Gus Johnson has been a welcome addition to Turner’s NBA playoff coverage this spring, having called a few games already, including last night’s Bulls-Bucks contest.
"The pride of Greece…the pride of Nigeria."
"The Bucks are pretty high on him too."
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) April 21, 2022
Johnson, who does Fox’s Big Noon Saturday showcase game as well as college basketball work, joined Richard Deitsch’s podcast to discuss the arrangement that allowed him to do this work for Turner, and in the process revealed that he won’t be calling NFL games this fall. Not out of a lack of interest, but a lack of availability, because as Johnson expounded, he’s actually currently part of Harvard’s Advanced Leadership Initiative.
“I don’t think I’m going to be able to do the NFL this year, Rich, because I went back to school. I’m back in college now. And my classes are on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. So I’m probably going to need to call the college games on Saturday, and it’s a good thing they’re at noon, so I can call the college games on Saturday and then get a flight and get back. So I can prepare for classes on Monday, and I’ll have all Sunday to do that. At my age, the travel and prep work isn’t hard, but it’s a lot of work so I’m probably going to have to take a timeout on the NFL this year.”
Deitsch asked Johnson for details on the program, if he was willing to share:
“I’m in a fellowship program, the Advanced Leadership Initiative. They bring fifty leaders in to talk for a year of intense discussion on some of the problems that face mankind. So we’ll study race, human rights, mental health. We read a bunch of case studies. We hear from some really great professors on lots of different subjects. The opioid crisis, I have a religious class and we talk about cosmic law, collective effervescence…it’s been a cool process and I want to finish strong. The second semester starts in September.”
The Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative bills itself thusly:
The Advanced Leadership Initiative (ALI) is an innovative academic program designed to unleash the potential of experienced leaders to help solve society’s most pressing challenges. As a university-wide initiative, ALI draws upon the expertise of all of Harvard’s professional schools and academic departments.
ALI Fellows come to Harvard and embark on a year-long immersion in inter-disciplinary academic learning, leadership development, and peer-to-peer collaboration to develop a social impact strategy focused on their issue of choice. Participants in the ALI program become part of a vibrant community of changemakers who continue learning, collaborating, and innovating for impact.
Gus said he was essentially recruited to come to Harvard by men’s basketball coach Tommy Amaker, and that Fox executive Eric Shanks both encouraged Johnson to pursue it and wrote one of his letters of recommendation:
“Tommy Amaker, the head coach at Harvard, I’ve known him for thirty years. I reached out to him and said I was interested in going back to school, and he said you’re going to come here, he recruited me…I had to apply for it and do my papers and faculty interviews, get my recommendations. As a matter of fact, Eric Shanks, my boss at Fox, wrote one of my three letters of recommendation. He supported me fully on this, and I appreciate that from him.
“Eric Shanks is a man that’s about growth. It’s because of him I got this opportunity at Turner. I asked him if I could have permission to do it, and he said yes, because he thought it would be good for Fox and he knew it would be good for me. That’s one reason that if I had it my way I would never leave Fox for the rest of my career. I want to be here because of the people, because of the support. I just want to grow as a human being.”
The whole podcast is obviously worth listening to. Johnson will be missed in spot NFL duty this fall, of course, but hearing Gus talk about the experience it’s obvious how important it is for him.