Nate Ross has worn many hats over the years: college basketball assistant coach, restaurant owner and golf caddy, to name a few. But to Charleston residents, Ross is probably best known as a color analyst for college basketball telecasts and host of Bobby Cremins' television show. Ross talked about coaching, TV, Cremins and more when he went One-on-One with The Post and Courier's Tommy Braswell:
A lot of people know you best as a longtime college basketball assistant. How about a quick review of your career?
"I was a graduate assistant at Appalachian State under Bobby Cremins, then became a full-time assistant under Bobby Cremins. I was a full-time assistant at Appalachian State under Kevin Cantwell. I spent a total of eight years at Appalachian State and then seven years as an assistant at The Citadel under Randy Nesbit."
Did you work with the basketball team when you were a student at Maryland?
"I lived across the hall from the manager on the basketball team. I used to take recruits out when they came to visit. I remember one 7-footer from New Mexico. I took him on a private tour of the White House. George Raveling (then a Maryland assistant) gave me $50, told me to get a receipt, and handed me the keys to his car. It was just me, the 7-footer and a guard walking through the White House. The best thing was the guard asked if he played basketball. Without missing a beat, he said, 'No, ice hockey.' He ended up not going to Maryland."
You got out of coaching when Randy Nesbit's contract wasn't renewed at The Citadel. Why didn't you try to stay in coaching?
"Looking back, I probably should have tried but I didn't. That's when I got into TV. I miss it every day. But TV is as close as you can get without coaching. I love it."
What's your favorite Bobby Cremins story?
"Probably the first time I met him. He could easily have said, 'Nate, we don't need any help.' But he didn't. He gave me a start as a college basketball coach, which fulfilled my dream."
How did you get involved in television?
"There was a local tournament the College of Charleston was involved in. It was College of Charleston, Delaware State, Alabama and Penn State. Warren Peper was the host and Ted Byrne was the play-by-play. The guy who was promoting it called me up and asked if I wanted to do the color. I said I can do that. I've been screaming at the TV for 20 years. I remember the first production meeting and they were talking about all these technical terms. I had no idea what they were talking about. Warren Peper kind of winked at me and said he would explain everything later."
What's the most important thing for an analyst to do or know?
"Probably the back stories. The play-by-play guys tell you what happened. I tell you why it happened. My favorite question is when the play-by-play guy looks at me with 40 seconds to go and says, 'Coach, what do you think they're going to do?' "
How many games a year do you do?
"Around 20, a little less or a little more. Unfortunately, budget cuts have hurt me this year."
How many games a year do you watch?
"Three or four a night. Hundreds during a season. I have two TVs, one in my living room and one in my office. If I'm doing a team in the future, I'll be taping that. And I go to as many as I can."
Do you tape and critique yourself?
"When I watch a game, I'm watching the announcers more than the game so I can learn. I critique myself all the time. That's the only way to get better. Watching tape, that's the coach in you."
How did you get into the restaurant business?
"I was in the insurance business, which I did not like, for two years. I got a call one day in my office from a guy who was involved in the corporate end of this restaurant chain called Lil' Dino's Deli and Grill.' My uncle and my grandfather were both in the restaurant business. I tried the food and it was phenomenal. I was never a head coach, and this was my chance to be a head coach."
What was the experience like?
"I opened right on King Street. I figured wherever the athletes are going, that's where all the students are going, which was the case. It was the hardest job I ever had in my life. My rule was that when McDonald's was closed, I would close. And McDonald's isn't closed a lot. It was like basketball camp seven days a week. I sold it after five years. It was an interesting experience in my life."
You caddy at the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island. How did that come about?
"When I was coaching at The Citadel, the Ryder Cup was being held at Kiawah in September 1991. The golf coach then, Gene Styles, asked me if I wanted to come out and keep score. I kept score and met the head pro now, Brian Guerard. Several years later, I was the night manager at Bobby Hartin's Sports Bar, and the day bartender's husband and I were talking and his wife said they were looking for caddies at the Ocean Course. I've been doing that every summer for 10 years."
Who are some of the people you've caddied for?
"I've caddied in the World Cup. I've caddied in the PGA Club Professional Championship. I've caddied in LPGA events. I've caddied for Andy Bean. I've caddied for Fred Couples in some celebrity events. I've caddied for Dan Marino."