Interview: Barry Booker

He's the most accurate 3-point shooter in Southeastern Conference history and he wore a Vanderbilt uniform. Former Vandy great and current Raycom sports commentator Barry Booker spoke with VandyMania's GFP.

GFP: Barry, how did you get into broadcasting?
Barry Booker: Well, I stumbled into it actually. I did a couple of things on local TV with Rudy Kalis in the 1993 season. Vandy was the SEC champs and they had a game against Memphis that channel 4 broadcasted and Rudy asked me to do that. I also did a little postseason thing with them too. Some folks in Nashville recommended me to Jefferson Pilot and now Raycom. Coach Fogler I know was one of those that made the recommendation. Those guys picked me up and here I am 15 years later.

GFP: When calling the games is it hard to stay impartial being a Vandy alum? Do you ever get caught up in the game as a fan?
BB: Not so much, when I'm watching a game these days in the SEC I've got friends and people I know at every place. I remember going to the Kentucky a game a few years ago in Nashville. I was there as a fan. I was yelling and cheering as a fan but I remember feeling really bad for Kentucky when they lost. They made some plays in that game that really cost them and I felt bad for them but of course I was excited for Vanderbilt. But when I'm broadcasting I'm just there looking for good game. I do a lot of studying and preparation to so I don't get too excited one way or the other when I'm doing a Vanderbilt game. I had the ‘Dores against Auburn this year. It was basically another game. I was just glad I didn't have to travel.

GFP: It's too bad you didn't get to call the game on Senior Night where Shan Foster blew up and had that big game. That would've been fun to call.
BB: Yeah, I'm sorry I missed that one. I had Kentucky-South Carolina that night in Columbia. It really would've been fun. Shan is really one of my All-Time favorites and I would've loved to seen him play on Senior Day. And to see the way he played that night would've been a blast. I was really excited for him. That pushed him over the top for SEC Player of the Year. I'm just sorry it ended the way it did.

GFP: Yeah, that game against Mississippi State was so exciting. I almost left on 3 different occasions. My wife talked me into staying. If it weren't for her I would've left with a few minutes left in the game.
BB: You better hold on to her.

GFP: Actually the first game I ever took her to was the game against Oregon where Mario Moore hit the shot at the buzzer to win.
BB: Yes, that I was a fun one. I was there too.

GFP: I told her I can never bring you back because it's never going to be this good.
BB: You need to keep bringing her back. She might be good luck

GFP: She doesn't work on football though. I tried. Why did you decide to come to Vanderbilt?
BB: I'm from Franklin and it's a great school. SEC basketball, my sister was at there. She was two years ahead of me and she had a really good experience. I grew up watching Vanderbilt play and basically I've been a lifelong fan. It was a pretty easy decision.

GFP: You came from a pretty big family didn't you?
BB: I'm the 12th of 12 children. All were college graduates. We have 7 advanced degrees in that bunch. We had amazing parents and a Gracious God. I'm glad they didn't stop with 11 kids.

GFP: I bet they are very proud.
BB: Oh yes, they lots to be proud of.

GFP: What are you most proud of from your time at Vanderbilt?
BB: I guess the first thing that comes to mind is the Sweet Sixteen trip in 88. When I arrived Vanderbilt basketball was kind of at a low point when I arrived in the fall of 85. The previous year they had lost something like 11 straight SEC games or something like that. It was a really tough year. The fan support was slipping a little bit. They were still drawing 11,000 people to the games even during the losing streak. The team was having a tough time and the pressure was really rising on Coach Newton. He was in his fourth year or so my freshman year. Things started to turn around during that time and we made the NIT in 87. We made the Sweet Sixteen in 88 and then another NCAA tournament appearance in 89. I guess really I'm most proud of getting things headed back in the right direction.

GFP: Who was the best player you played against at Vanderbilt?
BB: Johnny Dawkins was really good at Duke. Robert Horry, the most accomplished NBA player was a freshman when I was a senior. I matched up with him a couple of times. Vernon Maxwell was really good. Willie Anderson, a bunch of good players. I missed out playing against Michael Jordan.

