Sports Illustrated called Jay Bilas the best analyst in college basketball. In both 2007 and 2008, Bilas was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Performance by a Studio Analyst. Bilas joined ESPN in 1995 as a college basketball analyst, serving as co-host of ESPN's studio broadcasts since 2000, including College GameNight and College GameDay. Bilas makes frequent appearances on SportsCenter, ESPNEWS and ESPN Radio, and is a featured basketball writer on ESPN.com. "The Bilastrator" is also featured during halftime segments of some games.
In 2003, Bilas joined CBS as a game analyst for the network's coverage of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, being paired with Dick Enberg. A member of the Screen Actors' Guild since 1987, Bilas has appeared in national television commercials and the feature-length movie "I Come in Peace."
Bilas received his law degree from Duke University School of Law (while also serving as an assistant coach under Coach K.) in 1992. He is currently Of Counsel to the Charlotte office of Moore & Van Allen, where he maintains a litigation practice. Bilas most notably worked on the case Lyons Partnership v. Morris Costumes, Inc., where he successfully defended the costume business against trademark and copyright claims brought by owners of the popular children's television character, Barney the Dinosaur.
Paul M. Banks: The word student is listed first in the term student-athlete for a reason, talk about the role of academics in the world of big-time college basketball
Jay Bilas: There's a duality to it, I've always found it kind of funny that after a press conference after a NCAA tournament game they call them student-athletes, that's when it's ok to call them players. When they're in class they're students, when you're playing you're a player, so I believe in the term even though I think it gives a lot of the guys a short trip. In the educational foundation I have in Charlotte, we believe in education not just for athletes, but for everybody. It starts at the very beginning when kids are in pre-k, kindergarten, at the earliest stage, getting them into reading, getting them into learning, and learning for learning sake. It's a lifelong pursuit, and part of what the NABC is doing with their Ticket to Reading Rewards program and something that's really worth while"
PMB: I just actually flew in from Charlotte this morning, great city by the way, tell me more about your foundation there
JB: I work with Dell Curry, the former NBA star whose son Stephen is the Davidson star that electrified the NCAA tournament last year. We have a foundation called Athletes United for Youth. Although athletes headline it, it's an educational foundation for underserved youth in the Charlotte area and we run after-school programs and computer learning centers and summer camps that give kids that maybe haven't had a chance the tools they need to be successful. While Athletics may play a part in their lives, it's a small part, and we want to make academics the primary part and something they gravitate towards instead of shying away from.
PMB: The institution within which you did both your undergrad and graduate work, Duke has quite the prestigious reputation, do you have a relationship with the school today, and to what extent?
JB: I grew up in Los Angeles, neither one of my parents went to college, so college wasn't necessarily an expectation for me when I grew up and through basketball I got recruited by some schools that I probably would not have looked at outside of my want to play basketball and having gone to Duke was a really fortunate turn for me. I still stay in close contact with the school.
I'm a contributor and go back as often as I can. Any college is about people and I have good relationships with the people there. The reason I contribute money to where I went to school, both high school and college, is not for some philanthropic cause, it's because you want the next person's experience to be better than yours and I was really lucky- my experience was really good. There are so many good colleges and universities around the country that have good people and do great things, I was lucky I went to one of them, but they're all over the place. I know people feel the same way about where they went to school as I do about where I went to school, so we're all brothers in that regard.
PMB: You must be especially proud that an icon of Duke helped restore the prestige and reputation of Team USA basketball?
JB: Coach K. is the reason I went to Duke, I'd like to say that I had some other higher goal in mind: that I went to Duke for its own sake, but I went there to play for him and if he would have been somewhere else I would have gone somewhere else. I played USA Basketball on the lower level- I played for Gene Keady on the U.S. National Select Team one year. I'm really proud of that.
PMB: Tell me about how USA basketball turned around under Jerry Colangelo
JB: I think the biggest development we've had over the last 30 years in USA basketball is when Jerry Colangelo took over as Executive Director and formed a real program that we can now build on. We've had so many great coaches and players over the years in USA basketball, but we haven't had the structure to give them the tools they need to be as successful as they can be.
I think now the program put in place by Jerry Colangelo, working with Coach K and everybody at USA basketball- that was a big home run they hit in Beijing, but it was also over a three-year period. What they did the three years before was perhaps more important: with the structure, organization, how they choose the team, the commitment that all the players made, it wasn't just a commitment for that summer in '08 in Beijing, it was a three-year commitment, and it sounds like some of them want to keep committing.