5 Questions with...CSN's David Kaplan

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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

Bears Talk Podcast: Bears back in win column

Bears Talk Podcast: Bears back in win column

In the latest edition of the Bears Talk Podcast, Chris Boden, Alex Brown and Jim Miller react to the Bears 26-6 win over the 49ers. 

The guys then discuss why fans shouldn't root for a Bears loss just to get a better draft pick. They also preview the team's game against the Lions next week. 

Finally, Mark Schanowski and Dave Wannstedt break down the College Football Playoff. 

Listen to the Bears Talk Podcast below. 

Lars Johansson excited for Blackhawks call-up

Lars Johansson excited for Blackhawks call-up

If Lars Johansson was surprised by the turn of events that led to his call-up, he wasn’t showing it.

The goaltender has played a bulk of the Rockford IceHogs’ games this season before Saturday, when he was recalled after Corey Crawford was sidelined with appendicitis. And while he’s not sure how much he’ll play while with the Blackhawks, Johansson is ready to benefit from the experience, even if it’s solely in practices.

“I hope to learn a lot,” Johansson said prior to Sunday’s game, the first in which he served as backup goaltender for the Blackhawks. “It’s top players and they’re the best players in the world. I’m excited to face every shot from them and hopefully I can be a little bit better.”

Coach Joel Quenneville said Scott Darling will likely play “a big chunk” of the time Crawford is sidelined. That’s not surprising. But Quenneville said the organization has confidence in Johansson if he’s needed.

“When he came to our organization we thought he had a chance to play at this level,” Quenneville said. “He has size, experience coming up here, a chance to face NHL shooters and you never know. We know things change quickly in our business. We’ve seen over the last few years, everyone using three or four goalies deep. We’ll see with Lars. If he gets a chance to play, he’ll be fine.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Johansson has a 6-7-1 record (2.63 goals-against average and .911 save percentage) in his brief time with the Rockford IceHogs. After signing with the Blackhawks in May, Johansson faced the same issue as many who come from across the pond: adjusting to the North American ice. So Johansson got here well ahead of training camp this season to get used to the smaller surface. That, combined with his games in Rockford have Johansson feeling better.

“The shots can come quicker, and it’s tighter, crowded, in front of the net so you have to work a little bit more. But otherwise than that, yeah, the [trapezoid] where I can play the puck that was a bit different in the very beginning,” Johansson said. “It took me a couple of weeks but now you don’t even think about it anymore.”

Johansson will take this experience for whatever it brings. If it’s mostly practice, so be it. If he does get in a game, he’ll handle all the emotions that will come with that and go with it.

“If something were to happen, absolutely I would be nervous, excited for any new thing my whole career. It would be exciting most of all,” Johansson said. “If that happens, it happens. I just have to make myself prepared as good as I can now if that were to happen.”