Greg Hansen: Producing in production: UA, Salpointe grad on top

MLB Network exec among top 40 under 40 in sports business
2010-09-06T00:00:00Z Greg Hansen: Producing in production: UA, Salpointe grad on topGreg Hansen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
September 06, 2010 12:00 am  • 

John Entz has a voice blessed with baritone. He's not a singer, but he's got this day-of-reckoning tone that gets your attention right now.

Since he left Lute Olson's basketball staff in 1993, Entz has worked all the big TV events: "American Idol," the Super Bowl, ESPN's "SportsCenter" and even the "Best Damn Sports Show Period."

Yes, he's got an Emmy (sports division).

But the crazy thing is, you never hear John Entz's voice; his job has been to make sure the other voices are heard, like Bob Costas, Jim Rome, Paula Abdul and Carrie Underwood.

I bring this to your attention because SportsBusiness Journal recently selected Entz to its "Top 40 Under 40" list, a group it identifies as the next generation of those expected to wield enormous influence in sports. Past list members: Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, NFL uber agent Drew Rosenhaus and skateboarder and video game impresario Tony Hawk.

Let's just say the Salpointe Catholic grad keeps good company.

During the glory days of Arizona basketball, while Olson built an assembly line of NBA players, he also sent into the sports world an inordinate number of team managers/video coordinators who have made an impact.

Such as: Todd Walsh, who is an irreplaceable member of the Fox Sports Arizona staff; Eric Bresler, who has been in charge of booking sports entertainment at Staples Center and two other NBA arenas; Bryan Hansen, who has been on ABC's production staff of the World Cup. And on and on.

Entz completed his work for the UA after the infamous 1993 first-round collapse against Santa Clara. He thought that might also be his exit from sports. He was savvy enough to get his foot in the door of a new upscale restaurant enterprise in Scottsdale, P.F. Chang's.

"We were two weeks away from opening and I was in training," he remembers. "I wasn't sure I wanted to be a waiter; I had asked Lute if he could help me connect in some way with ESPN."

Talk about serendipity.

Olson phoned Dave Brown, now ESPN's vice president of programming and, boom, just like that Entz was in Bristol, Conn., interviewing for an entry-level production assistant job. Pay: $8 an hour. Assignment: a three-month on-the-job tryout with dozens of other ESPN wannabees.

"I thought I failed because I didn't hear from ESPN for several months," says Entz.

"When they called, when I finally got back there, it was a real sink-or-swim thing."

Entz swam.

"He's very smart, very thorough and he really blossomed when we had him," says former UA associate head coach Jim Rosborough, who hired Entz and oversaw his years as the UA's video coordinator. "John has made the right moves at the right times."

From ESPN, where he won a sports Emmy as an associate producer and production assistant, Entz jumped to Fox Sports, where he produced baseball's All-Star Game, oversaw daily production of the "Best Damn Sports Show Period" and handled such things as "The Jim Rome Show" and Super Bowl coverage. He also spent a year producing "American Idol."

Entz laughs that he got into the TV sports business via a side door, as did fellow Salpointe Catholic grad Tommy Roy, who rose through the ranks to become executive producer of NBC Sports after serving as an errand-runner for NBC at a 1970s Tucson Open.

In late 2008, Entz left Fox Sports to become senior vice president of production for MLB Network. He moved from Los Angeles to Secaucus, N.J., and now his life is consumed with about 2,500 hours of live baseball programming each year.

That's quite a jump, quite an off topic, for a man who grew up in one of Tucson's top tennis families and got on the professional launch pad via college hoops.

"At Fox, we did everything from boxing and arm-wrestling to rock-paper-scissors," he says with a chuckle. "I've done Super Bowls and I've done dodge ball. You can't beat the experiences I've had. What I like about the MLB Network is that it's almost freeing; you know your audience. You don't have to guess."

MLB Network is already in 58 million households. It created an immediate presence when it was able to hire, among others, Costas, Peter Gammons, John Smoltz and former UA left-hander Joe Magrane.

Married with two young daughters, Entz hasn't lost his passion for UA sports. He recently received a package of Wildcat gear from athletic director Greg Byrne's office.

"My big sports fantasy is to someday go to Pasadena to watch Arizona play in the Rose Bowl game," he says. "I hope it's not too long of a wait."

Contact columnist Greg Hansen at ghansen@azstarnet.com or 573-4362.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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