Grant Hill is synonymous with Duke. He won two national championships there, he was a first-team All-American there, and his No. 33 jersey was retired there.
Heck, Hill is Duke. He helped put the program on the map.
Which is why it was odd to hear him call Duke’s Elite Eight win over Gonzaga this past Sunday. If you missed it, you’ll have an opportunity to hear Hill call Duke again on Saturday. His Blue Devils (33-4) play Michigan State (27-11) in the Final Four at 6:09 p.m. ET.
What does this mean? It means that if Hill says anything positive about Duke, viewers are probably going to call him a homer. If he says anything critical about Duke, he’s probably going to anger the fan base that reveres him.
Not exactly an easy situation to be in.
“That’s a great point,” Hill said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “It was hard. Calling a Duke game was very challenging. I’m not the only person who’s called a game of their alma mater, but it’s tough because you do have sort of skin in the game, so to speak. You have feelings for the team and that university, like everyone has about their alma mater. But you try to be fair. You try to be balanced. You have a job to do.”
Hill compared it to former Duke players Chris Collins, Steve Wojciechowski, Tommy Amaker and Johnny Dawkins coaching at different schools (Northwestern, Marquette, Harvard and Stanford, respectively).
“If they’re coaching against Duke, they love Coach K, they love the university, (and) they love Duke the school – but they have a job (to do),” Hill said. “They have a responsibility as coaches to their schools, to their players and to their coaches who are on their staff to go out there and do all that they can to beat Duke. It doesn’t change their feelings about Duke. But they have that job and that responsibility. I feel like it’s the same thing. I have a job and a responsibility to be honest and to be fair. But it’s hard. And I’ll be the first to say I haven’t quite figured it out. I don’t know if I’m too much of a homer or if I’m too critical or what. But you try to be professional. You try to maintain or be aware of that responsibility in everything you say during the course of the game.”
Luckily for Hill, he won’t be the only “homer” broadcaster working this weekend. He’ll call the Final Four for TBS, while Mateen Cleaves will serve as color analyst for the Spartans’ broadcast on truTV. Cleaves helped Michigan State win a national title in 2000.
“I’m sure we’ll be doing a little Duke/Michigan State trash talking, but it’s going to be fun,” Hill said. “I’m excited. It’ll be a busy weekend, but it’ll be a fun weekend.”