Jason Goff’s experience as radio host translates to TV just fine
The Bulls pre- and postgame show host on NBC Sports Chicago lacked the chops for television at first, but observers were confident he could play.
Jason Goff thought his first foray into television would be his last.
In 2011, Goff appeared on “The Big Ten Pulse” on the Big Ten Network with former Northwestern cornerback and then-BTN analyst Chris Martin. Goff had worked at 670 The Score for more than 10 years, so he wasn’t concerned about talking on the air. But producer Quentin Carter had more in mind.
“We sat down, and all of a sudden they’re like, ‘You’re gonna be the lead host of this discussion,’ ” Goff said. “And I had had no training in television whatsoever. I looked at Chris, and he looked at me, and he was smiling, and I’m like, ‘He don’t know that I’m petrified over here.’
“It was one of the more mortifying moments of my life because I thought I blew my career. Quinten was like, ‘It wasn’t as bad as you think.’ When he started saying that, I was like, ‘Oh, [crap], it was that bad. See, radio dude, stay in your lane. Stay in radio.’ ”
Carter remembers the scene well.
“Like a lot of people new to the business, [Goff] was almost shellshocked when the lights came on and got caught up between being an analyst versus being a host,” said Carter, now BTN’s vice president of studio production. “It was evident he had talent. It can just take time to draw that out of people.”
Goff did more guest spots, including appearances on ABC7’s “Windy City Live” and NBC Sports Chicago’s “SportsTalk Live.” He gained confidence in front of the camera, and after being a steadfast audiophile, he positioned himself for a potential TV career.
That came to fruition last year when NBCSCH hired Goff to host its Bulls pre- and postgame shows. He and analysts Kendall Gill and Will Perdue return to the air next week with a season preview show at 6:30 p.m. Monday and an hourlong pregame show for the season opener at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
When he was hired, Goff still lacked the experience of a regular TV host. Plus, he was replacing Mark Schanowski, who so ably filled that chair for 13 years before stepping down. But NBCSCH senior vice president and general manager Kevin Cross had been following Goff’s career and was confident he’d fit. After The Score unceremoniously dropped him from his afternoon show as part of a lineup overhaul in 2018, he moved to Atlanta to become an evening host and the Hawks’ pre- and postgame show host on 92.9 The Game. Cross believed those hosting skills would translate to TV.
“The main things you look for in any on-air talent are authenticity, a strong knowledge base and entertainment value,” said Cross, who reached out to Goff about the job. “Jason has all of those attributes. It helps that he also loves the NBA and is passionate about the Bulls. Most of the people tuning in are just as passionate, and they want a host that feels the same way.”
Cross had been a fan since Goff began appearing on The Score. Cross noted his preparation and engagement with whatever topic he was discussing and would reach out on occasion to offer encouragement and talk about opportunities in the industry.
“There’s a lot of Black media in this city that looks out for each other,” said Goff, an Evanston native. “There’s some good brothers in this city who always got your back and always pick up the phone and see how you’re doing when times are good, when times are tough. And Cross has been that dude for a very long time now.
“In my last career in this city, there were a lot of people who could’ve taken what would have been perceived as a chance on me, and it would’ve been a good bet. I’m looking forward to fulfilling Cross’ good bet.”
Cross’ advice was simple: Be yourself.
“Luckily for me, my career in radio allowed for a way for people to respect whatever I was bringing to the table before we could get to the fundamentals of what a good TV studio host is — because I still don’t believe that I am one,” said Goff, who admits to suffering from imposter syndrome.
Nevertheless, Goff expects his second year to go smoother after he spread himself too thin last year. He’d appear on SiriusXM’s Big Ten Radio from 6 to 9 a.m. and either host Bulls coverage or appear on ESPN Radio at night. He remains employed by both SiriusXM and ESPN but has worked less for both.
“I picked up a lot of things because I was in a place of insecurity in terms of proving something to myself, and I worked myself damn near to death,” Goff said. “I’m never gonna have one revenue stream, but I’m also never gonna do what I did to myself and the people around me last year. I won’t short-change myself or my family, and I can focus a little bit differently.”
Goff, Gill and Perdue had a strong start together, giving viewers honest, objective commentary. They’ve had a lot to criticize, and after all the grief directed at the Bulls’ previous leadership, Goff believes it’s time to focus on the players.
“I’m going to be looking for [coach] Billy Donovan and his effect and [general manager] Marc Eversley and [vice president of basketball operations] Arturas Karnisovas and this entire staff’s effect on some of these players,” Goff said. “Let’s face it, fans and some observers roll off last season as all on [former coach] Jim Boylen. You can rock like that. I wouldn’t.
“Once you have a 23-win team with the same roster and different lieutenants and different architects, it’s on the players now. This is like a job interview for the current employer and everybody else.”
Goff passed his job interview and is looking to take his game to another level.
“Hopefully I can do that with my guys, because all I’m doing is feeding the rock to some pretty damn good scorers,” he said. “I’m still learning how to read music, but they understand I can play, you know what I mean?”