Randy Zellea of BSP recently interviewed ESPN Anchor Jonathan Coachman. Many are familiar with Coachman, as he established himself with the WWE where he worked with some of the biggest names in wrestling. Coachmen left wrestling and transitioned into ESPN where he has become a household name, both on Prime Time Radio and TV broadcasts.
After talking with Jonathan for over 45 minutes, it was obvious that he was one of the many chasing the dream and following his passion in the media industry. I honestly felt that giving excerpts of the interview I conducted with “the Coach” in a written feature would not carry the same message as the message he sent out.. Coachman’s dedication and desire to succeed in the media industry is unmatched as he made sacrifices, as well as, being in the right place in the right time.
I followed Coachman for years through WWE TV because he always found away to be entertaining in front and behind the camera. Since his arrival to ESPN, Coachman has become a leader and a mentor to other anchors coming into the company. Though he left the Wrestling business in 2008, the coach had the opportunity to rekindle some of his magic and taped skits with Pro Wrestling personalities John Cena and “The Rock” Dwayne Johnson when they visited ESPN to promote their projects.
The lesson to take away from this interview is that if you have a passion and desire for something; do not be afraid to do the work. Do not be afraid to say “YES” and chase the dream, because the journey could be just as amazing as the end point. During this interview you will learn about “the Coach’s” path to WWE and his transition to ESPN.
Q: How did you get your first break in the broadcasting field?
A: When I got out of college, I did not have a job in journalism. I was not on TV; but was working four or five jobs in Lawrence, Kansas and having a ball. I had called a producer I had worked for in college in Wichita, Kansas and he thought I was working in TV .I didn’t tell him differently and they obviously didn’t do their homework. They had an opening for a #3 guy at KAKE TV in Wichita and they had me down for an interview. I get down there and I was horrible!! I had no business being hired and I spent the following week blowing up their phones. The following week I got a call from their news director and he said “I’m going to be honest with you, you are not ready for this job you are not at this level yet, but I just got fired. I am able to work until 5pm this afternoon, so, because I feel you have some talent, and I want to tick them off a little bit, I want to hire you as our weekend sports anchor if you can get here by 5pm today.” It was about a three hour drive and I was mowing lawns at the time. I told my boss, and keep in mind I am 21 years old, and I said “listen man, I have to go and I have to go right now.” I jumped in the car drove to the station and that was how I got my start.
Q: You were an athlete when you were younger. Can you talk about those experiences?
A: I played baseball, basketball and football, but I was a really good baseball player. In fact, I had some back issues and the doctors stated I had to play a game where I didn’t have to twist a lot, or I could have played in college. I was really good and I still play a lot of softball to this day. One of my best friends from High School ended up playing baseball for Wichita State and we all know they have a great program there. The last two years of High School, we won 5A state basketball championship with our coach Mike Henson. His son Steve played in the NBA and was our high school coach. The younger brother was my age, and he went on to play Kansas. I was very involved in sports as I played college basketball as well.
Q: It’s crazy how opportunities become available. Is it really the right place at the right time type of situation?
A: Here is why that happens in this business. In other industries, everything is cut and dry and you are not going to become a doctor unless you have certain test scores and you know what you’re doing. In TV, its very subjective business. One person might think you have talent, and somebody else might not. This is what I tell people all the time, including young anchors who are new to ESPN. I pride myself in helping anyone I can, by giving advice as much as I can, due to my background of traveling all over the world and by being on worldwide TV for so long. A lot of the younger anchors come to me and I tell them for the first five years, when you get here change your middle name to YES. Whatever they ask you to do, just do it. By doing that, they know they could count on you. You will be able to have the opportunity to be on every show in the building at some point. At that point, you will figure out what you like to do . The same thing could be said when you could do local sports for radio, podcasts, web pages, just start by saying “YES”. The more you say “YES” the more people will gravitate towards you and it certainly has worked for me.
Q: When did you put your focus on TV instead of other forms of media? Most media members usually start out on the print side then transition over to radio and or TV, Did you have a choice in this situation?
A: This goes back to loving TV. I do not mean just sports. I love everything on TV. I love reality TV, but the thing is the other options were not available. I didn’t have the option to be part of other outlets. If someone came to me at the age of 21 and asked if I wanted a radio show, I would have taken it, but at the time, all the connections I had were in TV. When I was in college, for me to graduate in my major, I had to be the sports editor of our college paper and had a column. I enjoyed writing while I was in WWE. I had my own a column in the WWE Magazine. I would eventually like to start writing here too. I also pride myself on knowing the business well, and that’s just not me being over confident. I know the business well and writers do not seem to make much money. It’s a hard way to break into the business and to make it to the top. You have to be incredibly good at what you do. I was not sure if it would be something I would be great at. I know the road I would have to take to be successful. I do not do play by play because I’m not Brent Mussberger or Brad Nessler, but I am pretty good in the studio, so that’s what I do.