Wisconsin Media Series: Jim Paschke

Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 4.11.39 PMI sat down with Jim Paschke, the voice of the Milwaukee Bucks’ television for the past 29 years, at the Wisconsin Union in Madison, WI during Bucks training camp last week.

You can listen to our conversation on SoundCloud:

Below are the highlights of the interview.

Paschke’s Career Path

Before getting the call to do play-by-play for the Bucks in 1986, Paschke started working at a major league ballpark when he was 14. One of his co-workers and friends was the son of Ray Scott, the great former broadcaster of the Green Bay Packers for CBS.

At one point, Paschke was in the military in Alameda, CA, and Scott asked him if he wanted to spot him for some NFL television games with legendary NFL broadcaster Pat Summerrall. Paschke decided to go back to school in Minnesota. He then worked in Knoxville, IA in radio, Sioux City, IA in television, and Peoria, IL in television before coming to Madison, WI in 1977 to do Badger basketball and football. In 1980, he went to Milwaukee to work at Channel 6 for six years, which featured one of the Milwaukee greats in Earl Gillaspie. In 1986, he got the lucky call to do the Milwaukee Bucks and the Milwaukee Brewers. He did the Brewers for seven seasons, and he’s going on his 30th season as the Bucks’ play-by-play announcer.

Advice and the Evolution of Sports Media

Paschke accredited much of his success to working in small markets and learning the “craft” of the business. When asked about what advice he would give to those seeking to enter the media business, he talked about the importance of doing your current job and not your future job, the sacrifices you have to make to be good at your job, and working hard, but patiently, every day. And of course, he noted that there is luck involved, and “it’s about being ready if luck strikes you.”

In terms of the growth of the media business, especially with technology, Paschke noted that when he first started with the Bucks in 1986, he had trouble finding out of town newspapers with different opinions. Now, he finds that he has too much information, so it’s important to find credible and correct content, especially on Twitter. Furthermore, Paschke thinks Twitter pushes information too quickly sometimes on stories and digesting information, and it’s important to know that you’re right when you report something. Speed is everything in sports media now, but Paschke believes contemplation is still very important in this business.

When talking about giving his opinion, Paschke emphasized that his opinion is his, and he makes sure people know that. He has given strong opinions in the past, but admitted he is not an opinionated guy these days.

“I’m seated next to somebody who knows more about the game than I do every night I work. The officials know more about officiating than I will ever know every night I work…My opinion doesn’t matter; when it matters, I’ll give it. I’m not an opinionated guy these days. I sign my work everyday. People know who I am..If I say something stupid, it’s Jim Paschke saying something stupid.”

Discussing preparation, Paschke noted that the preparation among sports is not much different, but it’s best to be over-prepared. It’s important to put in your notes at the right time in the flow of the game. The difference in the sports, said Paschke, is the speed of the game. Baseball requires lots of concentration, so “The problem with baseball is there’s so much time, and it exposes what you do know, and what you don’t know,” Paschke claimed.

The 2015-16 Milwaukee Bucks

Paschke was intrigued by the lack of media members on Wednesday in comparison to Tuesday, the first day of practice in Madison last week. “Madison is a very important market to the Bucks,” Paschke explained, “this is a state-wide team.” He believes the Bucks’ fan base will continue to grow with consistency, not exactly with winning.

Paschke was extremely complimentary of Bucks head coach Jason Kidd. Paschke knew him as a player, and is so impressed with his command of the Bucks team. To put it quite simply, “he [Kidd] is a basketball savant.” If you’re going to listen to any part of the conversation, I would suggest this part about Kidd around the 20:00 mark that focuses on the Bucks until the end of the interview.

“Jason Kidd is most often, if not always, referred to as a great young coach. I disagree with that, I think he’s a great coach.”

From being around the Bucks, Paschke is very optimistic with the return of Jabari Parker due to his youth, hard work, and training to get back on the court. He agrees with the Bucks’ decision to be a little cautious, but he has been impressed with Parker’s explosiveness in practice. In terms of a timetable for return, Paschke is not exactly sure when Parker will be back, but seemed optimistic.

Talking about the Bucks’ defense, Paschke believes the team’s “high hands” defense is going to be very disruptive this season. Michael Carter-Williams, Khris Middleton, and Greg Monroe came to the Bucks from other teams never playing with that type of defense, and their wingspans are going to make an impact this season.

Paschke noted that Carter-Williams has been showing a much better shot since last season, which is encouraging for Bucks’ fans. He likes the look of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s three-point shot as well, but said that he was hitting that shot in practice all of last season so he just needs to translate it to the games.

Bucks Arena

Toward the end of the interview, we talked about the Bucks arena. Paschke never felt the end was near for the Bucks to leave this time around. He went through the Miller Park issue when he was working for the Brewers too, and he felt, relative to the past, that this arena was accomplished well. Paschke noted that fans came up to him all summer asking him about the situation and hoping for the Bucks to stay in Milwaukee with overwhelmingly positive comments. He believes this project could be a “beacon” for progress for Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin.

“This was accomplished – you can’t say easily, because it wasn’t easy; you can’t say quickly, because it’s never quick enough. It was accomplished well.”

Prediction for the Bucks 

Paschke does not do predictions, but he believes the Bucks “will play hard every night; they will be a better team this year than last year, regardless of whatever their victory total is.” They will not surprise opponents this year, but he thinks this team can win in the mid to upper 40s. He’s not ruling out the team taking the league by storm, but he believes in patience.

“There won’t be a catastrophic setback barring good health.”

On the Additions of Gus Johnson and Marques Johnson

Paschke will be on the TV broadcast for about 60 of the Bucks games this season. In reference to Gus Johnson and Marques Johnson joining the Bucks’ broadcast team with Paschke and Jon McGlocklin, Paschke emphasized that he is excited, not put off, by the additions of the Johnson’s and for the Bucks to have combinations of four different “flavors” every night on the telecast. Paschke thinks some people don’t believe him, but he explained to me that he thinks “it’s terrific for the viewer and Bucks’ fans” to have both Gus and Marques joining their team.

Author’s note: I’ve met several sports media personalities, and Jim Paschke was easily one of the best people and interviews I’ve been able to do. His charisma, willingness to meet with me and then talk at our event during his busy schedule, and hard work blew me away. I look forward to watching and listening to him for his 30th season on Fox Sports Wisconsin and bucks.com. 

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