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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Shop talk: Five former Gonzaga standouts finding success in the world of podcasting

By Justin Reed The Spokesman-Review

Podcasting, a term coined in 2004, has grown exponentially across the tail end of the 2010s. As of 2021, most estimates have the number of podcasts between 1.5 and 2 million.

That is up from around 800,000 in 2020 and 500,000 in 2018.

Five former Gonzaga men’s basketball players have jumped on the podcast upswing in the last couple years:

Dan Dickau, Mike Nilson, Adam Morrison, Matt Santangelo and Rob Sacre.

While the easy route would be for them to dive down the Bulldogs rabbit hole and talk Zags basketball until the sun burns out, the five of them take a diverse approach to their respective shows.

All of their podcasts can be found wherever podcasts are streamed.

The Iso, Bulldog Broadcast

Of all former Bulldogs, Dickau is now the most experienced behind a microphone and in front of a camera.

His background includes working TV for KHQ, Root Sports, CBS Sports Network, Pac-12 and radio for Westwood One.

He currently hosts two of his own podcasts and is involved with a third.

The Iso was started a week after quarantine began last year. It was called the Quarantine series which ran five days a week for about three months. Now it runs about two days a week.

It has a spotlight on basketball, but on top of that, Dickau has featured former Washington State quarterbacks Drew Bledsoe, Ryan Leaf and former Mariner first baseman Richie Sexson.

Also hopping on were current CBS analyst and former basketball player Clark Kellogg and Seattle-based journalist Gregg Bell.

“We really try to get experts in the field of sports, to chat about their experiences, their memories, things that they’ve learned, maybe people that have really been an impact for them,” Dickau said. “And kind of share some stories.”

His other podcast, the Bulldog Broadcast, is run by The Field of 68 Media Network which was launched by college basketball insider Jeff Goodman and reporter Rob Dauster.

They operate podcasts that focus on specific college basketball programs.

Kentucky has one, so does Kansas, Louisville and Michigan State along with 10 or so more.

Dickau has hosted J.P. Batista, Tommy Lloyd, Silas Melson and Geno Crandall on his podcast.

One of the best shows he has recorded on the Bulldog Broadcast happened during the Bulldogs’ run to the Final Four. Dickau had former Zag coaches Dan Monson, Billy Grier, Leon Rice and Ray Giacoletti on and they staged a roast of Mark Few.

“They gave me a hard time, they gave each other a hard time, and they kind of really went after coach Few with a few different things,” Dickau said.

With Dickau’s extensive background, the actual podcasts are easy to produce. The most difficult part is scheduling guests on a consistent basis.

“Just as an example, I’ve got five guys right now that I’m trying to schedule out interviews for this week, then to record and release in the next couple of weeks,” Dickau said. “Guys that are assistant coaches at Duke, North Carolina, the coach at Utah, Craig Smith, a couple other guys in the college basketball world. It’s not necessarily my calendar, when it works for them. To record, it has to work on their calendar.”

He’d prepare at least eight solid questions and then as the conversations would get rolling, he’d let them naturally evolve.

Even with his packed schedule, Dickau has no plans on slowing his podcasts down.

Hoop Commitment

Nilson has a long history in strength, conditioning, nutrition and of course basketball.

After finishing his professional career, Nilson joined GU’s athletic department as a strength and conditioning coach, now serving as head of the department.

The former Zag had an epiphany 10 years ago. If he won the lottery and had $10 billion to spend, what would he do?

No matter how much money he had in his pocket, it wouldn’t impact his desire to pursue and educate others how to eat, train and lead.

So, when the opportunity to spread his messaging and ideology came around through the form of a website and podcast, Nilson jumped on it as fast as he could.

“Selfishly, for me, I love it,” Nilson said. Because it’s a way for me to organize my thoughts. So, I love doing it, because it’s kind of like a journal for me. I think it is a nice service for people that want to kind of find out what we’re doing at our level here at Gonzaga.”

It started out as website, but it has mutated into a place for Nilson to host his podcast and present his ideas in one location – with those who helped build his background and knowledge base.

“And then what I found is actually my favorite thing to do, because I’ve had all of these great mentors, these great colleagues, whether it’s nutrition, strength, conditioning, or leadership that I’ve looked up to, but I’ve never reached out to – I might admire their work or read one of their books.”

