Men's Basketball Sports

Legendary broadcaster Jim Nantz maintains support of UH basketball ahead of tourney

UH alumnus Jim Nantz called his last Final Four last season in Houston. | James Mueller/The Cougar

Legendary sports broadcaster Jim Nantz drives by T-Mobile Center in Kansas City as he is about to call a Kansas City Chiefs game for the second time in three weeks. It was the site where the 2022-23 Houston Cougars’ season ended in the Sweet 16 to the Miami Hurricanes. 

“Our hotel is very close to the arena where that took place and I see it when we drive to the Chiefs practice facility, when we go out to dinner. Every time I look at the outside of that arena, I think about that’s where the cougar dream of 22 came to an end but I was proud of that team,” Nantz said. “I loved that team and I love this team too, but that was an exciting time for us holding the number one ranking for seven weeks.”

Nantz is a University of Houston alum who was the PA announcer for UH basketball during the Phi Slama Jama era. That got him into the business. Nantz then joined CBS Sports in 1985, and the rest is history. The legendary play-by-play announcer called his seventh Super Bowl this February. 

“My heart still aches a little bit that team in my last season of calling college basketball didn’t make it to Houston, I just thought the stars were aligned and I was drinking my own juice there,” Nantz said. “I really began to believe it and we ran into a Miami team, and I had to call it right there in Kansas City as neutral as any play-by-play voice could ever be.”

A year later, Houston is currently No. 2 in the nation with the No. 1 seed in the South region of the NCAA tournament after winning the Big 12 regular season title in its first year in the league — a thought that was almost inconceivable before the season.

But back in January, Nantz — who called his last Final Four last year in Houston — predicted this otherwise unforeseen outcome.

“I think this team has a chance to be the best there is in that conference,” Nantz said. “And we’ll find ourselves back with the No. 1 seed again this year and I think we’re capable of winning a national championship.” 

Over the years, Nantz has formed a strong connection with head coach Kelvin Sampson as the two text regularly. Nantz had even watched UH’s first Big 12 win against West Virginia in its entirety at Green Bay before calling a Packers game.

“The first time I met Jim was for breakfast the year I took Oklahoma to the final four. He and Billy Packer came to my hotel we met for breakfast but the thing that jumped out to me was what a nice man, a good guy he is,” Sampson said. “Sometimes we tend to over-sensationalize somebody because of their job, we’re all just regular people and that’s the thing I loved about Jim. He was a regular person.”

Nantz shares a great admiration for the culture that Sampson brings in and how thankful he is for the Sampson family.

“We’ve got a culture there of everything’s done the right way. Just to see the family environment, Karen Lauren, Kellen, it’s special,” Nantz said. “We got something really good going on right now and I’m just counting my blessings that we have the Sampson family spearheading our efforts.”

One particular player that stands out to Nantz is senior point guard Jamal Shead, his 7-year-old son Jameson’s favorite player.

“He’s such a great Cougar. Such a great credit to the program,” Nantz said. “I love these kids. Jamal Shead is just such a great Cougar and such a great credit to the program. My sister sent Jamo for Christmas a Jamal Shead jersey; he wears it all the time.”

The First-Team All-American point guard was thankful to share this kind of connection with Nantz. 

“He’s an awesome role model and awesome icon for this city, especially this university and I’ve grown a lot closer to him over the past four years. He’s been nothing but impactful in a really positive way for my life,” Shead said. “For him and his son, me being one of his favorite players is awesome. It’s just such a great feeling when a guy like that respects you as much as you respect him.”

Now as the season nears its end in the tournament, Nantz wants to enjoy this run that the Cougars will have and publicly show his support for a program that assisted him in his journey — even clearing his once-busy March schedule for the team.

“I have a six-week stretch off to do whatever I want with. I’ve been asked to do a few things here and there, but I’ve turned everything down,” Nantz said. “Because I want to avail myself to whatever’s happening with the University of Houston basketball program and watch Kelvin do his thing which is greatness, that’s my goal.”

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