The Charlotte Hornets have always had one of the better media departments in the league. On the television side, we have had professionals like Steve Martin and Gil McGregor who graced the Hornets community with excellent play-by-play analysis for ten years together. They’ve been succeeded by the always enjoyable duo or Eric Collins and Dell Curry.
The radio side is where the the Hornets most iconic voice made his name. Steve Martin was a staple of Charlotte basketball broadcasts since the original inception of the Hornets in 1988. His calls of Alonzo Mourning’s game-winning shot against the Boston Celtics in 1993 and Larry Johnson’s shot against the Seattle SuperSonics the year prior will be a part of Hornets lore forever.
As Martin officially announced his retirement from both media forms in early 2018, it was time for a new figure to fill those legendary shoes. In came Chris Kroeger, a 31-year-old broadcaster who is most known for his four-year stint as part of the Charlotte WFNZ crew. Kroeger has gained a strong audience in the Charlotte area, which was a key reason for his new opportunity with the Hornets as the play-by-play radio broadcaster.
Accepting a broadcasting role for your hometown team must be certainly special, as Kroeger has in this position. Combined with his success at such a young age, he fit the bill of what the organization was looking to bring in.
On top of the broadcast work he does for the team, Kroeger has started a new Charlotte Hornets-centric podcast, Courtside Seats with Kroeger. The show can be found on Hornets.com as well as the typical podcast platforms. In the series, Kroeger frequently sits down with both players and Hornets executives to give fans an inside look at the organization.
With that said, here is my Q&A with Hornets new play-by-play radio broadcaster, Chris Kroeger.
*Note: The questions will be under my initials, AW. The answers will be under the initials CK, signifying Chris Kroeger.
AW: With it being your first full season with the Hornets, I hope the players welcomed you with open arms when you first arrived at the Spectrum Center. As the NBA season reaches the quarter-way mark, are there any players on the Hornets roster in which you established a relationship that goes beyond the in-game action?
CK: I wouldn’t say that I have any one relationship that extends beyond the court or the job, but there are certainly players that I think I have great relationships with and a lot of that is built over time and familiarity around one another. Before I joined the team, I worked for the team in a part-time capacity in addition to doing my radio show starting in 2014. Because of that, I feel like I have a good comfort level with guys like MKG, Cody, Nic, and Kemba as they’ve grown with the team over the years. I definitely feel a bond with Kemba for how hard he reps Charlotte and how hard I would rep him doing my show over the years for his hard work, growth and the under-appreciation that existed around the city and NBA for him at that time.
AW: Arguably one of the most exciting events of the Hornets season this year is the all-star festivities taking place in and around the city of Charlotte. What event during that weekend are you most excited to see at the Spectrum Center come mid-February?
CK: I’m really looking forward to All-Star Saturday Night at The Hive. We’ll have to wait to see the rosters of events, but it’s hard to imagine Miles Bridges and Kemba Walker not being involved in the dunk and three-point contests, respectively. Plus, Stephen Curry is a guy that seems like a lock for the three-point contest in his hometown. Saturday night has become every bit as big as the game itself so I can’t wait to see how things take shape.
AW: The Greensboro Swarm has captured a lot of interest to Hornets fans. We have seen players on the Hornets, specifically Devonte Graham and Dwayne Bacon, taking advantage of this opportunity by playing in assignment games. What impact can you see the G League have on these two players? Essentially, what skills do you want to see them develop through this experience?
CK: The G-League is a tool just like everything else in the NBA. Mitch Kupchak and James Borrego share a vision for what the G-League can do for the franchise, especially a smaller-market franchise like the Hornets. Jordan Farmar and Gerald Green are guys that got meaningful run for LA’s then D-League team and look at a guy like Bryn Forbes of the Spurs who spent time early in his career with their G-League affiliate in Austin. The Hornets have the same expectations that the G-League can be a place to develop more raw talent slowly while also sending NBA players to the squad to get meaningful action while they’re not receiving it during the NBA schedule.
AW: The center position has once again been a major topic of discussion among the Hornets fan base. This year, in particular, there is three legitimate big man who could arguably receive 20 plus minutes a night and possibly a starting role at that five spot. If you were Hornets head coach James Borrego, how would you handle out these minutes?
CK: I think Coach Borrego is doing a masterful job of riding the hot hand at center. All four centers on the roster bring something different to the table. Cody is probably the most polished and versatile of the group right now, but there are nights where Willy’s shooting touch and range is more valuable to space the floor and time when Frank’s ability to get to the rim and take advantage of more slower big men is of value. We’ve also seen moments when a more traditional rim-protecting big man calls for Biz and times when going small pushes Marvin to center, and the Hornets really like those situations too.
AW: As the Hornets look right now, they seem to be on the trail to once again peek around the .500 mark. What are the opportunities, either externally or internally, that the team should pursue in order to climb over this hump and establish themselves as a legitimate playoff team in the eastern conference?
CK: I think staying the course is one of the smartest things you could do in this situation. Cap flexibility is something the Hornets don’t have a lot of, but that can only be fixed with time. Miles and Devonte look like quality draft picks with bright futures, Malik and Dwayne are both young and full of upside and Kemba is just 28 years old – entering the prime of his career. Playoff experience for a young team and new head coach would be extremely valuable in the short and long term. Getting young players to experience in what playoff basketball is like and what it takes to win will pay dividends down the road.
AW: I want to end the Q&A by talking about your experience in the sports media market. As the Hornets new play-by-play announcer, you, of course, are filling in the big shoes of legendary commentator Steve Martin. What was the most memorable advice that Mr. Martin gave to you as you transitioned into your new role?
CK: Steve warned me the wins would feel great, but the losses would hurt just as much…if not more. It’s been 100% the truth. The losses hurt and we’ve had 10 games already decided by one possession or less – those hurt even more. Steve told me to get going on my prep for the next game, just like the players and coaches do. It has been so helpful to start looking ahead to the next matchup and start flushing out what happened last time out. There’s no going back to change things so by looking ahead you start to think about the good of what happened the previous game and devising game plans and storylines to how the Hornets can win the next one.
AW: Here on At The Hive, many of our contributors and community members are passionate about the sports media industry, with some even wanting to join that career field as their own occupation. With yourself being the current youngest NBA play-by-play commentator at just 31-years-old, what lesson about the industry would you tell that audience that transpire to be just like you?
CK: It sounds cheesy and simplistic, but bust your tail every single day. I always tell people that even if you don’t think anyone notices your work and work ethic, there is at least one person that does – and usually a lot more! Your work is your reputation. I never acted like a college student or young professional. I simply acted like a professional. When you do that, the rest takes care of itself. People say it’s better to be lucky than good. I say it’s better to be lucky and good. You can’t control the luck, you can control the other half of that equation through hard work.
I want to give a huge thanks to Mr. Kroeger in contributing to this piece. If there’s interest for more content like this, we can certainly make more of these Q&A style of articles in the future.