That earned them a spot on the Hoop Commitment podcast.

Nilson’s extensive background has helped build his podcast into a resource for all athletes as well as nonathletes. His messaging and presentation serve a wide range of listeners.

“If I could share it with other people that are interested in what I like, then it’s kind of a win-win,” Nilson said.

Nilson has said he wasn’t quite sure what the response was going to be when he released the podcast. There wasn’t a specific target audience in mind, he just wanted to talk about his passion. That passion has made the podcast a success as people from all over the world – including Africa, Asia and Europe – have tuned in to listen to his messaging.

He thought maybe it would become basketball-centric, but in fact, has morphed into an all-encompassing athletic training podcast.

Two separate stories have confirmed the natural and powerful draw toward his podcast.

First, one of his old teammates and his two sons listen to his podcast on the way to school. One is in sixth grade, the other in eighth.

“He sent me a really nice message, saying, ‘Hey, this is something that my sons and I can do together, we listen to it on the way to school,’ ” Nilson said. “This is shared, something shared that you could do, but also kind of improving yourself together. So I didn’t expect that.”

The other story was a strength and conditioning coach in Jerusalem reaching out and introducing himself as being in the same profession as Nilson and telling him to keep up the good work and to keep sharing ideas with his audience.

“And from there, we formed a friendship,” Nilson said. “I interviewed him on my podcast, he interviewed me on his podcast. He put on a global strength conditioning conference for basketball players and invited me to speak on it.”

After 85 episodes, Nilson has a very specific favorite guest: John Stockton.

While Nilson sees Stockton almost every Sunday for a pickup game at the Warehouse, having the NBA Hall-of-Famer on his podcast was a unique moment for a guy who doesn’t like any sort of spotlight.

“He’s just kind of an anti-media guy,” Nilson said.

But Nilson thinks he caught him at a moment of weakness in order to secure the high-caliber guest.

Nilson had heart surgery last winter. He was working from home before and after the surgery and Stockton called to check up on him every week.

“I think he was just maybe trying to cheer me up,” Nilson said. “He said, ‘Hey, man, how’s your podcast going?’ I said, ‘Great.’ You know, I don’t even know if he knew what a podcast was. He said, ‘Hey, let me know if you ever want me to come on and chat hoops. I’d love to have to come on.’ So, I did not hesitate. I scheduled that day. Let’s get it on the calendar.”

Hoop Commitment is produced in a walk-in closet in Nilson’s home. The closet has been turned into a recording studio with the perfect acoustics and sound-absorbing technology (clothes). The space is adorned with his old Michael Jordan posters from when he was a kid and classic Jordan shoes, and his desk top is the old Kennel floor that was ripped up when it was redone.

“It is awesome, kind of the Zag way,” Nilson said. “And it’s just so fun to be in a space with people that I admire, respect, and to know that they’re contributing, it’s kind of cool.”

Dickau has listened to his fair share of the Hoop Commitment, noting Nilson’s meticulous approach.

“Mike does such a good job, because he’s really insightful with his questions,” Dickau said. “He’s unbelievably prepared, he does a really good job of tying different things in together.”

The Perimeter

One of the more random and unexpected podcasts of 2021 happened when Adam Morrison announced his new venture, The Perimeter, on the Spokane-based Speak Studios.

An advertisement for the show began floating around social media before the Bulldogs’ Sweet 16 matchup against Creighton and the first show debuted April 21 with former Zag Corey Kispert as his first guest.

“Speak studios reached out to me, actually, and then asked me if I was interested,” Morrison said. And, I had numerous people that I’ve come across in my playing career and stuff like that. So I was like yeah, it would be a good idea and kind of fun and I have enjoyed it so far.”

“We talked about it for about a month and then decided to go for it,” Morrison said.

Morrison had thought about a podcast, knew that the possibility was there, especially after his work with Tom Hudson on Learfield IMG College.

“But 10 years ago, I didn’t even know what a podcast was,” Morrison said. “It’s something new, it’s something I’m learning on the fly, just kind of like when I started broadcasting, and there’s always room for improvement. So it’s kind of fun to get back in that frame of mind of trying to improve on something and make yourself better.”

