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Basketball legends to host TV show at Wynn sportsbook14 January 2009
LAS VEGAS – The venue has changed dramatically, but Billy Packer will once again be providing analysis for the NCAA men's basketball tournament this spring.
Packer, 68, abruptly left his television job at CBS last year following the tournament, ending a string of 34 years in the booth. Now, he's going to be doing something he's always been fascinated by once the field of 64 is released: March Madness in Las Vegas.
Packer announced at a press conference last Monday that -- along with coaching legend and fellow Basketball Hall of Famer Bobby Knight -- he will be hosting "Survive and Advance," a series of five, one-hour television programs that will be filmed live inside the Wynn Las Vegas Race and Sports Book throughout the men's tournament. The show will air on Fox Sports Net (FSN) at 12 a.m. Las Vegas time beginning on Selection Sunday, March 15, and then following the games on March 22, March 29, April 3 and April 5. Johnny Avello, the executive director at Wynn Las Vegas, will host the show with Packer and Knight, who will spend those days in the sportsbook watching the games and interacting with fans.
"I've always heard how exciting Vegas can be for the tournament," Packer explained. "I remember a few years back I offered to get a good friend of mine some tickets to the Final Four. He went to the games and had a great time. But when he called to thank me for the tickets, he told me that being at the games was the second-best place to be for the tournament. To him, the No. 1 spot to be was still Las Vegas. That got me wondering, 'What am I missing by not being there?'"
While the show will be filmed live-to-tape literally steps away from the counter where bets can legally be placed on the tournament action, Packer and Knight insisted Monday that this was not going to be a gambling show.
"This is going to be a basketball show; the kind of basketball show that has never been done before," Packer said. "Between Bobby and I, there is going to be more brain power in this room about the NCAA tournament than anywhere else in the universe."
Knight, the volatile coach who had numerous run-ins with the media during his storied career at Indiana and Texas Tech, said via the telephone that he was looking forward to the show mostly because he has been interviewed over the years by "a lot of people who have no idea what they're talking about." But, he added, that "certainly won't be the case with this show."
When asked if he had any trepidation about hosting a show inside a sportsbook, Knight said it wasn't an issue.
"People who want to gamble are going to listen to anyone with an opinion," said Knight, who retired from coaching last year with an unprecedented 902 wins and is currently providing regular-seasons analysis for ESPN. "It doesn't matter where you're doing the show. It's always going to be there. If you say X has an advantage over Y, someone's going to put a bet on it."
In addition to the show, Packer and Knight are also teaming up to develop an interactive web platform that will feature custom fantasy games and a Web site that will include news, analysis, blogs, video and other original content.
"This is a new and exciting venture for me because I still don't own a cellphone, I don't have a computer and I've never sent an e-mail," he said with a wide smile. "But this is something I started to envision a long time ago. I actually discussed the concept with Bobby [at last year's Final Four].
"I've been on a lot of basketball shows over the years that for some reason or another you could never get as in-depth about things as I would have liked. But by being in control of this show, I know we're going to really be able to get into some great analysis that you won't be able to find anywhere else. I can't wait to get started."
Packer added that once he settled on airing the show from Las Vegas, the Wynn was the only place he would consider.
"Steve and Elaine Wynn have always been great to amateur sports and basketball in particular," said Packer, who noted the arrival of Mrs. Wynn as she showed up at the press conference. "They envisioned exactly the same way I did so it's a perfect marriage."
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