Director of Spurs Broadcasting visits Texas State, advises future graduates
By Andrew Osegi
Excitement was buzzing all around the classroom. Students in Larry Carlson’s Sports As News class gathered their note-taking materials as the instructor and his anticipated guest chatted near the entrance.
In an effort to examine the challenges of media coverage in sports, Mike Kickirillo, director of broadcasting for the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs and a Texas State alumnus, visited his alma mater Tuesday, Jan. 29, to answer questions from aspiring mass communication professionals.
Kickirillo graduated from Texas State University in 1988 with a B.A. in fine arts and communication, majoring in broadcast journalism. He pursued his love of sports by getting involved in the university’s student media, reporting on school athletics for print, radio and television news outlets.
After graduation, Kickirillo was hired as sports producer for KSAT-12, a news station in San Antonio. There he developed his broadcasting skills until he was hired by Spurs Sports & Entertainment in 1990. During his tenure with the Spurs, Kickirillo has broadcast the team’s rise to four NBA championships — and he has four championship rings to prove it.
As he spoke to the roomful of Texas State students, Kickirillo emphasized the importance of being involved on campus as an undergraduate.
“My advice to students is to take advantage of the wealth of opportunity this university has to offer,” Kickirillo said. “I would not be where I am today had I not gained experience with the University Star and KTSW. I was so busy as an undergrad that I practically lived on campus!”
Kickirillo offered his advice, based on personal experience, for reporting sports as well.
“As a reporter, you must be prepared,” Kickirillo said. “Have well-structured questions ready to go and don’t act like you know everything. Leave your ego at the door and be willing to work hard and learn at the same time. Bad questions lead to bad interviews which then lead to bad experiences.”
Students drew upon Kickirillo’s deep understanding of broadcast media. They peppered him with questions about interacting with Spurs players, the future of broadcasting with regards to social media and his future goals.
Carlson, senior lecturer in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Texas State, has known Kickirillo for nearly 25 years, since Kickirillo’s days as one of Carlson’s students. They have stayed in touch with one another and have been good friends ever since.
Carlson says he invited Kickirillo to speak with his students so they could “lock in” on what it takes to be successful in the electronic media business.
“Kickirillo is very accomplished in his field,” said Carlson. “When he was hired, he was one of the youngest producers in the NBA; now he is considered a veteran. Mike has always been willing to help students from Texas State and I am always ready to listen to his opinion of media work in today’s world.”
In addition to his championship seasons with the Spurs, Kickirillo won an Emmy for his contributions while working with NBC during the 1996 Olympic Games.
Today, Kickirillo is the highest authority in Spurs broadcasting. Anything Spurs-related that airs on TV probably crossed Kickirillo’s desk for final approval.
“Producers, like myself, drive content,” says Kickirillo. “I direct the game cameras and general look of the game. Advertisements, comparisons, facts and what the game announcers talk about all have to go through me before broadcasting to the public. My directive is to deliver the game in the most effective and entertaining way to the audience watching at home.”
Bailey Bounds, an electronic media junior, is in Carlson’s class and was present during Kickirillo’s visit.
“I loved Mr. Kickirillo’s visit,” says Bounds. “Not only am I an avid Spurs fan, but I also hope to pursue my own career in sports broadcasting one day. The tips and hints Kickirillo gave us were exceedingly encouraging and helpful.”
Kickirillo ended his visit by discussing what today’s job market is looking for in recent graduates eager for work. A solid foundation in writing and an inner hunger to succeed and work hard were at the top of his list.