5 Questions with...CSN's David Kaplan


5 Questions with...CSN's David Kaplan

By Jeff Nuich
CSN Chicago Senior Director of CommunicationsCSNChicago.com Contributor

November 25, 2009

Want to know more about your favorite Chicago media celebrities? CSNChicago.com has your fix as we put the citys most popular personalities on the spot with a new weekly feature entitled 5 Questions with...

Every Wednesday exclusively on CSNChicago.com, its our turn to grill the local media and other local VIPs with five random sports and non-sports related questions that will definitely be of interest to old and new fans alike.

This weekEmmy-award winning host of Comcast SportsNets Chicago Tribune Live (Monday-Friday from 5:30-6:30 PM) and host of WGN AM 720s Sports Central (Monday-Friday from 7:00-9:00 PM)hes a multimedia superstarhes the Kapmanhere are 5 Questions withDAVID KAPLAN!

BIO: Veteran Chicago radio sports reporter David Kaplan joined Comcast SportsNet in 2008 as the primary host of Chicago Tribune Live. He recently was honored with an Emmy for hosting CTL by the ChicagoMidwest Chapter of NATAS. Along with his duties for Comcast SportsNet, Kaplan is the host of Sports Central on WGN Radio AM 720. He has earned six Achievement in Radio awards and was named Newsfinder of the Year by the AP for breaking several stories. Kaplan also works as a college football and basketball play-by-play commentator for ESPN. Before coming to WGN Radio in 1995, Kap was midday host on WMVP-AM in Chicago after the station adopted an all-sports format in November of 1993. He is a former college basketball coach at Northern Illinois University (1982-86) and was a scout for both the Indiana Pacers and the Seattle Supersonics of the NBA.

In 1988, Kaplan was the Player Personnel Director for the Chicago Express of the World Basketball League (WBL). His duties included drafting and signing all players, as well as trades and contracts. Kaplan has appeared as a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and appears in the movie Hoop Dreams, which is a story of the dream of two Chicago area prep stars to reach the NBA.

Raised in Skokie, IL, David attended Hamline University in St. Paul, MN, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in English and played both football and baseball. He also earned the "First Decade" award for the most outstanding performance by a Hamline alum in their first 10 years out of college. Kaplan was also named "Father of the Year" by the Illinois Fatherhood Initiative.

David and his wife Mindy reside in the northern suburbs. He is the father of four teenage boys (son Brett and stepsons Nicholas, Alex and Garret). He also has three of the greatest dogs in the world: a miniature Goldendoodle named Studly, a Yellow Labrador named Rocky and a mixed breed named Yoshii, who was adopted at a Chicago Wolves game in February of 2008. He is an avid golfer and still plays baseball as a member of the 35 and over Chicago North Panthers of the Men's Senior Baseball League (MSBL).

1) CSNChicago.com: Kap, the majority of your fans know you as the host of Chicago Tribune Live on Comcast SportsNet and host of Sports Central on WGN AM 720, but many people may not be aware of your expertise in the sport of basketball. As a former college coach, an NBA scout and the operator of a highly-heralded basketball recruiting service, what specific attributes did you look for in a player you scoutedrecruited and, a quick follow-up question, what separates a good player from a great player?

Kaplan: Whenever I scouted a player, whether it was at the HS level when I was coaching at Northern Illinois or when I was scouting the college ranks for both the Seattle Sonics or the Indiana Pacers, the first thing that I looked for was athletic ability. No matter how good an athlete you are, you also have to have a great basketball IQ because too many players can jump out of the gym or can make shots but they don't have an understanding of how the game is played. Very few players combine basketball savvy with the athleticism necessary to star in either college basketball or the NBA. Obviously, Michael Jordan is the perfect example of a player who had the whole package but look at Derrick Rose in today's game. He is a great athlete and he has a very high basketball IQ. I truly believe that he will be a huge star as the Bulls continue to surround him with more talent.

2) CSNChicago.com: Youre no doubt one of the top multimedia threats in town with your extensive work on television, radio and the internet. Tell us what specifically interested you about the sports media biz to the point of making career out of it and who would you say are your mentors in our industry?

Kaplan: I always wanted to work in sports since I was a child. I remember making a microphone out of a paper towel roll and announcing the Chicago sports scores, especially the Cubs and the Blackhawks, which were my two favorite teams growing up. During my 20 years in the media, I have been very fortunate to have a few tremendous mentors who took an inexperienced guy and helped me to learn the business the right way. The guys who I consider mentors include Thom Brennaman, who is a superstar in baseball and football. Doug Collins, who I met when I was coaching his son Chris on a basketball team, was great to me when I started doing color on college basketball games. He would let me bring my game tapes over to his house and he would break down my analysis so I would understand the right way to call a game. You can also add in Tom Dore and Steve Stone to that list. However, Coach John McDougal, who hired an unknown 21 year old kid as his assistant basketball coach at NIU in 1982, is probably the biggest mentor of my professional life. He took a chance on me and he taught me how to understand not only the game, but how to carry yourself as a professional. I call him my second father because of how important he has been in my life. I love him dearly.

