ESPN’s Jay Bilas: A social media butterfly who doesn’t follow anybody on Twitter

Jay Bilas has 456,000 followers on Twitter and yet he follows no one.
  • Jay Bilas will work four different jobs for ESPN on Saturday.
  • Bilas was a practicing trial attorney for a decade in Charlotte before broadcasting.
  • His Twitter feed has about 456%2C000 followers and yet he follows no one.
  • ESPN’s Jay Bilas gets a major star turn Saturday, from working the pregame college basketball show to calling No. 16 Syracuse at No. 5 Georgetown (noon ET) to showing up for the prime-time pregame show followed by the game call for No. 4 Duke at unranked North Carolina (9 p.M. ET).

    But as a one-time star for college basketball’s bete noire — Duke — Bilas should not be assumed to be subjective in his calls of the sport’s most-hyped rivalry, Blue Devils vs. Tar Heels.

    “Maybe it’s my age,” Bilas, 49, tells USA TODAY Sports, “but I don’t really care who wins games.”.

    The main feedback he gets on his old school ties, he says, comes “mostly from Duke people saying, ‘You’re not with us enough.’ When there’s feedback like that, I ask myself if it’s right and reasonable.”.

    Or maybe that’s just an elaborate Duke cover-up. After all, he says, his on-air objectivity came from his old Duke coach when he began broadcasting 20 years ago by doing some Duke radio games for $200 a pop.

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    Mike Krzyzewski “said, ‘Don’t pull any punches. You never have to apologize for the truth,’ ” Bilas recalled. And the truth, he said Thursday, is that Duke has already qualified for a No. 1 NCAA tournament seeding.

    Bilas was forced to stop calling NCAA tournament games after ESPN effectively named him, as it did Dick Vitale, a franchise announcer who couldn’t be loaned out for CBS’ coverage. But Bilas says his recent harsh criticism of the NCAA — he has tweeted that NCAA president Mark Emmert should resign — isn’t because he’s free and clear of calling NCAA tournament games. (He will, however, join Vitale courtside in calling Final Four action for ESPN’s international TV feed.).

    “My NCAA criticisms have been longstanding whether I called the tournament or not,” he says. “I’d be falling down on the job if I wasn’t willing to criticize the NCAA while we’re criticizing players and coaches.”.

    He made arguments long before he got into TV. Bilas was a practicing trial attorney for a decade in Charlotte, working commercial cases, while he was doing those radio games as a lark: “I worked towards broadcasting in college, but after law school I thought no way it would happen. I just thought it would be fun, letting me see my friends.”.

    He eventually left the law — but only after a case “that’s going to follow me around for life.” That would be, subpoenaing Barney.

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    Defending a costume manufacturer accused of infringing on the purple dinosaur’s trademarks, Bilas wanted the costume in court. But he was told the costume had to be “manned” at all times and, at 6-8, it couldn’t fit in the courthouse. In a scene bearing absolutely no resemblance with To Kill A Mockingbird, Bilas says he gamely told the judge that “I’m 6-8 and I can fit in.”.

    Now, Bilas is trying to fit in with social media. He thinks it’s good and bad for stars of the sports world.

    “Now, nothing is private. … But as there’s more noise the more you tune things out and they dissipate,” he says. “Today’s controversy is something nobody remembers tomorrow.”.

    His Twitter feed has about 456,000 followers and yet he follows no one. But the author of Toughness, a book out this week meant to help readers “develop true strength,” says that has nothing to do with bravely going it alone.

    “That’s primarily a joke. It’s creating an arrogant persona so I can make fun of myself,” he says. “Although I might deny admitting that.”.