August 30, 2012

Lifestyles: NBC Sports Director/Producer Bucky Gunts Won Title at Cornell

by Matt Forman | | Twitter

Emmy award-winning Olympics director and producer Bucky Gunts won an NCAA title at Cornell, scoring two goals in the Big Red's 1971 championship game win.
© NBC Sports Group

Let's face it — we are all Bucky Gunts here. We didn't know we could print that on this website.

OK, we stole it from comedian Ricky Gervais, who joked about Bucky Gunts' unique name at the 2010 Emmy Awards and made Gunts an overnight Twitter sensation. A 20-time Emmy Award winner and NBC Olympics' head of production, Gunts has directed countless sporting events in his career — NBA on NBC, Ryder Cup and Super Bowl pregame shows. He also was a member of Cornell's undefeated 1971 NCAA men's lacrosse championship team and played for legend Richie Moran.

When did you first start playing lacrosse?

I started playing in third grade. I went to Friends School in Baltimore. They just stuck me in the goal. I don't remember having an option. And once you're in there, that's it. I played goalie almost my entire career until I got to Cornell.

What do you like about lacrosse?

It's easily the best sport going. I still try to watch every chance I get. I watch all the college games that are on ESPN. It combines so many different athletic skills, and it's a place where you can be a great athlete and excel, but you don't have to be super-big, like you might in basketball or football. When it's played well, it's a beautiful sport to watch. Recently, I really got into the women's game. My daughter just graduated from New Hampshire, where she played lacrosse. The women's game is different, but it's just as exciting. It's another great game to watch. I love it.

How about your Cornell lacrosse days?

I was recruited by Ned Harkness, and then they hired the great Richie Moran. All of Cornell was great, but the lacrosse was a major highlight. We were undefeated my freshman and sophomore seasons. Then junior year, 1971, was the first NCAA championship, and we won it. I played midfield sophomore and junior year, goalie freshman and senior year. In the '71 semifinals against Army, I scored my first goal of the year. One goal. And then the championship game, I scored two goals. I saved it all until the end. I was just in the right place at the right time, but they still count.

What does your job entail?

I'm in charge of coordinating on all the different NBC channels — NBC, NBC SportsNet, CNBC, MSNBC, Telemundo, Bravo — the look of what we put on the air. But I'm really a sports director by trade, so I also direct the opening ceremony for NBC and our primetime coverage for the next 16 days of the events after that, overseeing all 18 of our directors. I wear a lot of different hats. We end up having about 3,000 people working for us on the Olympics, and that's a lot to manage. I don't think people realize how big the undertaking is — for 17 days, to be on for so many hours, on so many different stations.

Where were you during the Olympics?

I got to London fulltime July 1, but I had visited 10 or 12 times before then to set up. For the opening ceremony, I was in the truck outside of Olympic Stadium, directing with all my cameras. The rest of the time, I was in the international broadcast center, where our set and control rooms were located.

How did you get into sports directing?

My father gave me my first job. He was the general manager of WBAL in Baltimore. He wanted me out of the house just as much as I wanted to get out of the house. I directed local news in Baltimore for four years, Phoenix for one year and New York for four years. I got a chance to direct football games in New York, and in 1983 I got a full-time job at NBC Sports. I've been there ever since, with the exception of four years when I directed The Today Show. I was lucky to get some opportunities and meet the right people.

You've gotten to see a lot of neat events. Favorites?

I have a bunch. I directed golf for a long time. Our first U.S. Open in 1995 at Shinnecock was really exciting. The Ryder Cups are always exciting, especially the one at The Country Club outside Boston in 1999, when the Americans came roaring back and stormed across the 17th green. That was a great one. The Beijing Olympics opening ceremony four years ago was certainly a big highlight. That was so cool, spectacular and unbelievable.

What are the challenges of directing sports?

Directing sports is different every time, and that's what I love about it. It's live and unpredictable. It's a game you're responding to. There's not as much prep work because you never know what's going to happen on the field, but hopefully you have your cameras in the right places. Being a lacrosse goalie was really good preparation for being a live sports director. You are directing the defense. You're the guy looking out at the field and can see the whole scene, and you're telling people where to move, where to go. It's pretty much the same thing you're doing in directing. You're reacting, trying to predict and thinking on your feet.

Does everyone talk about the NBA on NBC theme song?

I really like that jingle. It's one of the catchier songs. When I did the NBA, I couldn't get it out of my head for a couple days. For the Olympics, that's the one I can't get out of my head. After listening to it nonstop for 17 days, I end up humming it for a couple months. At least it's a good song.

What did you think of trending on Twitter after the Ricky Gervais joke?

Yeah, I was very big for a day. I never thought I would be a trending topic in Twitter. That was ridiculous. Sign of the times. It was all in good fun. It didn't bother me at all. I actually saw him afterwards outside, and I told him that. He's just a funny guy. He makes me laugh anyway. He's hilarious.

A version of this article appears in the May issue of Lacrosse Magazine, the flagship publication of US Lacrosse. Don't get the mag? Join US Lacrosse and its 400,000-plus members today to start your subscription.

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