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Boardroom Q&A: Michelle Beadle is Home Again with the Spurs

As Women’s History Month wraps, the San Antonio Spurs are celebrating with an all-women pregame broadcast, hosted by Beadle, for their pivotal matchup with the red-hot Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night.

Michelle Beadle has a front-row seat to the San Antonio Spurs‘ surprising season in her role as a special correspondent on home broadcasts for Bally Sports San Antonio. She watches them and sees herself — something she didn’t think she’d be able to do again in her career.

Beadle never expected to return to San Antonio. A buyout freed her from ESPN at the conclusion of the 2019 NBA Finals, and come December 2020, the death of her beloved pug Leroy prompted her to drive home in search of temporary comfort. But instead of going back to California after a few weeks, she stayed. She’s been writing her next chapter on Spurs broadcasts and, since last November, by hosting the What Did I Miss? podcast for The Athletic. She has recaptured the innocent excitement from her first stint 20-something years ago as a Spurs intern.

This season, she’s observed that Gregg Popovich is “really teaching again” β€” a legendary coach slightly softened by a young group of players. She will similarly act as a mentor when she hosts the Spurs’ first-ever all-woman broadcast β€” the pregame show ahead of a pivotal matchup with the 51-23 Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night.

“When I started talking to some people with the Spurs, they came up with this plan. They were like, ‘Would you want to do that?'” the former SportsNation and NBA Countdown host explained. “I was like, ‘Yeah, of course.’ I would never say no. Everything I’ve done and had up to this point is all because of them.”

Is this Beadle’s last chapter? Absolutely not. Will she stay in San Antonio forever? Who knows?

“I’ve never viewed anything I’ve done as a forever thing,” she said. “I may win the lottery tonight, and then none of this matters.”

Reconnecting with her San Antonio roots feels like a lotto ticket that she wants to hold onto for now. Beadle hopes to give four young women joining her for this historic broadcast β€” Shelby Coppedge, Katie Goodman, Shayla Hudson, and April Marie β€” the same sort of formative experience and fond memories the Spurs once gifted her.

Beadle talked Boardroom through her full-circle moment.

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Megan Armstrong: How did this all-female pregame broadcast come together?

Michelle Beadle: What the Spurs were trying to do here is find women β€” all the women we’re having on are young, up-and-coming, hungry people who want to do this for the rest of their lives. We had a Zoom meeting with them last week, and it was cute because they were listing all the crap they have to do. I was like, “Don’t worry. I did all that stuff, too, at one point, and you’re going to feel like you don’t know what you’re doing. One day, you won’t have to do nine jobs, and it’s gonna be awesome.” They are the future of this business.

For me, it was important to do this because the hardest part β€” as anyone knows in this business β€” is getting a chance. There are a lot of people out there who are probably really good at this, but they haven’t been given any opportunity to show that. So, I thought it was cool to let women have this day but also give people that may not have these opportunities a shot at it.

MA: Why is it this specific group of women?

MB: Mike Kickirillo is the guy in charge of Spurs broadcasting. He was my boss 20 years ago. He has always been very receptive to young people. Young people are always sending reels, and you know, you hope to hear back from somebody, but don’t always. Kick has been awesome about it. A lot of young people send him their stuff. He has an eye for who he thinks might have a shot. That’s really where all these women came from. They have met or talked to him at some point somewhere along the line, and he’s kept track. And that’s literally the only reason I got to do anything.

MA: Your first official job was with the Spurs then?

MB: Yeah. I was technically an intern, and then they had this kids show that was hosted by the mascot, Coyote, and they allowed me a chance to go do a story for it, which wasn’t good. I probably shouldn’t have been allowed to do another one, but they let me do another one. Next thing I know, they’re putting me on [a broadcast] for the Western Conference pregame show. It was awesome.

In hindsight, when I look back, I didn’t know anything. I was very, very ignorant. I didn’t have any dreams about it. The things that they allowed me to do at that time were awesome, but I didn’t know it at that time. I just thought, Oh, this is probably normal. Whatever.

MA: What is your earliest memory associated with the team?

