As he prepared for Thursday night’s radio broadcast of the South Carolina women’s basketball game at Auburn, Brad Muller had plenty to do – but one less thing than most college sports play-by-play anchors.
There was no analyst to coordinate with prior to and during the game, no other voice to avoid talking over. In an era when every broadcast “team” in existence seems to have a play-by-play person and an analyst (and sometimes a “sideline reporter”), Muller spends games flying solo.
So, for instance, if USC forward A’ja Wilson grabs a rebound and sticks the follow shot, Muller is the one who paints a mental picture for listeners – and also the one who then explains how Wilson’s positioning in the lane made it possible.
Muller, 45 and in his ninth season as the voice of the No. 2-ranked Gamecocks’ women’s team, is its only voice. And he’s OK with that – better than OK, in fact.
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He had on-air partners during his inaugural 2007-8 season, and during Dawn Staley’s first couple of seasons, but none since. “With basketball, it’s not as bad going solo because of the pace of the game,” Muller said.
“Yeah, it’s nice to have insights from a former player or coach. But it’s important not just to have an analyst, but someone who contributes, not just to fill a chair.”
And his situation isn’t rare in women’s hoops, even in the powerhouse SEC. Muller says most teams, including top programs Kentucky and Tennessee, have one radio voice. “It’s not as unusual as you’d think,” he said. “Maybe that has to do with (not) paying an additional person.
“I’m happy by myself. It’s not a big deal. I’m used to multi-tasking.”
Indeed. Muller wears many hats for USC: besides radio, he does TV play-by-play on softball and women’s soccer for the SEC Network’s digital feeds, writes for the athletics department website, handles marketing and promotions. He’s known little else most of his professional life.
A 1992 USC graduate, Muller spent 13 years in Milledgeville, Ga., at a radio station and then at Georgia College & State University, where he was (take a deep breath) assistant athletics director for media and public relations, anchored women’s basketball games, was analyst for men’s games, called baseball games (and ran the scoreboard), wrote releases …
Even now during basketball season, he’s preparing for games, recording highlights to play at halftime, doing postgame interviews – not to mention staying atop USC’s other sports for his website work.
“I get to meet athletes from all over, and they love to talk about their sport,” he said. “Sometimes I incorporate those into my broadcasts; an opportunity to plug all the sports.”
Staley’s monster success – current ranking, last year’s Final Four appearance, growing crowds at Colonial Life Arena – has made Muller a “star” among the team’s avid fan base. “I get recognized, which surprises me, since you usually have some anonymity in radio,” he said. “It’s kind of neat when (fans) want to talk about the team or the last game.”
Knowing Staley has been rewarding, too. “The first pregame interview I did for radio, after the mike was off, she said, ‘How’d I do?’ And I said, ‘Great, coach.’ She wants to do well in everything, prepares for everything.”
It might never have happened for Muller – he could still be in Milledgeville – if not for his wife, Katherine, who was living in Columbia. He relocated to get married, and “I thought my broadcasting career was over” when he took a job as communications director with USC’s Alumni Association in 2006.
Six months later, he was asked to fill in on softball game webcasts – “for nothing; okay, a sandwich,” he said – and when USC’s basketball play-by-play person left that summer, “I was in the right place at the right time.” Still, he did basketball on his own time until joining the athletics department in July 2014.
The toughest part of his job(s) is “being away from family (Katherine and son Bert, 6) on weekends,” he said. “She’s a good sport about it, wants them to win, but she’s kind of happy when the season is over.”
The best part … Muller recalls how Bob Fulton, the late, legendary “Voice of the Gamecocks” in all sports, reached out early to talk shop and tell stories. One game, Fulton “asked if he could sit courtside with me and just listen on a headset. When the game ended, he just turned to me, smiled and gave me a thumbs-up.”
In 20 years, Muller hopes to be where he is now, still channeling Fulton. “The voice of a D-1 program, my alma mater – it’s a dream come true,” he said. A dream he has to share with no one.