April 10, 2007
Note: This feature appears in the April issue of Lacrosse magazine, an exclusive member benefit of US Lacrosse. Click here to become a member today, and to receive your complimentary subscription to LM.
by Bill Tanton, Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff
When he first sat down at a microphone to broadcast games, the coaches thought he was "a butcher."
That was the reaction when Quint Kessenich began to describe lacrosse games by saying what he honestly thought. Most of the college coaches in the country already knew him as the small, fresh-faced kid who had come down from Long Island to help Johns Hopkins win the NCAA championship in his freshman year in 1987. For four years, he gave the Blue Jays All-America goaltending.
When the coaches around the country first heard the kid's high-pitched voice on the air, they had to be thinking: Aw, he's a nice boy. He knows the game. He won't be a problem.
Very quickly, some of them changed their opinions.
"At first," said Tony Seaman, the coach at Towson University, "a lot of coaches thought Quint was a butcher because he cut them up. They weren't used to that. But they knew he had been a great player in a great program. They knew he was a great athlete who'd been out there. That's what gave him room to comment -- that he'd been out there."
Seaman goes back with Kessenich. Tony knew him before the other coaches had even heard of him. Quint played at Lynbrook High School on the Island in the mid-1980s. Seaman was then a teacher and coach at the school at that time.
"Quint was my eighth-grade soccer goalie," Seaman said. "He was my starting goalie in soccer in middle school at Lynbrook and he would have been my starter in lacrosse, but that's when I left to coach at C.W. Post. I know his whole family -- I coached his brothers, Wes and Pace. I know his sister, Kyle. Their mother, Sarah, was on the faculty at Lynbrook with me."
Quint went on to Hopkins and graduated in 1990 with a degree in social and behavioral sciences. He first became a broadcaster during the following lacrosse season, doing the Hopkins games on radio with experienced play-by-play man Howard Mash and a sports writer playing out of position named Bill Tanton.
Mash had broadcast Kessenich's games for four years, and he struck up a phone friendship with the young man. It was obvious the kid was glib, so Mash put him in the booth in 1991 and discovered that the rookie was a natural -- as well as disconcerting to a lot of coaches.
One coach who, from the beginning, actually appreciated Kessenich's down-the-middle approach was Roy Simmons Jr., the now retired coach emeritus at Syracuse. Said Simmons: "What I've always liked about Quint as a broadcaster is you'd never know he played at Hopkins. It's not easy for someone who was a great player to go on the air and be neutral."
"Some of the coaches," Kessenich said, "didn't appreciate my criticism because of the dynamics of lacrosse. It's a small, close community and the people in it are all interwoven. So everybody overreacts to criticism. But I'll tell you one thing -- if I hadn't criticized people in the beginning, I would never have gotten to ESPN."
In the 16 seasons since then, lacrosse on TV and radio has grown exponentially. So has Kessenich. Today he's under contract with ESPN to do lacrosse and a half-dozen other sports. He does Big East football, college basketball, NCAA track and field championships and wrestling championships, as well as the NCAA men's soccer championships. He also hosted the "Inside Lacrosse TV" show on ESPN2 in February.
"Quint got his first break (outside of lacrosse) with ESPN in horse racing," said his older brother Pace, a one-time Naval Academy lacrosse player and head coach at Colgate, who's now a stock broker in Baltimore.
"When we were growing up, our family had a summer place in the Catskills. We loved going to Saratoga for the races. When ESPN needed a guy for the Kentucky Derby broadcast, he volunteered. After the race, the ESPN people were saying, 'Hey, the lacrosse guy can do other things.'"
"Quint has branched out," said John Vassallo, ESPN regional head and Kessenich's boss. "He's a terrific analyst in lacrosse. He has a great understanding of the game and he makes it leap off the screen. As an analyst, I put him up there with former football players Joe Theismann, Kirk Herbstreit and Troy Aikman when they do their game.
"We used Quint on wrestling two years ago for sideline reporting and analysis. He did the Peach Bowl football game on radio for us in '05. He did the NCAA men's soccer championships in December. Doing play-by-play was a jump for him, but we've pretty much got him cooking all year round. He has exceeded our expectations."
There's something else about Kessenich in television that may surprise people, although the more you know about him the more surprises you'll discover.
"Quint could have a good career in television even off the air"" said Vassallo. "He has a sense of what works for television. His understanding of production is so good. He knows what to lead the show with. I wish we had three Quints."
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