MB: I think I was 13. We had just moved here from Dallas. My dad was working for one of the companies that was a sponsor. He was like, “There’s an opportunity tonight to go to a meet and greet with some San Antonio Spurs.” We were like, “What is that?” We went to a Tony Roma’s, and it was David Robinson. I think Rod Strickland had just been traded that day. We got to meet them. I took a picture with David Robinson, but being an idiot teenager at the time, I [scribbled] myself out of the picture. Somewhere in this house is a David Robinson picture with a teenage me, but you can’t see me. I can’t find it. It just bums me out because I know once I find it, I’ll think, Did I really Sharpie myself out? So stupid. But why would I have known that this is my life now 30 years later?

MA: What has been your favorite part about working as a special correspondent this season?

MB: When I walked back in there, we had our preseason meeting. There were so many familiar faces from when I was here last. They’ve kept such a close-knit, family vibe. They’ve known each other for decades at this point.

And then, Sean Elliott was my favorite player growing up. Now, I get to mess with him as part of my job, and that’s crazy to me. Bill Land, our play-by-play guy, he’s been doing it for a long time. He’s so good at it, but more importantly, there are a lot of egos in this business. Not everyone would have been cool with me coming in once a week and just being a dipshit. They’ve been more than welcoming and warm. It does not feel like a job whatsoever.

MA: You’re able to be a fan, professionally.

MB: Exactly. That’s the thing, too. It’s the local feed. You get to be a homer. You’re supposed to be a homer. And it’s awesome! [Laughs] I love it.

MA: Did you cry when Pop became the winningest regular-season NBA coach in history?

MB: Yes! I was working that game, so I was close. I even took a little video on my phone. I also love it because I know he probably cares privately, but just not really. He wanted to leave the court and guys wouldn’t let him. The big question around here is, we’re taking bets on if this is his last year. Does he come back for one more? Nobody knows.

MA: How do your past experiences nationally allow you to appreciate working for your hometown team in a renewed way?

MB: I’ve had time to reflect. I did the rat race thing for a really long time. Career was front and center as the most important priority. And by the way, nothing wrong with that. I think to get to where you want to go, that has to be the way it is most of the time. But I also reached levels that I wanted to reach and did it, felt good about it.

It’s not like I’m retired by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m doing things that I enjoy, and I’m doing it with people that I thoroughly enjoy being around. For me, the last year of my job [at ESPN] β€” while I loved everyone I immediately worked with β€”there was a lot of garbage happening behind the scenes. I just don’t want that anymore. I don’t want any sort of weird drama. I don’t want any backstabbing. I don’t want any bullshit gossiping. I just want to go to a place where I like everyone, go home to be with family and friends, and do it again the next day. That’s what this is about. It’s less living to work, and a little more working to live, which is probably healthier.

MA: Why was it time to leave L.A., remove yourself from the national rat race, and go back home?

MB: That was never really a plan. I had literally just sold one house and bought another one [in L.A.]. I wasn’t even fully moved into that second house, and then [my 15-year-old pug] Leroy died. I flipped out. It was right around the beginning of December [2020]. I was like, I’m gonna go home. I’m just gonna drive back to San Antonio.

At the time, I wasn’t really talking to my family all that much. There’s nothing like a heartbreak to bring everyone back together. And so, I drove here. I packed up my two other pugs and came home. My intention was really, I don’t know, to hang out until I felt like I could go back. Next thing I know, weeks have gone by and then months have gone by, and I realized I didn’t really have to be in Los Angeles anymore. I’ve never been one to spend tons of time on decisions. I just go with whatever feels right. It just felt right. Truth be told, I never β€” never β€” thought that I would live in Texas again. That, to me, was shocking that it was so calmly decided on in my brain.

MA: What bothered or maybe surprised you the most about people’s reactions to you leaving ESPN after the 2019 NBA Finals for this undefined next chapter?

MB: My ability to not necessarily want to immediately jump back into work was a surprise to me because I had always just worked, worked, worked. I defined myself as my job. I assumed I’d take a couple weeks off, but I had zero interest. I started traveling and realized I was enjoying it. It was nice to be off of social media, nice to not deal with all the bullshit. As the bullshit kept going on [at ESPN], to watch it from afar and know how everything goes down there and also not be a part of it was lovely. I enjoyed every minute of that.

The biggest thing was people thinking I got fired, which no, I didn’t. I lucked out and had a buyout. It was the best-case scenario that a person could possibly ask for: to leave a place you don’t want to be and be paid for it. I was able to embrace unemployment for a while and not want to go back to work, and that to me, was shocking. My friends would ask, and I’d say, “No, I’m not even looking.” And then COVID happened, and there were no jobs anyway, so it was this extra year of chillin’ out.

