Hoo-rizons: Orange Bowl Selection Committee Member a Familiar Name to Hoos Fans

John Crotty  headshot

John Crotty helped lead the UVA basketball team to the Elite Eight in 1989. (Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications)

John Crotty reached into the pocket of his orange-colored sport jacket, took out his cellphone and scrolled to a photo he had saved under his favorites.

After pulling up the shot, Crotty broke into a huge smile.

The photo was a screenshot of the front page of the Charlottesville Daily Progress newspaper the day after the UVA men’s basketball team won last season’s NCAA championship.

Crotty wasn’t just smiling because he is a basketball alumnus. Smack in the middle of the photo of a large group of fans rejoicing on The Corner was his daughter Connor – currently a third-year UVA student – crowd-surfing.

“Obviously they were out celebrating, having a good old time,” Crotty said with a chuckle.

The New Jersey native met his wife, Kara, when they were students at UVA, and their eldest daughter, Cassie, is an alumna of UVA’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.

Hoos fans likely remember Crotty well. In 1989, the point guard, known for his sweet outside stroke and gritty style, helped lead UVA to an NCAA Tournament Elite Eight appearance after an upset of No. 1-seeded Oklahoma.

He went on to play 11 years in the NBA.

Today, he lives in Coral Gables, Florida, and works as the television color analyst for the NBA’s Miami Heat.

This week, Crotty was back at UVA as part of his duties as a member of the Orange Bowl Selection Committee (hence, the orange sports jacket).

UVA Today caught up with Crotty, who has served on the committee since 2006.

Q. What are your duties?

A. The committee is about 350 members and there are about 150 of us who are active. Basically, my job is as an ACC liaison. My job is to maintain relationships with ACC presidents, athletic directors, Commissioner [John] Swofford. I attend various events throughout the course of the year.

Q. As a selection committee member, are you required to put allegiances to UVA aside?

A. I am Switzerland when I have this jacket on, for sure [chuckle], but obviously that’s tough when your heart has blue and orange in it. But we always host and do the right thing by whichever teams come down.

Q. How nice will it be to have the Hoos playing in your own backyard on Dec. 30?

A. It will be phenomenal, really exciting. First of all, it’s the first Orange Bowl for the University of Virginia to come to. That’s historic and awesome.

Personally, for me, living in Coral Gables and being able to have friends and family come back and enjoy the game is going to be really special.

And for the program, it’s really huge. It helps the coaching staff with recruiting and establishing goals with the current players to try and inspire them to continue to improve and get better. From a school and fan perspective, you can’t help but be energized by what’s being accomplished and want to go watch the team wherever they’re playing.

John Crotty in a UVA basketball uniform dribbling the ball during a game

John Crotty remains UVA’s all-time assists leader. (UVA Athletics photo)

Q. What are your favorite memories from that 1988-89 season when the team upset No. 1-seeded Oklahoma – which featured future NBA players Stacey King and Mookie Blalock – and advanced to the Elite Eight before losing to eventual champion Michigan?

A. Oh, it was a great team. It’s funny because [Monday] night I broadcast a Heat game against the Chicago Bulls. The guy doing exactly what I do [ as color commentator] for the Bulls is Stacey King. He said that win over them still rubs him wrong – so I bring it up every time I see him [laughing].

Glenn Rice, who was part of that Michigan team who beat us, is one of the ‘Heat Legends,’ if you will. He’s part of the organization that goes out into the community for the Heat.

From a Virginia perspective, I have great memories of my teammates working together to go on a run where we got really hot and everything came together. Bryant Stith played at such a high level and we were able to run through that regional and really make noise. It was an exciting time.

Q. Which of your former UVA teammates have you stayed in closest touch with?

A. Dirk Katstra [executive director of the Virginia Athletics Foundation] is one of my best friends. He and I were roommates my first year. I still stay in touch with Kenny Turner and Matt Blundin. We have a nice text thread of guys who stay in touch, particularly when the team’s playing. Last year a lot of us went to the Final Four and had an opportunity to visit. It was spectacular.

Q. What were the highlights of your NBA career?

A. My longevity. I played for 11 years with seven teams and had an opportunity to play with [Hall of Famers] John Stockton and Karl Malone for five years under Jerry Sloan. I played for Pat Riley and with Tim Hardaway and Alonzo Mourning. I think I played behind five all-star point guards during my career. It didn’t always help me get a lot of minutes on the floor, but it was an amazing experience. It’s great to be able to do something you love and get paid for it.

