Exclusive Q&A: The new Voice of the Blue Devils, David Shumate

Replaces Bob Harris after 41 seasons

David ShumatE earned the much-coveted opportunity to replace Bob Harris as the radio play-by-play voice for the Duke Blue Devils football and men’s basketball teams. Shumate was introduced earlier this summer, after a year-long search to replace Harris, who retired after 41 years in the role.Shumate took some time to speak to us about the hiring process, his announcing style and how someone prepares to be interviewed by Mike Krzyzewski.North State Journal: Congratulations on the new job. What have the last few weeks been like for you?David Shumate: It’s been a bit of a whirlwind. You hear from so many people that you’ve known through the years. It’s so great to hear from everybody. I’ve worked for IMG (the company that handles Duke’s radio network) for 10 years, and so now to be able to start working with the guys from Duke — [IMG general manager Patrick Streko, Dr. (Kevin) White, Coach Krzyzewski and Coach Cutcliffe — it’s been good. It’s been great to meet so many people and tell them my story a little bit, but it’s also great to kind of turn the corner and start to get ready for the season.A job like this was going to attract hundreds of applicants. What were your expectations when you started the process?I’m fortunate I’ve worked for IMG for a long time, and I’ve had the chance to do some national programming. I certainly looked for what would be a good fit and a good opportunity for me. Duke basketball is a program I’ve always felt highly of, especially with what Coach Krzyzewski has accomplished. But also getting to know those guys in the fall, when Bob missed a couple of games for football. I filled in with them on the basketball side and got to know some of the people behind the scenes. They’re just really high quality people to work with. So you apply, and you’re hopeful you get the opportunity, but it would be naïve to not be aware that hundreds of people are applying. You just put your name in, and you know some people, so you hope it goes well.As the process goes on, you start to get some interviews and talk to the coaches and people on campus. It starts to become more real. Still when they call and tell you they’d love to have you, it’s exciting. It’s awesome. Surreal.You called Duke’s two games in Uncasville. Did you consider that a trial run?I mean, you’re never going to take it as a trial run, right? I mean, they did a national search and a process. But I knew it was an opportunity to show them what I could do, and to show the fanbase, as much as the administration, what my skill set is and how I call a game—the prep and the energy I bring to it. And hopefully they’ll like it.Especially while I was doing that, I was not thinking strategically about the job down the road. I was staying in the moment and thinking about what I needed to do to cover the team at the time. I just wanted to do the best job I could do, and that other stuff would take care of itself.”For fans that didn’t hear those games, how would you describe your style?I definitely call it as I see it. That’s the best way I can describe my style. I bring energy. I’m definitely going to bring the Duke perspective. I know people use the term homer: I probably fall more in that camp. I’ll tell the stories our fans want to hear from our student athletes, but also, I have the passion and energy to where you’re living through my call. You’re listening to the ebbs and flows and the energy of the game. I do the best I can to paint the picture of what’s going on in the stadium and with the crowd, how they’re reacting to things. Also making sure I’m delivering on things like the score but also being right on top of the plays, so that you can feel the energy in my voice when something happens. Just like people did when they listened to Bob for 41 years. It’s something I always enjoyed listening to Bob is there wasn’t anything terribly scripted out of him. He was purely reacting to what he saw. I think that’s what drew people to him, and that’s certainly something I’ll try to emulate.Any concerns over replacing a legend or over whether fans will accept the change, when you’re not Bob?They’ve been great. People have been welcoming me to the family. It’s been awesome. To me, there’s no concerns in following Bob, because there’s no replacing Bob. He did this for 41 years, and he’ll always be the voice of Duke. I’m just humbled and excited to be able to follow in his footsteps and get the opportunity to share some of those moments like the ones he’s shared with fans over the years.I have had a chance to visit with him and talk through the process. I got to talk to him several times in the fall, when I was filling in, and he was nothing short of gracious, helping me through the process and just talking, sharing stories from his time over the years. I look forward to keeping that relationship with him and keeping him involved in everything I’m doing, because this is his seat. I’m happy to pick the ball up where he left it.The job involves dealing with two successful coaches with big personalities. How involved were they in the process?I interviewed with both of them. When Coach Cutcliffe and I visited, it was an awesome three-to-four hours. We were talking about family—my dad who served in the army and moved around the country quite a bit. We talked about where he was stationed and places that Coach Cutcliffe knew and some similar experiences we’ve had in our pasts. We talked a little bit about broadcasters that he’s appreciated over the years. It was great. We just fell into a conversation more than an interview, which was awesome.And with Coach Krzyzewski, we had worked together in the fall. So when I interviewed with him, it was definitely kind of just catching up—where have you been? We talked about things we can do moving forward with the role and the opportunities that broadcasting in all sorts of new media presents to help expand the brand but also get the word out about the broadcast in so many different forms: Ways we can get highlights out there and different types of short-form content. It was great visiting with those guys. It was more of a conversation and catching up with them both than an interview. When I found out I got the job, I heard from both of them right away. They were great and I can’t say enough high things for all the folks over at Duke. Everyone’s been very kind the whole way through. It’s just felt like a good fit. It just always felt like more of a conversation about what the role is than an interview process, if that makes sense.Lots of people have interviewed Coach K. Far fewer have been interviewed by him. What’s it like going to bed knowing that tomorrow, you’re getting interviewed by him?It certainly helped that I got to work with him in the fall. When you go into it, you have to be respectful of Coach Krzyzewski as a person. I think he’s the best coach in the history of college basketball, so there’s certainly a reverence and respect that comes with that. But what I’ve learned from dealing with a lot of coaches is they’re just people. It’s great to go in and be able to share stories and listen. What you tend to find with Coach Cutcliffe and Coach Krzyzewski—guys that have been extremely successful—is they’re also great teachers, not just in terms of their sport but in terms of life. When they were asking me questions, learning things about my background and sharing their perspective, I felt them falling into that teacher mode and giving me tips on what I should do. There’s certainly a level of respect there, but I don’t think nervous would be the way to put it. But it was certainly respectful the way I approached it.What will you be doing this summer to prepare for the job?I’ve already been on campus, having brainstorming sessions on some content we can do with practice leading up to the start of the football season and looking at different new social media that we can integrate. We’re also working on how we want to lay out the broadcast this fall. Obviously, there’s some changes with Dave Harding coming into the booth and John Roth going on the sideline, so we’re doing a lot of planning and working through that. Then it’s immersing myself in the team and getting to know—obviously you can read stats, and I’ve learned all that about the guys, and I know the names and things like that—but getting to know them as people. That’s going to be a cool thing over the summer, just to get to know the players & the coaches.Do you have any catchphrases we can expect?(laughs) You know, it’s funny. I’ve been asked that a couple of times, and I really don’t. At some point, I may say some things more than others, but I can tell you now it’s not by design. I’m pretty reactionary to what I see on the field or court. I’m going bring it. If it’s a crazy dunk, you’re going to hear me lose my mind. It it’s a crazy touchdown, you’ll hear me scream my head off. To me, that’s what makes it cool. That’s what makes it fun. But I have no specific word choices I’m going to go with.