3) CSNChicago.com: As one of the biggest Cubs fans in the city who knows this team inside out, what would be your top three organizational recommendations to new Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts and, for Cubs Vice PresidentGeneral Manager Jim Hendry, what would be your top three off-season team recommendations going into next season?

Kaplan: For Tom Ricketts, my first recommendation would be to be very visible to the fan base, especially during his first season. He and his brothers and sister need to know what Cubs fans are thinking. I would also create an e-mail address for fans to submit ideas. Ozzie Guillen answers e-mails from fans and he has said that he will even try some of the ideas that are sent in to him. The Ricketts family can learn the needs and concerns of their fan base if they take the time to listen to them. From meeting the family, I believe that, as die hard Cubs fans, they want to improve the experience for a fan at Wrigley Field and they will indeed do all they can to make the Chicago Cubs the premier organization in Major League Baseball. Second, I would hire a baseball expert such as a former manager or player who has a tremendous understanding of how the game should be played to be his assistant so that he has a great handle on the inner workings of the sport from an on field perspective. Third, I would also add in some family friendly and kid friendly things such as letting kids run the bases after a weekend game.

For Jim Hendry, I would do these three things:

1) Move Ryan Theriot to 2B: That is where his long term future is with the Cubs so why not get him comfortable there now?

2) Add a 1 starter: Roy Halladay is available and he immediately makes your team a legitimate contender. Starting pitching is the most important quality in building a championship team. The Cubs have a questionable rotation with Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster and Randy Wells definitely back. Ted Lilly is coming off of shoulder surgery and has to be considered a question mark. Add in very average starters in Sean Marshall, Tom Gorzelanny and Jeff Samardzija and you do not currently have a rotation that looks like it is of world championship caliber. They have to add another top flight starter.

3) Get on base!: The Cubs have to emphasize on base percentage more than they have in the past. They need to add more speed to the lineup and a top flight on base machine who can help ignite rallies is a must to upgrade the lineup.

4) CSNChicago.com: What do you think you would be doing in your career if you were not involved in sports broadcasting? (Note to Kap: anything basketball or sports-related in general is not an option.)

Kaplan: My late father was a lawyer and a huge sports fan. He is the reason that I am doing what I am doing for a living. However, I was accepted into law school after college, so I guess I would be practicing law if I wasn't in sports. However, my entrepreneurial spirit might have led me to running my own business of some sort. I was not cut out to sit behind a desk from 8-5 everyday. No way!

5) CSNChicago.com: Congrats to you and the staff on the big Emmy win for Chicago Tribune Live. What has been your personal highlight so far as host of the show and who would you say is that one elusive guest that youre still trying to corral for a live in-studio appearance?

Kaplan: Thanks for the kind words. Winning the Emmy was a testament to the tremendous group of people we have who work incredibly hard on the show each and every day. Executive producer Lissa Christman, show producer Jeff Nelson and booking producer Ezra McCann are incredible professionals who do all they can to make our show so timely and creative. Our director Terry Cortez is the best in the business and our editor Eric Greenamyre is extremely good at making the show look great.

My personal highlight was taking the show on the road throughout the Blackhawks playoff run last spring. It was unbelievable to have guys like Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Tony Esposito and Denis Savard on our shows and to cover such an exciting team. The one dream panel that I want to host? Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama talking about how sports played such a great role in their lives. That would be an awesome experience!

BONUS QUESTIONCSNChicago.com: Anything you want to promote Kap? Tell us, CSNChicago.com readers want to hear about it

Kaplan: I have a special needs son, Brett, who has Fragile X Syndrome, which is on the Autistic spectrum. If anyone can make a donation to the National Fragile X Foundation, it would be most appreciated. He is a wonderful kid who works extremely hard everyday in school and has made tremendous strides over the past few years. Also, check out my blog on chicagonow.comkap, which I update all the time. Also, please follow me on Twitter @thekapman. I am always working to break stories in the sports world!

Kaplan LINKS:

Comcast SportsNetChicago Tribune Live page

WGN AM 720Sports Central page

Kaps Corner blog on ChicagoNow.com

David Kaplan on Facebook

David Kaplan on Twitter

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks win in Minnesota

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks win in Minnesota

Here are some of Tuesday's top stories in Chicago sports:

Wednesday on CSN: Illinois State and Loyola host in Valley doubleheader

Jonathan Toews has five-point night, including a hat trick, in Blackhawks' win over Wild

Report: Bears seeking trade partners for Jay Cutler

Bulls Talk Podcast: What is the Bulls' approach at the trade deadline?

