Wally Szczerbiak said his wife, Shannon, was "shocked'' when he announced he was interested in doing television work in his first winter as a retired player.
She might have been the only person who felt that way.
For years, it was assumed her husband would be a natural, given his looks and polish. Sure enough, Steve Herbst, executive vice president for CBS College Sports, said it took him seconds to figure out Szczerbiak would fit right in.
So here he is, easing into post-player life with a limited schedule as he focuses on his young family - three children under 8 - while living in Cold Spring Harbor, near where he starred in high school.
Not a bad transition to post-player life.
"I'm a family man, and the NBA travel wore on me quite a bit,'' he said by phone Friday. "It rewarded me financially very, very well. But now is my time to enjoy my life, my kids, and kind of decompress.''
During the regular season, Szczerbiak worked one night a week as a studio analyst, but he will be more visible during the NCAA Tournament. He analyzed the brackets Sunday and will be on the channel again Thursday and Sunday to discuss the games themselves.
Initially, he had hoped to return for an 11th NBA season, but a doctor recommended against that after knee surgery. The fact that it was involuntary made it "an easy way to say goodbye,'' he said.
Szczerbiak, 33, said his sole regret was never winning an NBA championship. But the guy who led Miami (Ohio) to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 1999, was an NBA All-Star in 2002, appeared in the playoffs seven times and averaged 14.1 points in 10 seasons has no complaints.
"Honestly, for a guy from Cold Spring Harbor who went to the MAC, it turned out pretty good,'' he said. "Unfortunately, I ran into some hiccups with injuries that didn't allow me to continue on the All-Star path I had, but looking back, I could not ask for more, quite honestly, with the relationships I made, the people I met, being able to go to every city in the country.''
One of those relationships was with LeBron James, a teammate for his final 1 1/2 seasons.
"I loved him, absolutely phenomenal,'' he said. "He has a high basketball IQ and his talent is unmatched.''
I asked how James is able to be confident to the point of cockiness without alienating teammates.
"He completely pulls it off,'' Szczerbiak said. "It's such a competitive arena, you have to know you're good and act like you're good . . . But he really gets it. He's so good, but he's so unselfish.''
Even as the NCAA and TV executives prepare for the possibility of a 96-team field in 2011, some analysts on those very TV networks in effect have been undermining the validity of an expanded field. Jay Bilas, who works for ESPN and CBS, said it best Sunday: "This is the weakest at-large field in the history of the tournament." So what would 31 more teams have been like?