SCHMIDT: Getting inside an insider’s head

Chris Broussard is a dynamo.

The ESPN do-it-all NBA insider works nearly around the clock, routinely breaks stories about LeBron James and other superstar athletes — and can fix a mean Windsor knot.

At least that was my first impression of him. It wasn’t a few minutes after I met the guy backstage before the Axthelm Lecture that he was tightening up my sad, drooping tie. This is a man who makes his living interviewing the biggest stars on the planet, and here he is helping little old me not look like a bum on TV.

Broussard seems to know fashion like he knows basketball, so it’s safe to say he’s as familiar with Phoenix Suns’ guard Aaron Brooks as he is with Brooks Brothers. He remarked to me how he owned 10 or 11 suits for his appearances on ESPN, but probably needed a few more. Don’t we all.

Throughout the event at the Helfaer Theatre and the dinner that followed with a small group of people involved with the event, Broussard continued to dazzle everyone with his magnetic personality and bottomless knowledge of basketball. He carries himself like he knows everything. He speaks as if he does.

His half-hour lecture consisted of half parts serious wisdom and light-hearted anecdotes. He spoke of how he worked 19 hours a day in the weeks leading up to LeBron’s now infamous “decision,” how he worked his way up from small-time Akron, Ohio to the bright lights of the New York Times to the sports epicenter at ESPN, how back in the day while at Oberlin College, he covered himself on the men’s basketball team.

Needless to say, Broussard always had a good game.

After his speech concluded, he joined senior Brad Galli, the MUTV Sports Director, sophomore Ashley De Le Torre and me for a roundtable discussion. We drilled him with questions and picked his brain for a better part of a half hour, and he never skipped a beat answering everything with the same slow, confident drawl.

The guy is cooler than a polar bear’s toenails.

Despite his air of supreme cool, Broussard has a boy-next-door level of approachability about him. During dinner I talked to him one-on-one about LeBron’s legacy and how he felt about the men’s NCAA Tournament national championship game. The experience? Humbling.

I know sports. Besides writing and breathing, watching ESPN is basically all I do. But talking to one of the country’s preeminent NBA insiders made me realize how much more time and passion I need to pour into sports journalism if I’m going to make a career out of it.

Broussard’s key points that I couldn’t refute:

LeBron did the right thing by joining two all-stars in Miami (after all, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird didn’t do it alone), but telling the world his choice via “The Decision” was a bit ill advised. He thinks the Butler vs. Connecticut game on Monday was basically unwatchable and an obvious letdown after the tourney’s opening weekend, which he called the best weekend in sports.

He thinks Jordan is the best player ever, though Magic has a strong case. He knows how the Heat players feel about coach Erik Spoelstra, but he doesn’t want me to tell you.

And lastly? He prefers chocolate over peach cobbler. That’s a man whose knowledge is truly infallible.

All in all, my day with Broussard was something I’ll never forget. Likewise, I think my colleagues and I left an unmistakable mark on the ESPN guru’s life. The man said it best:

“I’m never going to look at Marquette the same way again.”