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred open to idea of Cubs hosting All-Star Game at renovated Wrigley Field

White Sox Talk Podcast: 1-on-1 with executive vice president Ken Williams

Northwestern's offense nowhere to be found as Illini complete sweep of season series

Quick Hits: Blackhawks respond the right way in win over Wild

Under-the-radar Reynaldo Lopez impressing White Sox: 'He's got some stuff'

Why Sammy Sosa compared himself to Jesus Christ in candid interview

Why Joe Maddon won’t tone down the stunts at Cubs camp

Why Joe Maddon won’t tone down the stunts at Cubs camp

MESA, Ariz. – Joe Maddon teased reporters when pitchers and catchers reported to Arizona one week ago, promising the Cubs wouldn't tone down the gimmicks now that they're World Series champions: "We already have something planned for the first day that you might not want to miss."

A weekend of rain in Mesa postposed the first full-scale full-squad workout until Monday, and the wet grass meant the big reveal had to wait until Tuesday morning, when gonzo strength and conditioning coordinator Tim Buss drove a white Ferrari onto the field for the team's stretching session.

The bearded man they call "Bussy" rocked sunglasses, a gold chain around his neck, brown dress shoes and the same navy blue windowpane suit he wore to the White House. The overarching message as Buss blew kisses and Cypress Hill's "(Rock) Superstar" and Jay Z's "Big Pimpin'" blasted from the sound system: Humility.

"I hope everyone gets the sarcasm involved," Maddon said.

So, uh, no, the Cubs aren't going to dial it back or turn the zoo animals away or worry about the target they proudly wore on their chest last year.

"I don't know if the mime's coming back or not," Maddon said during the welcome-to-camp press conference. "Could you do a mime two years in a row? I don't know if that's permissible under MLB rules somewhere. I don't think you can bring a mime back two years in a row.

"Magicians are OK. You can anticipate a lot of the same, absolutely."

Before rolling your eyes at a star manager who loves the spotlight, it's important to note that the stunts are largely Buss productions.

"A lot of times, I'm not even aware," Maddon said. "He just knows he's got my blessings. He knows he does not have to clear it with me, unless it's absolutely insane. It works pretty well this way."

While every Maddon dress-up theme trip doesn't get universal love in the clubhouse, Buss has a unique way of getting millionaires to pay attention, almost tricking them into doing work.

"He's got several well-endowed players on the team that support his histrionics," Maddon said.

[MORE CUBS: MLB commissioner Rob Manfred open to idea of Cubs hosting All-Star Game at renovated Wrigley Field]

Since taking over this job in 2001, Buss has survived multiple ownership structures (Tribune Co., Sam Zell, Ricketts family) and the Andy MacPhail/Jim Hendry/Theo Epstein transitions in the front office, working for managers Don Baylor, Rene Lachemann (interim), Bruce Kimm (interim), Dusty Baker, Lou Piniella, Mike Quade, Dale Sveum and Rick Renteria.

"He must have some good photographs, right?" Maddon said. "He's a different cat. He's a weapon."

Buss can clearly get along with almost any kind of personality. But it took Maddon – and the explosion of social media – to give him this kind of platform.

"No, nothing's changed, man," Maddon said. "It's all the same in regards to 'the same,' meaning the methods, the process. I just got aired out by one of our geek guys for not using the word ‘process.’ It’s true. Last year, I used the word ‘process’ often. I’m going to continue to use it a lot again this year.

"Why were we able to withstand the word 'pressure' and 'expectations' as well as we did last year? Because we weren't outcome-oriented. We were more oriented towards the process. Anybody in your job and your business – if you want to be outcome-oriented – you're going to find yourself in a lot of trouble just focusing on that word.

"It's all about the process. Our process shall remain the same, absolutely it shall. Hopefully, we're going to add or augment it in some ways that can be even more interesting and entertaining."

The irony is that the Cubs have repeatedly used outcome-based thinking in defending Maddon's decisions during the World Series. But the manager obviously deserves so much credit for creating an environment where this team could play loose and relaxed and not collapse under the weight of franchise history.

"Our guys are pretty much in charge of the whole thing," Maddon said. "I love the empowerment of the players. I love that they feel the freedom to be themselves. If they didn't, maybe Jason (Heyward) would not have gotten the guys together in a weight room in Cleveland after a bad moment.

"All those things matter. And you can't understand exactly which is more important than the other. So you just continue to attempt to do a lot of the same things. Process is important, man, and we're going to continue along that path."