GFP: Your sophomore year we beat Indiana who was #2 in the country.
BB: Yeah, that's right. We had them down here in Nashville. Coach Knight had a really good club. They were without Rick Calloway, a really good small forward. It was a real hard fought game, back and forth. We were able to pull it out. It was definitely a highlight. For them to go on and win the National Championship made that even that much better.

GFP: Didn't we also play Duke that year?
BB: We played them there. It's a tough place to play. The students surround the lower section of Cameron Indoor stadium. They were rowdy. They were excited and had some choreographed things for us.

GFP: Was that the toughest place to play?
BB: Yes, the fans were such a distraction. Rupp Arena, was by far the place in the SEC where the fan support was really good.

GFP: The win over Kentucky your junior year was really big. It broke a 6 year drought. What did that win mean to you?
BB: It was huge especially having all the Kentucky guys on our team. Goheen, Wilcox, Scott Draud, there was a bunch of guys and that win meant so much to them. It was really exciting because I knew how much it meant to them. And also anytime you beat Kentucky it's always a big deal. On New Years Eve we lost to them in Lexington earlier that year. We had every chance to win the game but had some turnovers late. They came back and beat us. We were excited to get revenge and beat them pretty bad. I think we beat them by 16 or something like that.

GFP: What do you remember about the buzzer beater against Pitt?
BB: It was the highlight of my basketball career. Winning that game to advance to the Sweet 16. Goheen again, the three he makes to cut it to one. They hit two free throws and he makes a tough floater with two guys on him three pointer to force overtime. It was just unbelievable.

GFP: Scott Draud said that you had a famous quote after that game.
BB: If I knew it would have been this much fun we would've done it a long time ago. We were excited about beating Pitt and getting on the plane back to Nashville knowing we were advancing to play in the Sweet Sixteen. When we get back to the airport and there are 4,000 people there waiting for us and everybody in Nashville is really excited about our team. Everybody on campus was pumped. That whole week between the win against Pitt and going to Detroit to play Kansas everybody I ran into would say "Oh man, I thought we lost". Or "Let me tell you where I was when Goheen hit that shot."

GFP: The game against Kansas was heartbreaking. I just knew that after that win over Pitt we were destined to go onto win the National Championship.
BB: At that time, all the 8 teams that were in that group were at the same site. We were all in Lincoln, Nebraska. We were there with Kansas. We weren't really that impressed with them when we watched them play Murray State. Murray State had a good team that year had a shot to beat them in that round of 32. We thought, Kansas no big deal. Purdue was the #1 seed in our bracket. They had recruited Frank Kornet. He was more intimidated by them then he was Kansas. Had we gotten past Kansas we wouldn't even had to play Purdue. Kansas State was the team that went onto the Field of 8.

GFP: Your senior year we had that great game against Pitt. Another big Goheen buzzer beater saved us again.
BB: It was a regulation game and pretty low scoring. It was the best game of my career. I had 20 points I think, It was a game where points were hard to come by. I probably had 10 points in that last five minutes. It kept us in the game. I hit a couple of foul shots to push us ahead by two. Then they came down and scored with a four or five seconds left. We couldn't get a rebound. They just kept banging it off the backboard and finally somebody tipped it in to tie it up. We got it in to Goheen, he got it just past half court and made another game winner.

GFP: I remember for that game all the hype was all about Pervis Ellison.
BB: He had a good game. Our team my senior year we played a really tough schedule. Our record didn't reflect how good that team really was.

GFP: What about the tennis ball game.
BB: Oh, my SEC championship ring? It's just awful. We had it wrapped up. One second left, with the ball out of bounds. All we had to do was toss it in and we win. Then all of the sudden tennis balls on the court. The refs made the call as the league office had directed them. It probably was the right call. Not much choice for them. It's just so unfortunate that it turned the game around. Florida wins and beat us by a game for the SEC title. It's just heartbreaking...Still.

GFP: Do you have any idea who threw those tennis balls?
BB: No I never found out. They're not going to give me my championship ring now. Florida later got stripped of that title for some recruiting issues. It's just no good all around.

