EXCLUSIVE: UT grad Paul Finebaum talks Pat Summitt, Vols basketball
Paul Finebaum is a longtime sports talk radio host known by many as the leading sports authority in the South and the "Voice of the SEC.'' But did you know he has a Tennessee past?
He joined ESPN in August 2013 as host of the The Paul Finebaum Show. The four-hour daily program, heard on ESPN Radio and simulcast on SEC Network, showcases Finebaum's compelling opinions and deep knowledge of the SEC as well as his interactions with his passionate callers, many of whom have followed him for years.
In addition to hosting The Paul Finebaum Show, he serves as a weekly analyst on SEC Nation, the traveling pregame show for SEC Network. And he appears on a variety of other ESPN shows and outlets, including Sports Center, College Football Live, College Game Day and in ESPN The Magazine.
He shared several stories with the Big Orange Tip-Off Club crowd, including the time he broke the news to legendary coach Pat Summitt back in 1977 that her lady Vols had achieved a program first, a number one national ranking in the AP Poll.
Of the encounter Paul says, "I knocked on her door and she had a broom closet for an office at Stokely and she answered it looking at me like 'what do you want?' And I said 'it came out that you're number one in the country in the AP Poll. Back then there was no internet, no Twitter, no anything so she smiled and said 'have a seat'. She was pretty friendly after that."
Speaking of being number one, Finebaum also told WVLT Sports Director Rick Russo that he believes the Vols will be back atop the basketball world next season and spoke highly of Rick Barnes saying, "I got to know Rick 30 years ago when he was an assistant at Alabama and I've followed his career throughout. I had such pride last year when this team was number one most of the season, and it showed what this program is capable of. I know this is a transitional year but based on what I've heard here today I think Tennessee will be number one again next year."
As for his history with UT Finebaum said, "Some people may not realize I went to school here. Today is one of the most special events I've been to because I've been back here many times but never like this - at least not in the last 25 or 30 years. I had somebody ask me the other day if I were an Alabama fan and I said 'no, I went to Tennessee, I'm a Tennessee fan'. That's the only school you could get away with that because if I said I were an Auburn fan or a Florida fan I'd get run out of my profession."
Finebaum also opened up a bit about his latest project, a potential television sitcom telling us, "I was out in Hollywood a couple of months ago meeting with the four major networks and you don't really know where anything is going in Hollywood. Four days and two meetings in Hollywood and my head was spinning. I don't know if that's really where I want to be in my life, but I feel much more at home in Knoxville, Tennessee than in Beverly Hills."
Finebaum attended Christian Brothers High School and White Station High School in Memphis. He graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in Political Science in 1978.