After 33 years in the TV biz, Bruce Gietzen is leaving TV screens.
For the last 12, Gietzen has been anchoring the news from behind the desk of KXXV News Channel 25 Waco, Temple and Killeen. Today marks his last day at that gig. Starting at the end of the month, Gietzen will become the Director of Communications for the Waco Independent School District.
"Now [I] will have a schedule that mirrors my wife's," Gietzen told mikemcguff.com. "She's a terrific teacher who changes lives every year, and that's so much more important than doing TV. Education has become a passion of mine and I'm excited to take on a new challenge."
Houstonians will know Gietzen from his days as the sports reporter for KTRK abc13 and as a member of the Houston Rockets and Astros broadcast team.
I got Gietzen to tell me about some of his favorite Houston sports stories he got to cover.
On his time at KTRK:
"Our sports department at KTRK in the eighties was a great group - Bob Allen and Tim Melton, two great guys, and myself, and our sports producer was Dave Strickland, who years later was the News Director of what was one of the top news operations in the country. With Marvin [Zindler] and Dave Ward and Ed Brandon, KTRK was a real powerhouse.
They were one of the first stations in the country to go to an hour newscast at 6 p.m. and it had two sportscasts. That second one came on about 6:40 and that's why I got hired at Channel 13 - they wanted "people stories" in that second block, not typical highlights and scores, and Bob came up with the idea to call it "Time Out with Bruce Gietzen" and I had a blast -- and pretty much free reign doing those stories.
Mike Tyson was just a few months into his professional boxing career and had won his first 11 or 12 fights all by knockout in the first round. He came to Houston as part of the Budweiser boxing series and was fighting a guy named Eddie Mitchell. Tyson was up and coming, and I went to do a story on this kid who was the talk of the boxing world, getting video of a workout a couple days before the fight.
We shot him sparring with someone, jumping rope, and doing one armed push ups...then did an interview.
One question I asked him was, 'Did you always want to be a fighter? You look more like a football player than a boxer.'
He answered in that high pitched voice, 'Yea? You look like you eat too much.'
I told him he was right.
A few minutes later we were packing up and I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and Tyson sincerely said, 'Jimmy told me my comment was uncalled for and I needed to apologize to you. I'm sorry I said you look like you eat too much.' (Jimmy was his manager, the legendary Jimmy Clayton.)
Of course I replied, 'No problem Mike. We're good.'
'You sure,' he asked.
He then shook my hand and said thank you for coming out and doing the story.
What was I going to do? Get mad at him? I don't think so.
Tyson knocked the guy out a couple nights later 22 seconds into the first round.
He and I can share that special interview moment!"
On his time with the Houston Rockets broadcast team:
"I left [KTRK] in '88 to be part of the broadcast team for the Astros and worked with Milo [Hamilton], [Larry] Dierker and Bill Brown. Another really good group of guys, and Milo was an old school baseball encyclopedia. I learned a lot from him about preparation and timing.
The job doing Rockets studio work came about almost by accident. The Rockets were on the road in December in Detroit and the TV play by play guy was either Ron Franklin or Bill Worrell at that time ('89 or '90). They had a sore throat and laryngitis so Channel 20 called me and asked if I could be on standby to fly to Michigan to help with the broadcast if they couldn't go the entire game. Then Franklin said he could do the game, but we decided to send it back to the Houston studio for the half-time and post-game to save his voice. We did all that on less than 24 hours notice and had to scramble to get some video and stories put together since that was before the internet and all the digital revolution.
We did two of those studio shows on that road trip and the GM at Channel 20 liked them, so that's how those got started. At that time I think we were the second team in the NBA to do the studio wrap around shows besides either Sacramento or the Knicks. We had a lean and mean staff, but put together good, creative broadcasts, and I know the league showed tapes of our telecasts to other clubs to utilize that same format incorporating studio shows.
They evolved into pre-game, half-time and post-game, and we got a stable of ex-players to rotate joining me in the studio as the guest/analyst. It was Elvin Hayes, Purvis Short, Mike Woodson and Robert Reid came in some, so did Mike Newlin and John Lucas.
Their gifts for working were things like a pair of cowboys boots or a gift certificate for dinner or gasoline. After Kenny Smith retired, his agent called us one day and said Smith would like to get in that rotation and we said 'sure!' Then the agent said he'd do it for $5,000 a game and we had to say no, it wasn't in the budget, and told him what the other guys got.
A few days later the agent called again and said 'okay, he'll do it for $2,000 a game.' Kenny didn't get on our shows. Every time I see him now with Ernie Johnson and Charles Barkley, I think about that, and he may be getting that fee now!
Those were fun teams to cover, a diverse group of personalities. I remember in '94 we had to come from behind to beat the Knicks for the title. The format then was three middle games in a row in NY, and the feeling was the league offices so wanted New York to win the title. It was a hard fought defensive series and no team scored 100 points and we heard a lot of griping from New Yorkers.
We tried to do a mixture of hard core sports and fun things in those studio shows, to appeal to a wider audience. One year I challenged Elvin Hayes to a free throw contest, with no expectations. I beat him (Calvin Murphy said that was no big feat) and it became an annual story, and I'm not sure Elvin ever got over that embarrassment."
On his time in Waco TV:
"I got out of broadcasting in '96 and worked in Atlanta, then Washington DC in sports Marketing, then came back to Dallas. In 2003 I got back in as a news anchor in Waco, and that wasn't as fun as covering sports, but it was still good. There's a lot of news here for a market this size - big stories like the West fertilizer explosion, the two shootings at Ft. Hood, the Twin Peaks biker shootout, and of course Baylor's new stadium and athletic program.
Waco has a lot of positive things going on. Walking into McLane Stadium crossing the Brazos is one of the great college football experiences in the country, and of course you should do that right after having an infamous "gut pak" at Vitek's BBQ nearby.
The Texas Sports Hall of Fame is right on the river, as is the Texas Ranger Museum, and the Baylor Campus. We also have our first National Park, the Wooly Mammoth Site, which is fantastic."