Monty Williams a deserving ‘Sager Strong’ recipient

USA Basketball Men's National Team Practice
Monty Williams will receive the first Sager Strong Award. (San Antonio Spurs photo)

The first recipient of the Sager Strong Award couldn’t be more appropriate.

Monty Williams, currently the vice president of basketball operations for the San Antonio Spurs, will be honored when the inaugural award is presented at 6 p.m. June 26 on TNT.

It’ll be the first time the NBA Awards are all presented on one night, including MVP, Rookie of the Year, Sixth Man, Defensive Player of the Year, Most Improved Player and Coach of the Year.

The Sager Strong Award is named after Craig Sager, former NBA sideline reporter for TNT, who died of cancer last year.

In February 2016, Williams’ wife, Ingrid, died from injuries suffered a day earlier in a head-on car crash in Oklahoma City with a vehicle that lost control and crossed lanes. She was 44. The couple has five children, ages 5-17. Three of them were in the SUV with her and were seriously injured.

Williams’ strength through his Christian faith were remarkable and I was honored to write about what he said at his wife’s memorial service. If you aren’t familiar with it, I would urge you to read it.

In a statement Thursday, Williams was typically modest.

“Craig Sager’s amazing attitude was truly inspirational,” Williams said. “He was a champion during his battle, fighting every day with grace and humor. I have great respect for Craig, Stacy and the Sager family so it’s humbling to be the first recipient of the Sager Strong Award.”

“In our case, my children and I couldn’t have made it through the tough times without the grace of God and the wonderful support we received from family and friends. For all of those who prayed for us, everyone who provided us with hope, love and support, it’s impossible to thank each of you enough. We are forever grateful.”

SHOW ME THE MONEY

The Los Angeles Chargers have hired Matt “Money” Smith to be their radio play-by-play announcer on KFI (640 AM) next season. Former Chargers center Nick Hardwick will continue to be the radio analyst.

Matt Money Smith
Matt “Money” Smith will be the Chargers’ new play-by-play announcer. (San Diego Chargers photo)

Smith, best known as co-host of the Petros & Money talk show on KLAC (570 AM), replaces Josh Lewin, who had been the Chargers’ voice for 12 years. Hardwick had originally said he wouldn’t move with the Chargers from San Diego, but changed his mind.

While L.A. sports fans may think of Smith as solely a talk-show host, he does have a play-by-play résumé. He has announced NFL, college football and college basketball games for Compass Media Network radio and has called games on TV for the Pac-12 Networks and Fox.

“To say I’m excited is an understatement,” Smith said on the Chargers website. “I’ve had the chance to call a few games a season the past few years, and they’ve always felt like our local team. The fact that I am not only going to be a play-by-play announcer for the Chargers, but also during the first year in which they are moving to Los Angeles is extremely exciting.”

The Chargers also announced that former Lakers radio announcer Spero Dedes will do play-by-play for Chargers preseason games on KABC (Channel 7) with longtime Chargers quarterback Dan Fouts as analyst. Dedes is best known nationally now for his NFL and college basketball work for CBS.

UNFORGIVABLE

Erin Andrews will be interviewed on the NBC News program Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly. On the show, the Fox sideline reporter who also co-hosts ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, is asked about the 2008 stalking incident in which Andrews was filmed nude through a keyhole in her hotel room. Kelly asks Andrews if she feels she could ever forgive her stalker. She says no, and Kelly asks why.

“Because I have to relive it all the time,” Andrews says. “It’s shaped who I am as a person. It messed with my family. It hurt my mom and dad so bad and it still does. And you don’t get any sort of pass for doing that.”

Andrews also speaks about her cervical cancer diagnosis and her engagement to former L.A. Kings player Jarret Stoll. The show airs at 10 p.m. Sunday.

UP & DOWN THE DIAL

The Stanley Cup Final continues at 5 p.m. Thursday on NBC. The matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Nashville Predators has turned out to be fascinating with the teams tied at 2-2. Despite neither city being a top 20 TV market, Monday’s game was the second most-watched Game 4 on record (4.1 overnight rating) going back to 1994, behind only Boston-Chicago (4.9) in 2013. The Hollywood Reporter pointed out the game had a 1.8 rating among adults 18-49, outdrawing The Bachelorette’s 1.6 on ABC. … Game 3 of the NBA Finals had a 13.4 overnight rating on ABC, up 14% from last year’s 11.8 Game 3 with the same Warriors-Cavaliers matchup. The network is averaging a 12.8 big-market rating, up 4% up from 12.3 last year and 4.9% from 12.2 in 2015, which also had the same two teams. …

The Belmont Stakes will air at 2 p.m. Saturday on NBC with the undercard races at noon on NBCSN. … The men’s semifinals of the French Open will be shown tape-delayed to the West Coast at 11 a.m. Friday on NBC. Strangely enough at 11, NBCSN will be showing the other men’s semifinal live. The women’s final will be shown live at 6 a.m. Saturday and the men’s final at 6 a.m. Sunday, both on NBC. … The NCAA Track and Field Championships will be shown this weekend with women’s semifinals at 4:30 p.m. PDT on ESPN2, the men’s finals at 5:30 p.m. Friday on ESPN and the women’s finals at 3:30 p.m. Saturday on ESPN. …

Jerry Remy and NESN apologized for his on-air comments on Tuesday’s Boston Red Sox telecast that he didn’t feel major leaguers who didn’t speak English should be allowed to have interpreters. … Fox has hired Dean Blandino, former NFL vice president of officiating, to be a rules analyst, working with Mike Pereira, on pro and college football games. …

Variety reports that coverage of Vin Scully’s retirement from the Dodgers last year led to no fewer than six L.A.-area Emmy nominations for SportsNet LA, KTLA (Channel 5) and KCAL (Channel 9). Scully himself earned a final nomination for his farewell letter to fans on his final telecast. … Joe Davis misses another weekend of Dodgers work to do the Tigers-Red Sox game Saturday for Fox. It’ll be seen by only 7% of the nation. KTTV (Channel 11) will show Orioles-Yankees with Matt Vasgersian and John Smoltz at 4 p.m. Saturday. … Hank Williams Jr. will once again do the theme song next season for ESPN’s Monday Night Football. He was taken off the air in 2011 after making disparaging remarks about former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden. … The NCAA Women’s College World Series and Super Regional softball games were seen by 1.7 million viewers between TV and streaming, ESPN’s highest ever.

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