10 questions with Matt Chazanow, voice of the Cougars

SO WHAT HAS it been like -- in his first year as the voice of the Cougars -- to share the football booth with a couple of legends? What does he think of Washington State head man Mike Leach? We asked Matt Chazanow that and more.

COUGFAN.com:  What’s the transition been like your first season at WSU sitting in the booth with two legends: one from the broadcasting arena in Bob Robertson and the other from Cougar football lore in Jason Gesser?

Chazanow: It has been made extremely easy from the warm welcome and enthusiasm with which Bob and Gess have embraced me. It is humbling to work with Bob, and it was a bit intimidating until we got started.

At Rutgers (and a few times since then) he went out of his way to make sure I knew that he thought I was doing a really good job. I made sure I told him how much that meant to hear from him.  He told me that if he thought I was doing poorly he would have given me quite the earful!!  But, thankfully, it was the exact opposite and I think we work really well together.

Bob and I sit together for 2-3 hours before every game and just talk. We both independently, without communicating about it, found ourselves getting to the booth many hours before airtime and that has become our routine. It is a thrill to work with him and I soak up every moment. I get to see how he works. There is a lot that goes on in the booth off-air, and behind the scenes while we are live; being able to work with him is an unparalleled learning experience.

Gess is just a blast to work with. He puts his heart into it, and cares deeply about the quality of the broadcast itself. He never steps on a call, and we have off-air communication we've worked out so he can fit in some quick pre-snap analysis.

I have worked with many analysts, and you want them to completely drive the theoretical/analytical football discussion. I know the game well enough to describe what is going on, and most of the time to say why but I am not credible nor interested to second-guess a coach or critique refs, so I am very careful to get out of the way when it comes to football 101, even when its basic and I know what the likely analysis is.

Gesser is an all-time great player, and was recently a coach. We watch film together, and he teaches me more than he realizes. His knowledge is incredible. I have become confident throwing him pretty much anything live on air because his content and knowledge base is so thorough.
 
COUGFAN.com: What’s been the biggest surprise to you about this Cougars team?

Chazanow: Their ability to maintain energy and momentum in practice day-to-day. A football season can be a grind. You hear that word tossed around but it is a credit to the coaching staff and the character of the guys -- they really do try their hardest every day. Football is a microcosm of many things in life. There are so many easy transferrable analogies, and taking every day to get better at the little things leads to large success.
 
COUGFAN.com:  What do you like best about living in Pullman?

Chazanow: The quality of life. My “commute” is five minutes with “traffic.” The beautiful scenery. The culture. I love the people in the athletic department I work with, and I have incredible access to the teams (which enhances my knowledge on-air). My office is in Bohler, so I have access to practice for football, basketball and baseball that is just a walk away.

My sister lives in Seattle, and she and her fiancée came to Pullman earlier this football season and we went on a hike (Steptoe Butte…that’s my background pick on my twitter account @m_chaz).  I love that I can just drive to that hike on a Sunday. I have all of my camping gear ready to go when the season comes around again. Coach Leach asked me if I like to go hunting - I don’t, but I do have two fly rods that can’t wait to get some action nearby!

 
COUGFAN.com:  What do you consider your single best play call this season?

Chazanow: I’ll defer to listeners on this one!
 
COUGFAN.com:  You of course had done a lot of broadcasting before WSU but what’s the transition been like from last year, where you were primarily managing accounts/broadcasts for IMG to now doing broadcasting full-on, and on a full season basis?

Chazanow: “Busy” for me has a different meaning now. I travel more. I emcee events (those are great fun, I get to meet so many Cougs). One of the biggest differences is that whereas previously I knew a lot of people were listening I did not get to meet them because I would go off to do another game in another city. Now, I get to meet the fan base that is tuning in. I love that.
 
COUGFAN.com:  Mike Leach is alternately known as quirky, terse, funny, etc. Between pregame interviews and the radio show Thursday nights, you probably spend more time with Leach than anyone who is not an assistant coach or player.  So how would you describe Mike Leach?

Chazanow: Coach is genuine. He knows he can’t control what others think of him and I’m not sure he wants to anyway. He knows his job is to win football games while fostering a positive atmosphere in which to do it. Frankly, he is quite pleasant and since we have gotten to know each other we joke around quite a bit. He is very funny.
 
COUGFAN.com:  Excluding receivers and quarterbacks, who always get the most attention on a Mike Leach team, who would you pick as the MVP on this team through eight games?

Chazanow: Offensively, Joe Dahl. The guy is just a phenomenal athlete, and a great person. I can’t believe how nonchalantly he carries 300 pounds. Defensively, Jeremiah Allison. He leads in practice with energy. I saw him come out on a cloudy day once when there just wasn’t a ton of “pop” from anybody -- and he just started screaming and pumping everybody up and it got practice started with such spirit it stimulated improvement.
 
COUGFAN.com:  From the booth, you can see the whole field unlike a TV broadcast, which cuts off at least 50 percent of the linebacker play and virtually all of the defensive backfield. What’s the No. 1 thing you’ve noticed about the Cougar “back seven” that fans might not know?

Chazanow: The amount of quick communication that goes on. The shifting and reacting to the offense at the line becomes more apparent when you aren’t edited by the camera shot (which is focused on the ball of course).
 
COUGFAN.com:  What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received since getting to Pullman, be it from Robertson, Bill Moos, Gesser, Ernie Kent or someone else?

Chazanow: Probably to understand that being a Coug is different. That it is a special family. That was advice I got right away, and I have learned in short order how wonderfully true it is.
 
COUGFAN.com:  What do you know now that you didn’t know one hour before the season opening kickoff?  Broadcaster transitions can be tough sometimes for fans -- have you gotten any cold shoulders from supporters/fans of former announcer Bud Nameck?

Chazanow: Well, from the game itself, ugh, I’d like to forget the season opening game. I now know how our broadcast booth (including Jessamyn McIntyre on the field and Producer/Engineer Jerry Kyllo and the studio host) will all flow with each other. I have gone to emcee events in Spokane weekly on Mondays and chalk talks in Seattle (with Gess and Mkristo Bruce) and Portland (w/ Gesser and Alex Brink) and have gotten so much positive feedback. It is heartwarming, humbling and overwhelming.

I have had a lot of Cougs come up to me with the preface that they are personal friends of Bud, and some who just listened to him over the years, and that they wish him the best, and they really appreciate the work I have done on the broadcast and truly enjoy listening.

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