(SPORTS TALK) What Makes A Great PD?
One of the most aggravating things that happens to me in the radio business is that people always have an opinion on how I should do my sports talk show.
Everybody has a thought on what I should say or wonders if I really believe the stuff I’m saying on the air. If I had a gold coin for every time a person told me to try this thing or change that thing I would be a billionaire!
I remember one of the greatest lines I ever heard from a coach was from Bobby Ross. Bobby coached me my freshman year at the University of Maryland. He went on to win a national title at Georgia Tech and in the NFL lead the San Diego Chargers to the Super Bowl.
While he was head coach of the Chargers, a reporter asked him if he was going to make the players change to fit his philosophy on both defense and offense. Coach Ross answered, "No way! Why would I make players change to fit my system when they have already won with the system they've been using for years?"
Coach Ross's attitude was he felt his coaching staff had to adapt to the talent to find what the players' strengths and weakness were and try to bring the best out of a player using his strengths.
So many times in radio, a new PD or GM or APD or whomever believes they know how to reinvent the wheel when it comes to making you a better radio talk show host, when it's actually the PD or GM who needs to find a host's strengths and weaknesses and then build a relationship with them so s/he can be a partner in building a show together.
Just like in football, coaching and talent need to work together if they want to win. Anytime you don't have these two components working together, you will have a radio station that is not on the same page. I can't tell you the egos that are in our business -- both hosts (and of course I could have the biggest on the planet) and PDs in this business have monster egos and I can tell you by experience this is where many shows fail. Not because both host and PD aren't good at what they do, but because both don't want to work together due to ego. Boy, after all these years in the business, if ego is going to stop me from being successful, then I need to check myself at the door along with the PD.
My last year has taught me one thing: I will never again get into a position in radio in which a PD wants to change my style, my approach, or anything. I am getting into a relationship with a PD who wants to take all my strengths as a host and expand them, and help with some things I may not be the best at. Look, we all want to make our mark in radio, and I'm not saying I would not listen to my PD. Of course I would. But the great PDs teach it rather than preach it.
Take another sport that actually fits radio better: baseball. Would you change Barry Bonds' batting stance if you had become the new manager of the SF Giants while he was still playing? Of course not. If you became Rush Limbaugh's PD, would you really go into Rush's studio and tell him you hated that tease? Of course you wouldn't. Yet some managers and PDs do this. It makes me sick!
There is no question that finding the right balance between the host and PD is the most important thing a radio GM can do for a station's success. Just like in love, not every relationship you find yourself in works. People break up and get divorced all the time. That's why, when you find the right chemistry between a great PD and a great host, it turns to magic on the air.
I have had two excellent relationships in radio. Bob Agnew, who is at KLAA in Los Angeles, and Steve Versnick, when he was at WDAE. Both men were hard on me but both knew I could take the constructive criticism because they had taken the time to work with me, and work not on my strengths but my weaknesses.
I hope all hosts at one time in their careers can experience perfection like I did with those PDS. If you do, you will understand what I'm talking about.
Dan Sileo, also known as "The Bonecrusher," is a sports talk show host who has worked at KGO & KNBR-WDAE and WQAM. He can be reached at Umiam93@yahoo.com and on Twitter at @dansileoshow
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