's a big part of it.

 

Blum: What is the greatest moment you've broadcasted and best atmosphere?

Walters: Maybe the greatest moment, the most fun call for me was Curtis Stinson making the game-winner in Lawrence in 2005. It was a last second game-winner, you always dream of those calls. But especially in a place like Allen Fieldhouse and to win in that fashion was really neat. There are some football ones that stick out, but as far as basketball, that one I remember the best.   

 

The most electric I've heard Hilton during the times I've been doing the games? Certainly when they beat Iowa with the John Neal shots-- that one ranks right up there. But those NIT games with those sell-out crowds just going nuts when they were playing Georgia and Marquette were up there as well. Those were great crowds and that team was playing at a really high-level and they were suffocating teams. It was a lot of fun to watch that team in those circumstances and I thought the crowds were phenomenal.

 

Blum: What is it like being on the road?

 

Walters: We travel with the team most of the time. If it's close we'll drive separately. But most of the time we are with the team. I haven't traveled yet with this coaching staff but I'm sure it will be great. They treat everybody really professionally and are fun people to be around. That was certainly the case with the last staff as well. You do feel a little bit more connected because you are with them all the time and you feel their pain when they lose. Getting on that plane after a loss is tough. And the joy when they win is great. You feel connected particularly in basketball, because it's a smaller group and you fly on a small plane with them right after the game. That's one of the unique and really fun things about the job.

 

Blum: What are your favorite cities to visit in the Big 12?

 

Walters: Austin is great. A great city period and it was fun because we beat them in basketball last time. Most of the cities in the Big 12 are pretty similar. There's not a lot to report back about Lubbock or College Station, they are both kind of quiet. But it's fun. I always enjoy going to Missouri and Kansas and Stillwater. For basketball the most fun is going to Kansas and Oklahoma State, because those places have unbelievable fan support like we have. And if you can get a win there, it's a really neat, special win. They remind me the most of Hilton so they are my favorite places to go.

 

Blum: What is John Walters' outlook for the Big 12?

 

Walters: Kansas is going to be loaded. I think Texas A&M is going to be really good again, their program is really on the rise. I always thought it was a sleeping giant to begin with and it has taken off with Billy Gillespie. It might be a struggle for Oklahoma. Okie State has some good players back so they could be decent. Kansas is clearly at the top, Texas is so young you just don't know what to expect, but they are all McDonald's All-Americans. But Kansas is the team to beat this year.

 

Blum: Why should fans be excited about the upcoming year and the Greg McDermott era?

 

Walters: There are a lot of reasons to be excited. The biggest thing is he is an Iowa native who wants to be here. He said it at his first press conference, "I'm one of you." And I think that connection with the fans was instant. They are going to want him to win and be in his corner. If his teams play like his UNI teams played--real hard-nosed defensively, fundamentally sound, rebound, share the basketball, set each other up for good shots—people are really going to enjoy watching those teams play. It's a natural fit and it's something these fans over time are going to enjoy more and more. Some are saying, "Oh, he doesn't run a lot, we want a coach that runs." But he led the Mo Valley conference in scoring a couple years ago, his teams have scored a lot of points. And his teams ran. I remember the game in the UNI dome where they ran roughshod over Iowa State. They pick their spots and run when it's there. They are going to be a lot of fun to watch.

 

 I think the biggest thing is, when fans walk out of the arena after watching his teams play, the vast majority of the time they are going to be real proud of this team. And that's all you can ask.

 


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