After Bulldog radio broadcasts, Hudson usually handles the interviews with players and coaches and while Morrison is technically the host with the questions, he doesn’t feel his episodes are interviews. He wants his guests to feel as if they are having a conversation with one of the most prolific scorers in college basketball history.

The plan is to continue to build his audience and to publicize his podcast brand by producing interesting content.

“Yeah, (the plan is to) just have fun with it, honestly,” Morrison said. “Obviously, you want to get to a certain listenership. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, I’m not going to break my back to try to promote it you know, it’s all organic.”

His connections with past Bulldogs and other sports stars have already presented Morrison with a strong foundation early on.

After Kispert was DJ Skee, an entrepreneur and radio mogul who was the first to help discover and play artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga among others.

Then he had on Joel Ayayi and Mark Few before his conversation with Dan Kats, aka Big Cat of Barstool Sports.

“That was a big guest with a huge following,” Morrison said. “And Barstool is a lot of fun. And I did one with them when I was in their studio and headquarters, so that was cool.”

Dickau is confident in Morrison’s podcasting success, based on his personality and natural interest.

“I’m sure he’s going to be pretty darn good,” Dickau said. “I think he does a really good job with the radio stuff that I’ve listened to. He doesn’t mind being out there with his opinions. He doesn’t mind dropping an occasional f-bomb. Kind of not necessarily a hot take, but if there is something that he really believes in, he’s going to say it.”

Spokane Hoopcast

Since Santangelo took over the executive director duties for Hoopfest in 2014, the organization has grown by leaps and bounds, even founding its own separate brand called Hooptown USA.

On top of shirts, influencers and other marketing material, Hooptown partnered with iHeartRadio last April to brand 101.5 Spokane into Hooptown 101.5.

“Pretty cool. Right?” Santangelo said. “Which other podcasters do you know who have an FM radio station? We’re the only one.”

101.5 is a classic hip -hop and R&B station which Santangelo said is right up his alley and those of his generation. It was a match made in radio heaven.

The idea to develop Hooptown into more than just a hometown brand has been growing at Hoopfest for a couple years. The organization has wanted to build its multimedia avenues, especially with the former media personnel in the building.

“When we launched (Hooptown) in 2019, we wanted to find interesting ways to activate the brand, if you will,” Santangelo said. So from a coffee partnership with Indaba, to a small batch of beer with No-Li (Brewhouse).”

iHeart stepped up and presented Hoopfest and Santangelo with a podcast opportunity with host Bo Brack leading the charge.

The two talk sports, and not just Bulldogs basketball. Since Hooptown USA encompasses Spokane as a whole, Hoopcast discusses a little NBA, some local AAU and local Hoopfest youth programs. Sprinkle in some lessons learned throughout their sports careers and they have their podcast.

The plan will be to continue the show moving forward underneath the iHeart name on a weekly basis – as long as listeners continue flocking to Hoopcast and iHeart is content with the results.

The iHeart studio on Sprague has been home to some broadcasts, but Santangelo and Brack have taken a very mobile approach to their shows.

They have sat down at Riverfront Park, Brick West Brewing and the Hoopfest office.

“We have the opportunity to go to different businesses or local locations and record, which is also kind of fun,” Santangelo said. “It is kind of like doing it almost in front of a live studio audience, which is pretty fun, right?”

Sac & Jack

If one thing can be said about the 7-foot Sacre, it is his larger -than -life personality.

“He probably shouldn’t have just a show, he should have a sketch show, he has to get into more video stuff, because he’s such a fun-loving human,” Santangelo said.

Sacre is planning on doing exactly that.

Starting on May 24, Bleav in the Zags moved over to Speak Studios to restart the old Sac & Jack show. There will be more video involved than with Bleav Studios.

“Rob, he’s got such a great personality that he can get people to not take themselves so seriously,” Dickau said. “And he has a great positive outlook on things. He’s a funny guy, he’s fun to be around, he’s fun to listen to.”

Episodes will be dropped every Monday, with a lot of focus on Bulldog basketball, but both Sacre and co-host Jack Ferris will discuss anything that comes to mind.

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