Lisa Byington is midway through her first season with the Bucks.
The play-by-play broadcaster is the first female to hold that role full-time in the NBA.
Byington recently sat down with WTMJ’s Greg Matzek to talk about her journey to Milwaukee.
Listen to the full interview in the player above.
A portion of the conversation was transcribed below, courtesy of eCourt Reporters, Inc.
GREG MATZEK: I’m always curious about people’s past to get where they are, I want to accelerate yours a little bit, although I do have some very interesting questions about the Big Ten Network, because you stated there at time when it was becoming a thing, but your opportunity with the Bucks, when was this on your radar as like, okay, this is a legit idea? I know sometimes it starts with like an agent conversation, but somebody brings an idea to you and you kind of have to take it and run with it from there, when did that opportunity present itself?
LISA BYINGTON: Just to go back just a little bit, you know, I was on my phone, and I was looking on Twitter and the interview exchange between Giannis and Jim Paschke popped up, and I just thought it was such a genuine and awesome interview where Giannis was introducing the fact, I think for the first time to Bucks’ fans, that this was going to be Jim’s last year. And that was, like, in January or February, it was something that — really early in the beginning of 2021. And I thought to myself, wow, you know, Jim has been there for so many years, 35 years, you know, I can’t believe that job is going to be open. And I hadn’t — because I’m so busy, you know, with everything else that I was doing at that point, I didn’t really translate, like, that could be something that I could apply for at that time. Things started to slow down after the NCAA tournament, right. In the spring and the summer, I think are my slowest months, and that’s when I had actually hired an agent. We started talking about goals and where I wanted to be and new challenges. And I think the conversations maybe started in the spring, and it got a little bit more serious, obviously, after the NBA finals, because the Bucks I don’t think were making — and they shouldn’t have made it a priority to find their new voice when they’re trying to win a championship, and so then things really kind of picked up steam right after that, kind of end of July into August, that’s when I think the Bucks really sort of focused on filling that position. So, that’s a little bit of the timeline of the year that was.
GREG MATZEK: Pretty crazy, right. I mean, do you look — now you’re getting on team planes, you’re traveling around, and I know you’ve been associated with networks, but this is your first real opportunity with a specific team, is that right?
LISA BYINGTON: I did some Chicago Bulls stuff, and so I worked as a fill in for Neil Funk, so I’ve experienced kind of the team broadcasts and the travel and stuff, but to do it consistently, to your point, is a little bit different. And I joke with people that it’s kind of ruined me for life, like, now when I travel for fun or for maybe another assignment or something, I’m going to — I’m going to think, wait, I have to actually check myself into the hotel, I have to wait in line. Because, you know, media, when you get to the hotel, there’s always someone there handing a room key off to everyone. And really, the only thing you’re responsible for is making sure that you make the charter bus on time that’s going to the arena. And that’s the only real responsibility you have. We stay at great hotels, obviously, and you mentioned the charter flights. So, definitely, the NBA makes travel very, very easy.
GREG MATZEK: Well, that’s good. It’s well deserved and earned as you’ve grown here in the industry.
Let’s get back to the Big Ten Network, because you come out of — you went to Northwestern, you mentioned you’re a two-sport athlete, and I want to get to that later, too, because that’s a challenge in and of itself, but you graduate, you’re done with Northwestern, great school, are you thinking, yeah, I kind of want to stay in the Chicago area, this Big Ten Network is — it seems like it’s developing, it’s sort of a thing, and now it’s just a monstrosity. Like, what’s going through your mind at that time? Did it feel like you were able to be on the ground floor of something that was developing?
LISA BYINGTON: Yeah, so, well I mean, I graduated and Big Ten Network didn’t come about until almost like ten years after I graduated, and so I had been in the business, I had been in local news for, you know, almost ten years. So, Big Ten Network started around maybe 2007, and I was in the right place at the right time, I was in a Big Ten city. I was working in local news at a CBS affiliate in Lansing, Michigan, at the time. And in year number one, in 2007, Big Ten Network was really just kind of looking for people, you know. And let’s remember, it’s — I don’t want people to forget, Big Ten Network started conference networks, and they were the first. And I don’t want people to forget that. So, this was — in 2007, this was such a weird and new concept, like, how do we get it on our cable package, and we’re just going to talk about the Big Ten for 24 hours, like, really, like, how do we do — you know, there were so many different questions because it was so different and so unique. And then the Pac-12 Network follows suit, SCC Network follows suit, ACC Network follows suit. So, they really — and Jim Delany, had the foresight to get that done, but really in year one, like I was saying, in 2007, they didn’t know what they were doing because there was no model to follow it. You know, all these other conference networks had the Big Ten Network as a model to follow. They were creating the path, and so it was — I literally — I was a sideline reporter for a Northwestern football game, I had never done sideline before, and they were — I think they had like seven or eight different football games going on that day, so they were really, really short on equipment, so I was actually wired to a wall. My microphone was wired to a wall, and my earpiece was wired to a wall. So, I was — I was literally — I couldn’t even move to do my job. And this was the first time I had ever done sideline reporting, so I’m thinking, oh, this is what sideline reporters do, which is not anywhere close to the ideal situation for a sideline reporter. But we were just kind of feeling things out, you know, and — and I took the opportunity just because it was a new challenge, you know, and I didn’t know where it was going to lead, but ultimately it was one of the best decisions I made.