5 Questions with...CSN's Mark Schanowski

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5 Questions with...CSN's Mark Schanowski

By Jeff Nuich

CSN Chicago Senior Director of CommunicationsCSNChicago.com Contributor

December 30, 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 probing, yet fun 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 weeka true veteran of the Chicago sports beat for two decadeshes covered numerous memorable local sporting events over the years and plans to keep it going for many more years to comeyou can catch him weeknights at 6:30, 10:00 and 10:30 PM with partner Pat Boyle on Comcast SportsNets SportsNitehere are 5 Questions withMARK SCHANOWSKI!
BIO: Chicago sports broadcasting veteran Mark Schanowski joined Comcast SportsNet in 2006 as the primary co-anchor on SportsNite, along with hosting the network's Bulls studio coverage on Bulls Pre-Game Live as well as Bulls Post Game Live following all CSN Bulls telecasts this season. Schanowski, a standout local sportscaster with over 20 years of experience, came to Comcast SportsNet from NBC 5 in Chicago, where he has served as a sports anchor since August of 1998. At NBC5, he also anchored "NBC5 Sports Sunday" and hosted the network's prepostgame coverage for its Chicago Bears preseason telecasts. Prior to joining NBC5, Schanowski anchoredproduced weekend sportscasts and was a weekday general assignment sports reporter at ABC 7 in Chicago from 1990 to 1998. Schanowski graduated with a degree in mass communicationsradio and television from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

1) CSNChicago.com: Mark, the Bulls are unfortunately off to a rough start this season, but, in fairness, they also had a rough start last season and still managed to get into the playoffs and provide fans with one of the most thrilling seven-game NBA Playoffs series in recent memoryagainst the defending champion Celtics no less. In your opinion, what do they specifically need to do to get back on track once again?

Schanowski: Good health and better outside shooting. The Bulls rank near the bottom of the league right now in points per game, field goal shooting percentage and three point shooting percentage. No one could have imagined how great the loss of Ben Gordon in free agency would impact the Bulls' offense. Gordon was the one player who could consistently hit three-point shots and get to the foul line during the final minutes of close games. With Gordon now in Detroit, opposing defenses are collapsing in the lane to stop Derrick Rose's drives to the basket and just daring John Salmons, Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng to shoot from the outside. So far, the strategy has worked perfectly, with the Bulls' perimeter players all having a tough time with their shots so far this season.

The other issue has been injuries. Because the Bulls are only carrying 13 players on the roster, they really couldn't afford to lose one of their rotation players to injuries. So, as bad luck would have it, Tyrus Thomas broke his arm in a weight-training accident during the second week of the season, and missed about seven weeks total (nice to see his solid return last week vs. New Orleans). Then, Kirk Hinrich, who's the glue guy off the bench, sprained his left thumb badly in a practice in Utah on the day before Thanksgiving, and he's finally playing effectively once again. One of the strengths of this team was supposed to be a deep and talented bench, but with Thomas, Hinrich and Jannero Pargo hurting, the coaches were left with Brad Miller, James Johnson and 39-year-old Lindsey Hunter off the bench, and that really killed them during the Circus road trip and in some of the games immediately after they returned from the West Coast.

With Thomas recent return to action, and Hinrich close to 100 percent again, the Bulls should be able to take advantage of a more favorable schedule over the next few weeks and move closer to the .500 mark. And, in the Eastern Conference, a .500 record should be good enough to make the playoffs again. The one thing you shouldn't look for is a major trade. The Bulls' front office wants to preserve salary cap room to bid on the free agent class of 2010, which includes LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Amare Stoudemire, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer and Joe Johnson. The Bulls probably won't make any trades unless it involves adding another expiring contract for a veteran player like Salmons or Hinrich.

2) CSNChicago.com: February 26, 2009 will go down as one of the saddest days in Chicago sports history with the passing of two legendary Bulls giants: Johnny Red Kerr and Norm Van Lier. As someone who knew Red very well over the years and as Norms on-air partner on Comcast SportsNet and personal friend, what did these two individuals mean to you personally and what did they mean to the growth and development of the NBA?

