Local Seen: Team Spirit
Debbie Antonelli covers basketball for ESPN, CBS, Fox Sports, and more, but off the court, she calls plays as a Mount Pleasant mom
Basketball analyst Debbie Antonelli travels the country broadcasting some 100 women’s games a year—pro and collegiate—and sharing her expertise in team building workshops and speaking engagements. On top of 25 seasons on air, her resume includes plays as a starting guard at NC State, clinic coach, and college athletics administrator. But her favorite position is being a wife and mom to three boys.
CM: How has women’s basketball evolved during your broadcasting years?
DA: The talent is more athletic. The coaching is outstanding. The resources are better. When I became Ohio State’s athletics marketing director, women’s basketball didn’t even have a local TV package. I sold enough advertising to cover the production of eight games, and that continued for four years before ESPN called.
CM: Other than basketball, what’s one thing your college coach, Kay Yow, taught you?
DA: Persistence. She fought cancer for 28 years. When she was too sick to stand, she coached from the bench.
CM: How are you involved with the Kay Yow Cancer Fund?
DA: Coach Yow had an idea for an NC State “Hoops for Hope” fundraiser. I thought it should be national and called the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association. We now have a week of Play 4Kay games across the country and have raised $7 million.
CM: Tell me about the foundation you’re establishing in your son’s name.
DA: Frankie is smart, handsome, athletic, popular, and funny. And he happens to have Down syndrome. Frankie and Friends is an anti-bullying campaign with three components: opportunities with local schools, a pro athlete partnership, and college speaking engagements. Frankie’s already shared his message—“I’m more like you than I’m different”—with Cario’s sixth grade and a 1,500-student assembly in Kansas. He’s slated for St. John’s University and Texas A&M.
CM: How is Frankie on the mic?
DA: He’s a showman. At the Special Olympics gala last fall, he gave me the best introduction: “My mom makes me PB and J every day. My mom is not a good singer but knows all the girl parts to High School Musical. She makes bad waffles, so she takes me to Waffle House. My mom bought me this suit. My mom loves basketball. She likes to drink a beer.”
CM: Have sports affected your parenting?
DA: I’ve always been part of a team, and that’s how our family operates. Everyone has responsibilities and does what’s best for all.
Hometown: Cary, NC
Philanthropies: Kay Yow Cancer Fund lifetime board member, Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame treasurer, Special Olympics, Charleston Miracle League
Career highlights: Interviewing legendary UCLA coach John Wooden; covering Boston College’s upset of number one UNC and Duke’s win over Virginia Tech in one day; and being “on the call” when the winningest coach in NCAA history, Tennessee’s Pat Summitt, won game 1,000
Extracurriculars: Volleyball, softball, golf, playing the trumpet, and being “the dodgeball queen of my kid’s Pinckney Elementary class”