Exploring the origins of Craig Sager’s snappy dressing

The last two days of NBA Draft-related activities yielded plenty of intriguing sights and sounds, but perhaps nothing struck me more than glancing across the room at media day on Wednesday afternoon to see Craig Sager wearing a solid white polo shirt and jeans.

This was mildly shocking because Sager’s attire as a long-time sideline reporter for TNT has brought him great renown in the basketball and broadcasting worlds. His diverse array of colorful suits has been the subject of more than a few comments from his interviewees, and the highly entertaining Michelle from NBA Musings recently began a blog devoted to paying homage to Sager’s extensive wardrobe.

If I had an ounce of common sense, it likely would have occurred to me that the man may not dress round-the-clock the way he does for his television work. Still, the understated apparel threw me briefly, and by the time I recovered, its bearer had disappeared.

At last night’s draft, Sager returned to his usual form, sporting a purple coat and tie to host the Virtual Green Room for NBA.com. When we chatted later in the evening, I asked what inspired him to dress the way he does.

It began toward the end of Sager’s high school days in Batavia, Ill., which he described as “very dull, very boring, bunch of cornfields, nothing, no excitement.”

“They said, ‘For your high school picture, you have to wear a blazer,; it has to be black or blue,'” Sager said. “I was a big fan of the Monkees, and [Davy] Jones used to wear this Nehru jacket, which was bright blue with a white collar. I said, ‘That’s what I want to wear for my picture.'”

Sager wore a Nehru jacket of his own, causing a stir big enough to incite some local chatter about possibly barring him from the yearbook, and the rest is history. Since his days in Batavia, Sager has become a globally recognized part of the basketball broadcast scene.

He also offered his analysis on the two most challenging coaches to interview, and neither comes as a surprise: San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich, and the Lakers’ Phil Jackson.

“Popovich, obviously the last thing he wants to do is talk to me; he wants to talk to his team,” Sager said. “But yet he has to do it, and he just looks at me like ‘Oh, no.’  You better ask a good question, or he’s gonna make you feel this big. Phil doesn’t like to be bothered by it either, and he always likes to come up with something to throw you off. He’ll talk about what I’m wearing or something like that.”

When it comes to Craig Sager dressing uniquely and Pop and Phil making interviews a challenge,  well, suffice it to say I’m a believer.

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