Schanowski: Red and Norm represented everything that was good about Chicago Bulls basketball. They cared deeply about the team, and tirelessly gave of their free time to promote the organization and basketball in general. Red was the first coach in franchise history, and always looked on the team like a proud father. He was encouraging and passionate, cheering the Bulls on through their six championships, and always looking for a way to find something positive even in the rebuilding years that followed the Jordan Dynasty. Norm was as fiery as a broadcaster as he was on the court, never giving an inch, and demanding accountability when things went wrong. But Norm also loved the Bulls, and took great pride in his playing career and in his association with the team as an expert analyst and ambassador.

I had so much fun working with Norm for almost four full seasons on the Bulls pre and post-game shows. He told me so many entertaining stories about his time as an NBA player, but I also got to know Norm as a loving father, who cared deeply about helping others. People who only saw Norm on television have no idea what a caring and compassionate man he was, and how much he enjoyed the friendships he made through the years as a broadcaster.

Red should be in the Hall of Fame for his contributions as a player, coach and broadcaster. Younger fans have no idea what a great player Red was during the early years of the NBA, and how he battled Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain as one of the top centers in the league. Red also was a generous man, who always was willing to offer a kind word to co-workers, colleagues and Bulls' fans. I can't even begin to tell you how much those two are missed.

3) CSNChicago.com: Rattle em off Markwhat would be your Top 5 biggest local sports stories of 2009 and, a follow-up question, name 5 local sports predictions for 2010?

Schanowski:
Top 5 biggest local sports of 2009:

1. Bears trade for Jay Cutler, who suffers through a terrible first season in Chicago

2. Mark Buehrle pitches a perfect game vs. Tampa Bay

3. Blackhawks host Winter Classic game at Wrigley Field and make an impressive playoff run before losing in the Western Conference Finals

4. Bulls take defending NBA champion Boston Celtics to 7 games in a classic opening round seriesDerrick Rose wins NBA Rookie of the Year award

5. Cubs run of division titles ends at twoMilton Bradley's run-ins with media and fans lead to trade to Seattle

Predictions for 2010:

1. Bears fire Lovie Smith after 2009 season

2. Bulls sign Carlos Boozer after missing out on LeBron, D-Wade and Chris Bosh

3. White Sox win A.L. Central Championship

4. Blackhawks reach Stanley Cup Finals, but lose to Washington

5. Cubs struggle again, Piniella retires at season's end

4) CSNChicago.com: Rumor has it you have a really impressive singing voiceis that true and will we ever get a chance to hear it? It would make a great feature piece on SportsNite!

Schanowski: My singing voice is only average. It would hardly be worth a SportsNite feature. Maybe you can catch me sometime at a "Karaoke Night" around the city.

5) CSNChicago.com: Tell us one thing about your SportsNite partner Pat Boyle that you most admire and the one thing that makes him kind of annoying? NOTE: the same question was posed to Boyle about you in last weeks 5 Questions with!

Schanowski: Pat is at his best when the spotlight is shining brightly. I had the pleasure of traveling with Pat and several other members of our SportsNite team to cover the Super Bowl in '07 (hard to believe the Bears were so good just a few years ago!). Anyway, the work load was incredible, but Pat never missed a beat, and he cranked out a series of excellent specials with very little prep time, and performed flawlessly. Pat has the ability to block out distractions and problems and focus on the job at hand, and that's what makes him the consummate professional.

I know you're looking for something juicy on the other side of the equation, but I've got nothing. That's probably why we have so much fun doing SportsNite every night.

Thanks again for inviting me to be a part of the "5 Questions with" series, and Happy Holidays to all!

Schanowski LINKS:

Comcast SportsNetSportsNite page

Schanowskis Beyond the Arc blog on CSNChicago.com

Jonathan Toews' late goal sends Blackhawks to win over Canucks

Jonathan Toews' late goal sends Blackhawks to win over Canucks

Jonathan Toews recorded a four-point night, including the game-winning goal, and Corey Crawford recorded his 200th career victory as the Blackhawks beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-2 on Sunday night.

Crawford, who had struggled in recent starts, stopped 25 of 27 shots in this one. Brian Campbell garnered his 500th career point with his primary assist on Panik's goal. Toews recorded two assists, moving ahead of Jeremy Roenick for 13th among the Blackhawks' all-time assist leaders (330).