GFP: If you were face-to-face with whoever threw the tennis balls what would you say to him?
BB: It's been 20 years. I'd probably just kid him. No grudges. There's nothing he cold do to change what happened.

GFP: The Notre Dame NCAA tournament game that year was on St. Patrick's Day. When they came out in green jerseys. You just knew it wasn't going to be a good day.
BB: Probably the worst part of that for us was we were watching Princeton and Georgetown right before that. The winner of our game was going to play the winner of that one. Princeton had a great chance to win and we were rooting for them. We had played them and beaten them earlier in the year. We were much more comfortable playing Princeton than Georgetown. When Georgetown won that game we were very much deflated. I think that had a big outcome of our game.

GFP: What does CM Newton mean to you?
BB: He's a wonderful guy. A very good coach. I think he's meant more to me since my days at Vanderbilt. He's helped me out in the broadcasting world and he's a fantastic guy.

GFP: Do you think Shan Foster will do well in the NBA?.
BB: I do. I think he'll do very well. I think with his size and shooting ability. He can defend. He has a good chance to have a long career in the NBA.

GFP: He's such a great kid. He's writes gospel music and is so humble.
BB: I remember seeing him on FSN singing "Jesus Loves Me". He's a top-notch kid. I'm so proud of him and the career he had at Vanderbilt. He'll do very well in the NBA.

GFP: Barry Goheen he's just amazing what can you tell us about him?
BB: He was amazing with the clock winding down. It seemed like he made every one. I can only remember one that didn't go in. I think it was his freshman year at Alabama. He just missed it. Other than that he made every single clutch shot when we needed it. He's a genius on the basketball court. He disputes this but I remember his description of an alley oop he threw to Frank Kornet during a Kentucky game. After the game he was saying, "I saw Frank there and I thought I can get the pass through but then I thought no way I can get the pass there then I thought we were up 30 so the best they can do is knock it out of bounds so I went ahead and threw it and Frank slammed it." But just to have that many thoughts in a split second is just phenomenal.

GFP: I remember the Ole Miss game your senior year. My Dad took me to that game. I really wanted to see a Goheen buzzer beater. He didn't hit a buzzer beater but he did end up hitting some free throws with a few seconds left to win the game.
BB: Yeah, that was a tight game. I remember he had a breakaway that should've been a 3-point play but they called it on the floor. He had to step to the line and hit some free throws to pull that one out. Barry's such a great guy. We still keep in touch. He's in Atlanta. He's married and has two little girls. He's doing very well.

GFP: I was about 12 years old when you and Goheen played. When I was younger all the kids in the neighborhood wanted to be Larry Bird or Magic Johnson. My best friend and I would always want to be Barry Booker or Barry Goheen. I can't describe how much I enjoyed watching you two play as a child.
BB: That is cool. So many people tell me how much they enjoyed those teams.

GFP: Anything else you'd like to say to the fans?
BB: Yes, June 3rd is the Bomb Squad Classic. It's going to be a golf scramble starting that morning. Then that evening at 7 at BGA it's going to be the Barry Booker Celebrity Roast. George Plaster is going to be the Master of Ceremonies. It's going to be a fun day raising money to benefit Look Mom No Arms. The mission of that organization is to aid the physically challenged to live more independently. The fans of the Bomb Squad teams should enjoy this. Coach Newton is coming out for this. I know Goheen is coming. I'll be there. Hopefully we'll get Mayes, Draud, and Wilcox to come out. I don't know if Will Perdue can make it out with his broadcasting career. I hope to get Frank Kornet out there and some other guys from those late 80's teams. For more information and reservations contact Roger Rice at 615-525-0470 or send an email to LMNA@CHARTER.NET.

GFP: If you want to see Goheen hit a hole in one all you have to do is just count down 3,2,1 and sound a foghorn or something like that.
BB: Yes, exactly. [laughs]

For more Glutton interviews please visit his blog at: http://www.vanderbiltsports.blogspot.com/


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