Cheryl Miller Talks Hoops

Women's basketball legend and current broadcaster Cheryl Miller was in town to take in the Minnesota Lynx Slam Bash this passed week, so we took some time to talk to one of the greatest female athletes ever. Among other accomplishments, Miller once scored 105 points in a high school game, was a four-time All-American at USC and led Team USA to the 1984 Olympic gold medal and 1986 World Basketball Championship.

MT: OK Cheryl, we talked to you on camera in an interview about women's basketball and Slam Bash* so we'll save this time for some NBA banter. Cool?
Miller: For sure, let's do it.
*Look out for that interview next week

MT: Now you've done a terrific job as a sideline reporter alongside Kevin Harlan and Doug Collins in the last few seasons, so let's talk NBA. First of all, who's getting left out of the Western Conference Playoffs?
Miller: I think Portland's age may catch up with them. I think it's a great feel-good story though. I'm not sold on Golden State and Chris Webber, and I'm still not sold on Houston only because I don't know the next time Tracy McGrady goes down with an injury. And Denver has yet to really put it together. I don't know if it's chemistry, or that they don't have depth due to injuries, or the point guard situation being a little questionable. But if it ends up being Golden State that gets the eight spot, I pity anybody (who has to play them) in the first round, especially if they start playing well. You don't want to see them.

MT: I hear you on that one. But Portland's definitely not making it, and I think Houston's good to go ... They've won 9-of-10 and five straight.
Miller: But with Portland, the 5-of-10 that they've lost have been very close. They aren't getting blown out. I think they can hang in there and do some damage, especially if they can swing a little winning streak together.

MT: Basically, people need to watch TNT and see what happens:
Miller: Hey, I'll give a little shout out to ESPN and ABC, but yeah, you gotta catch the action on TNT!

MT: 40 games in 40 nights is the best ever.
Miller: 40 games in 40 nights and non-stop Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson. You can't beat it.

MT: You'll be on the sidelines listening in for us. Can you talk about the challenges of sideline reporting?
Miller: Most of the time, you know your player. Like Rasheed Wallace the other night - especially if they don't really play well - you know what questions you have to be short and sweet with.

MT: Because you do your homework...
Miller: You have to do your homework. But there are some times where you can look at a guy's body English and expression. The best time I have is the time right before we go on air where I'm able to say, "Man, can you believe that game?" And they're like, "Cheryl, they're killing me!" Then you just lead with that, "Man you're obviously frustrated, they're killing you out there." Allow them to share the situation, and that's some of the best time that I have.

MT: Can you take us through your typical game day, in which so much work has to be done?
Miller: I'm not as talented as Kenny and Charles where they just show up and do what they do...

MT: Especially Charles.
Miller: Especially Charles. He always shows up with his opinions, and they work. But for me, it's a whole week's preparation. It's watching the games Monday through Wednesday, talking to players and coaches and everything. It's like coaching or scouting. You're reading newspapers, gathering information to find out who's injured, looking at trade scenarios to see who's bluffing and who's looking. And then, sometimes you get caught off guard like with the Pao Gasol trade to the Lakers. That's why I love my job.

MT: Can you draw a parallel there to your playing career, spending all week practicing so that when the game comes, it's natural?
Miller: You hope it comes naturally, and to a degree, you think you can control the outcome physically.

MT: Well, you could, perhaps, but you had some crazy game.
Miller: (laughs) Hey now, I had a lot of help. I wasn't the only one out there. But I guess with broadcasting, if you feel that you have all the information you need, it's just going out there and having fun. You also have to be a great listener, as you well know.

MT: Now in talking about TNT basketball broadcasts, you have some remarkable play-by-play and color combos, with Harlan and Collins, or Marv Albert and the Czar Mike Fratello with your brother Reggie.
Miller: Oh, are you kidding me? It makes my job easy. You talk about preparation, and a lot of times the main questions or any question that comes out of my mouth directed to players or coaches is because you're listening to Doug Collins, who I think is the best at his job. He is the best. Kevin Harlan is like the Allen Iverson. He'll give you that dish - drop a dime. Marv is John Stockton. Steady, Hall of Famer, great at setting up anybody. Reggie is working at his craft and getting better and better, and Fratello is terrific as well.

MT: Kevin Harlan's the man, and he's been kind enough to talk with us on despite how busy he is. And his partner, Collins, teaches me something about basketball every time I listen to a game he broadcasts.
Miller: Oh no question. I also had the pleasure of also working with Hubie Brown, who's terrific, and Mark Jackson at ABC does a great job. To see those guys I've worked with before, it's been terrific to watch their professional success.

MT: How much fun is it working with your younger brother on TNT?
Miller: I can't tell him that, but it's great. I love it. I'm glad he didn't go back to Boston, I'm glad that he retired, and I see him a hell of a lot more.

MT: Did you think he might go back to Boston?
Miller: I was vacationing down in Australia when I got the call that he was thinking about it. I was like, "Man, if you make me get on a flight this vacation because of this nonsense...." I was glad he stayed retired.

MT: We know about your accomplishments, but I know you're also very proud of your brother. His seminal moment came against the Knicks with that crazy fourth-quarter finish. Memories?
Miller: By the time that the game was over, I was in the middle of the street. I was in the middle of the street. I'll never forget it. As soon as I saw it, I just thought, "There's no way." Then I heard Marv (Albert) say "And there's a steal from Reggie and he spins back ... it's good!! YESS!!"

MT: "From downtown!!!"
Miller: "Reggie Miller!" I just couldn't believe it. Then the phone's ringing off the hook, and I remember calling him on his cell phone and going, "Reggie!" He said, "Cheryl, I don't know what happened." He said, "I can't believe that just happened. We got them. We got them." He went, and I'll never forget this, from being Cheryl Miller's brother to, "Oh that's Reggie Miller's sister." It was the neatest transition. I've never looked back, and I've never been more proud of my brother.

MT: You couldn't have written it any better.
Miller: Absolutely. For years, he didn't mind being the sidekick, and no one was a bigger fan than Reggie. It's always gone both ways, and there are a lot of accomplishments he's achieved. I think I'm more proud of the fact that he spent 18 years with one team. That's unheard of.