MA: What did you find out about yourself in that time?

MB: It was really the ability to calmly just be. To not have to look at a calendar other than for a random hair appointment β€” but even then, I wasn’t doing my hair. Who cared? It was nice to not have to be anywhere or answer to anyone, and I didn’t know that I would. I honestly thought it would drive me crazy.

MA: How have you managed to not get caught up in the comparison culture that runs wild in this industry?

MB: I never went to school for this. I didn’t have dreams of this. Being on television? You might as well have said I was gonna be an astronaut. I came into the whole game with zero expectations. The only thing that really pushed me is that I am very competitive, and once I started getting a taste of it and realized I was actually kind of decent at this, all of the sudden, I thought, There’s no reason why I shouldn’t do that job.

I might not be confident in everything I do in life β€” or what I look like, whatever β€” but I’m very confident in my ability to do to television. I didn’t compare myself. I didn’t look at someone and think, I want that. I looked at a job and thought, I can do that and could probably do it better. That was my attitude going into everything.

MA: What fulfills you the most now?

MB: Other than the obvious of family, my loved ones, my dogs β€” that’s all obvious and fills a wonderful void that everyone should be so lucky to have β€” I think travel has been my second-favorite thing.

Job-wise, I am appreciative and grateful for really good memories that I’ve had through the years. I still stay in touch with original SportsNation people. I’m working with them on [What Did I Miss? ]. I forget a lot of stuff, and then I’ll meet people here in San Antonio who ask about what I’ve done. All of the sudden, I’m like, Oh, wow, I’ve done all those things. That’s actually kind of cool. I took for granted a lot of things. They were just days at work. In hindsight, you see that it was actually special.

MA: How might that answer differ from what you were chasing or thought mattered most when you first started?

MB: When I first started, it was just, you get offered a bunch of crazy little jobs and say yes to all of them in the hopes of leading to the next one, the next one, the next one. That’s the chase. That’s the rat race. The biggest thing was the financial aspect of it all. It was a big deal for me as a woman in this business to set the mark for the highest-paid, and I did it twice. It’s not that important to me now, but I’m not stupid. I know that because that happened, it set me up to be a lot more relaxed and be choosy about what I do next. All we ever heard about was men doing this, this and this. I was like, No, fuck that. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t be making as much as that guy. And we got as close as anyone at that point. We’ll see what happens now.

MA: What do you wish for every young woman entering the industry to know?

MB: I’ll always tell people to try to be yourself. It’s too difficult and brain-consuming to play a part because that’s not you. And if it’s not you, it’s not going to last forever.

The second most important thing, honestly? Don’t be a dick. There’s this thing that happens, especially for females, they pit us against each other as if there is only one job left for 100 of us, and now we have to backstab our way to that job. It’s unfortunate because I do think a lot of women fall for that, and it’s really just not true.

I do believe that being a backstabber throughout your entire career will catch up with you eventually, and I think we’ve seen some people that it has. I don’t know how you sleep at night. Do you feel good about what you’ve done today, or do you look back one day and think you could’ve done that better? I can’t speak for them. But I know that I sleep well because I didn’t do that. Maybe I could have gotten more jobs if I had played the game that way, but I’m glad I never did. I don’t envy anybody who plays that way.

MA: The goal, in the long run, should be to surround yourself with more women, right?

MB: Right?! It all goes back to the idea by a lot of people that we women hate each other. I do think that happens. It’s a very weird thing that we have grown up subconsciously doing, whether we judge a woman by her clothes or her looks. It sucks. It’s a hard thing to de-program. And I’m still guilty of it when watching a movie or something like that, but you have to make a concerted effort in the business worlds β€” especially in the businesses we’ve chosen that are very male-dominated β€” to not be that way.

MA: Your career has evolved in so many different directions, and you’ve accomplished so much. What is your Mount Everest at this point?

MB: I don’t have one anymore. I used to have so many answers to this question. NBA Countdown was a good moment. That’s a great show, and it’s the sport I love the most. That was a really good milestone. The hypotheticals I have β€” a late-night show, which everybody on television thinks they’ll have their own late-night show one day, but three people are gonna have it.

It sounds so simple and naive, but I just want to do things that are fun. I find myself going back to the old days where I’m doing a couple different jobs, and that’s fun because it’s not the same every day. It’s different groups of people that I work with, and I like that. I’ve gone back to the beginning, just with a different mindset.

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