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Saturday, November 28, 2020

Men's Basketball

‘Holy smokes, that’s a basketball school’: UH alum Jim Nantz reflects on return, Fertitta Center atmosphere


UH alum Jim Nantz (left) called his first Houston home game for CBS on Sunday at Fertitta Center. Nantz was a public address announcer for UH in the late 1970s, when the veteran sportscaster was a student at the University. | Andy Yanez/The Cougar

UH alumnus Jim Nantz (left) called his first Houston home game for CBS on Sunday at Fertitta Center. Nantz was a public address announcer for UH in the late ’70s and early ’80s, when the veteran sportscaster was a student at the University. | Andy Yanez/The Cougar

With Houston’s renewed success in basketball in recent years, the debate about whether UH is a basketball school or not has waged on.

For Jim Nantz, a UH alumnus and longtime CBS sports broadcaster who called his first Houston home game on Sunday, the answer is simple after experiencing the Fertitta Center for the first time during the No. 21 Cougars 64-57 win over the Memphis Tigers.

“If you’re coming in from the outside and see you this you say, ‘Holy smokes. That is a basketball school,'” Nantz said. “It’s got a feel like it’s a major conference. There’s no question about it.”

As the Cougars were battling their way to the win, which secured them a 23-8 regular-season finish, Houston took time to honor Nantz, who was a UH public address announcer in the late ’70s and early ’80s as a student.

UH took advantage of a media timeout with a little over six minutes left in the first half of the win to play a tribute video for Nantz, after which he received a standing ovation.

“All of a sudden I see all these cameras on me, and I think, ‘something’s up,'” Nantz said. “It was really nice.”

Even head coach Kelvin Sampson took time to recognize Nantz in his return, praising him in his postgame news conference.

“He’s a legend and an icon,” Sampson said of the veteran sportscaster. “You know what I love about him? He’s a Cougar, and he’s proud of that.”

Much of that pride showed after the game as Nantz spoke and took photos with UH fans and himself alike, posing with Houston’s signature Cougar Paw hand sign.

As he stood at center court after the fanfare had settled, Nantz looked around at the now-empty Fertitta Center and said the venue has “got a feel like a major conference setting” and could “mix it up with anybody.”

“You could put this setting in the SEC, the AAC, the Big 12, the Pac-12,” he said. “You could put it in any of those and it’d be one of the best settings in the conference.

“I don’t even want to use the term mid-major. This is absolutely top tier.”

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