Marian Hossa, who recorded an empty-net goal late, garnered his 400th point in a Blackhawks uniform.

The Blackhawks had one of their best first periods on Sunday night, outshooting the Canucks 18-9 and taking that 2-0 lead. Richard Panik scored his 11th goal of the season from the slot off Campbell's feed and Patrick Kane scored his 15th goal of the season.

The third wasn't nearly as good as Troy Stecher scored a power-play goal and Bo Horvat scored 46 seconds later. But Toews scored off a carom off the backboards with 1:18 remaining to regain a 3-2 lead, and Hossa’s empty-net goal sealed it.

Bad blood fueled Bears-Vikings playoff bout profiled in 'Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon'

Bad blood fueled Bears-Vikings playoff bout profiled in 'Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon'

From the high ground of hindsight, what unfolded in the Metrodome that day in 1995 was actually quite a big deal. But not for reasons that you could have really understood at the time watching the Bears stun the Minnesota Vikings 35-18 in the wild card round of the 1994 playoffs.

It was not so much the game alone. It was the overall context of the time for the Bears, before and after.

Though the 1995 season would get off to a 6-2 start for the Bears before their near-historic collapse, the Minnesota game would prove to be the high-water mark for the coaching tenure of Dave Wannstedt. This was the postseason, and the Bears looked to be going where then-president Mike McCaskey envisioned when he made the play to beat the New York Giants in securing Wannstedt, who was unquestionably the hot coaching prospect coming out of the Dallas Super Bowl pantheon after the 1992 season.

To fully grasp the situation, you need to understand the undercurrent of venom that had developed between the Bears and Vikings. Bears-Packers might have been the glitzy rivalry, but what had grown between the Bears and Vikings was true hostility, with little of the respect that the Bears and Packers had managed. The Vikings carried grudges for Pro Bowl slights going back almost to the Bears' Super Bowl win. One Bears defensive lineman remarked that his most hated opponent was Minnesota right tackle Tim Irwin, adding, "He's a guy that, if I ran over him with a car, I'd back up over him to make sure I got him." Dwayne Rudd's backpedaling taunt after an interception came a couple years later, but you get the idea.

What's easily forgotten looking back through the mists of time was the epic decision made by Wannstedt to make a quarterback change, from a quarterback he wanted in free agency to one he knew well from their time together at the University of Miami. That was every bit the turning point of the season and the real reason the playoff trip and win ever happened.

The Bears had been annihilated in their first game against the Vikings in the 1994 season — 42-14 — and something was really, really wrong, which become glaringly more evident just a few weeks later, even though the Bears were reaching a 4-2 mark under quarterback Erik Kramer, the centerpiece of an aggressive offseason foray into free agency. But the Bears then lost — badly — to the Lions and Packers, with Kramer throwing three interceptions against Detroit and two against Green Bay, the latter in only 10 pass attempts.

[SHOP BEARS: Get your Bears gear right here]

I talked privately to Kramer after the Green Bay game, specifically about why it was that he was playing his absolute worst against Detroit, Green Bay and Minnesota, all teams with which he was intimately familiar. My thought: You know those defenses and where their people are going to be.

Kramer shook his head: "The 'other guys' I know. It's my own guys. I don't know where they're supposed to be."

It wasn't a comment on his receivers whatsoever. It was Kramer admitting bluntly that he was not getting the West Coast scheme of coordinator Ron Turner and its timing element.

Wannstedt knew it wasn't working and made the change to Steve Walsh, who'd been the Hurricanes' quarterback under Jimmy Johnson when Wannstedt was the defensive coordinator.

That was the tipping point, and Walsh and Wannstedt are among the principals of "Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon," airing on Monday at 8 p.m. on CSN.

Anyone with any time spent in or around the NFL knows that beating a team three times in a season is incredibly difficult. The Bears had been blown out in the first Minnesota game but had pushed the Vikings to overtime in the second and would have won had Kevin Butler not missed a 40-yard field goal try.

The playoff meeting was No. 3, and after the Vikings put up a field goal in the first quarter, the Bears scored with a Lewis Tillman touchdown in the second and just pulled steadily away from the winner of the only NFL division that produced four teams with winning records.

From there it would be another decade-plus — 2006 season — before the Bears would win a playoff game.