Fine-tuned golf game | Fall sports wrap-up | Mavericks broadcaster BOB ORTEGEL ’62 credits BU | Sports Comm major coming to BU
Ortegel began his 28th season — 21st with the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks — as a television broadcaster in the fall. “I was scared to death to give a speech,” said Ortegel. “The professor got me through that, and look at what I’m doing today.”
His TV career began two weeks after Ortegel left coaching in 1981. Instrumental in developing the Missouri Valley Conference game of the week during his seven-year stint as head coach at Drake, Ortegel was asked by the league to be the analyst for the eight-game MVC television package after he left Drake to become director of franchising with ShowBiz Pizza. Within 10 years, he was working more than 100 games each season and became a full-time broadcaster, covering Southwest Conference and MVC games and working with ABC and ESPN.
Then the Dallas Mavericks called. Mavericks general manager Norm Sonju, who had seen Ortegel’s work, asked if he could substitute for analyst Bob Wiess, who had to miss a game. Ortegel hesitated — NBA rules were considerably different than college rules, and he had to work a game at Texas A&M the same day — but he opted to cover it. A few years later, the Mavericks asked him to join the staff full-time as broadcaster and director of the Mavericks Speakers Bureau.
Ortegel’s television experience later landed him on the big screen. Longtime broadcaster Merle Harmon was asked to submit an audition tape for Glory Road, a 2006 Disney film based on the 1966 Texas Western national championship basketball team which was the first all-black starting lineup to play for a championship. Harmon asked Ortegel if he’d help him with the tape because he needed someone to play off. Three weeks later, Ortegel was added to the cast with Harmon.
Ortegel played the role of broadcaster for Texas Western’s double-overtime victory over Kansas in the regional final. “For that one little segment, I was in New Orleans for 10 days,” he said. “I had my own trailer; I couldn’t believe it. They take you to wardrobe because everyone had to be in clothes that were worn in the ’60s, and, of course, I knew all about that. They gave me a tie tack and I said, “You know, we wore tie bars more than tie tacks.’ The next day, the director of clothing left me a tie bar to wear.”
Unlike preparing for a sports broadcast, Ortegel needed little research to play the movie role. He knew Texas Western coach Don Haskins, and was 26 when Texas Western defeated Adolph Rupp’s Kentucky Wildcats for the championship. “I was coaching at Pekin High when that happened in 1966,” he said. “Don Haskins was a friend of mine. We’ve spoken at clinics before — years ago — back when I was at Drake. I remember those players, I remember Haskins, I remember the way they were treated, and how Rupp felt about the whole thing.”
Ortegel never planned to get involved in TV — or movies for that matter. A Bradley basketball player with the likes of CHET WALKER ’62 and BOBBY JOE MASON ’60, Ortegel wanted to coach college basketball. He gives much of the credit for his hires to his Bradley coaches, JOE STOWELL ’50 MA ’56 and CHUCK ORSBORN ’39. From Mason City High School, he joined Dawdy Hawkins’ staff at Pekin High School, which won the 1967 state championship. “Dawdy’s the one who called me into his office in 1968,” Ortegel said. “I had been offered a position at Northern Michigan, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to go. He chewed me out and said, ‘What do you want to do? What do you want to be?’ I said, ‘Well, I want to be a head coach at a Division I school.’ He said, ‘You can’t do that at Pekin High School.’ ”
Ortegel followed Hawkins’ advice. While an assistant under GLENN BROWN ’56 for two years at NMU, he earned a master’s degree in education. A finalist for the head coaching job at Illinois State, he was ultimately offered an assistant’s job under Will Robinson — the first black head coach at a Division I university — at ISU, where he coached Doug Collins during the 1970–71 season. The following season Ortegel was lured to Drake where he was an assistant for three years before being promoted to head coach in 1974. “The reason I went to Drake was that they had just been to the Final Four in ’69,” said Ortegel, who mentions the great rivalry with Bradley during his tenure there. “It was a step up.”
Throughout his coaching career, Ortegel remembered an acronym from Bradley education professor Dr. Perry Davis: SMOP, or selection, motivation, organization, presentation. “He said that’s what teaching was, SMOP. I used that in coaching all the time,” Ortegel said. “I love that University.”
Sports Comm major