Q. What your secrets to playing so long?

A. I’ve always worked hard at whatever it was I tried to do. I think I brought a competitive mental attitude to everything – and it worked. I got better. I could always break people down off the dribble, create chances for my teammates and run a team. But I became a much better three-point shooter, which made me a rotation player.

Q. Favorite NBA teammates?

A. Stockton and [Jeff] Hornacek were amazing. I loved playing with Karl Malone. His ability to finish was just unbelievable. I had a great time with him. Walter Bond with Miami Heat. And Dan Majerle and Alonzo became good friends.

Black and white photo of John Crotty running with the basketball during a game

John Crotty was a member of the All-ACC Tournament first team in 1991. (UVA Athletics photo)

Q. You and [UVA head coach] Tony Bennett were similar players – same size, both lefthanded – and played around the same time. Any fun memories of going head to head?

A. He was a great shooter. I remember in Utah he had a good game against us. I just respected his competitive nature and how hard he worked at his craft. That’s sort of my memory.

And we’ve struck up a great friendship now. There’s great mutual respect. I try and stay in touch with him without getting in his hair. He’s just done an unbelievable job building the program.

Q. As a former point guard, which UVA point guards have impressed you the most over the years?

A. There have been so many good ones. Most recently, what London Perrantes was able to do – he helped energize Tony’s group to really raise the level. And then Tony has had an ability to get guys who can play multiple positions. Malcolm Brogdon is playing point guard now in the NBA, which is amazing. I love what Kihei Clarke is doing now. There have been some good ones.

Q. What are your impressions of this year’s team?

A. I’m impressed with how [Bennett] has been able to get a lot of younger players and players who haven’t played much together to play at a high level so fast. Obviously, he’s doing it with the defense.

The win against [North] Carolina I thought was a great one coming off a rough ACC-Big 10 [Challenge] loss [to Purdue]. As long as Tony is at the helm, you feel like the program is going in the right direction.

Q. After your playing days were over, how did a Jersey guy end up settling in Miami?

A. I would say a combination of having good memories playing for the Heat, my wife being from that area originally and I just love the style down there – the diversity, the weather, the things to do. The tax-free environment helps, too. There’s a lot of positive things being down there.

Q. What is your favorite part of being a basketball broadcaster? Is that your full-time job?

A. I sell commercial real estate. I have a team. We do that during that day and then I broadcast at night, and that’s a passion of mine. It’s been neat to stay involved. It’s allowed me to see some of my former coaches and player friends. Every night, there’s somebody different who I get to see – whether it’s on the road or at home.

Q. Any tips for aspiring broadcasters?

A. It’s a tough business. It’s competitive. You need to try and find a hook – a way in, something new that you can bring to the table.

Q. Being a Miami man now, any tips for Hoos fans who will be making the trip down for the bowl game, in terms of places to eat, sites to visit or things to do?

A. The weather’s going to be amazing, so I think that alone is phenomenal. I’d go to the Miami Seaquarium; I would get out to Joe’s Stone Crab, which is a phenomenal restaurant.

We have a luncheon on Dec. 27, which is an amazing event where the coaches, players, cheerleaders and everybody comes. It’s held at Jungle Island and is probably my favorite pre-game event.

And then the Fan Fest starts at 3 p.m. on game day. If you have a ticket, you can go there. It’s just a great interactive opportunity for fans to come and bring their kids as well.

Q. Great time to be a Hoos fan?

A. It’s awesome. What’s amazing is the quality of the people who are associated with the programs. 

I’m always reading up on the Hoos. I’m a huge fan and very aware of who’s doing what. I’m very excited about the facilities, the accomplishments … Everything seems to be headed in a positive direction. It’s great.

Q. What were some of the most memorable things from your time as a student?

A. I had a very well-rounded student-athlete experience. I was in a fraternity. I was in the IMP Society, which was phenomenal. The mix of classes I was in as a history major made it really special. I got to know my professors.

I worked hard and played hard. It’s a high standard here that you’re held to. But to me, it really translates and helps you as you get older in life.

Q. Overall, how did coming to UVA shape who you’ve become today?

A. It’s been huge. There have been just so many positives. I met my wife here. I got an amazing education here and competed at a super-high level. I learned how to balance my time and my energy being a student-athlete, which has really helped me in my life.

I’ve made great friends here and I make new friends just based on having gone here, with the connectivity, meeting different alumni. It’s been an amazing place to say that I went to.

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