Pierce: Bill Walton, as usual, is over the top at Pac-12 tourney
Sports on TV • Ever-polarizing sportscaster crosses the line with Ray Lewis reference.
Published: March 15, 2013 04:13PM
Updated: March 20, 2013 05:00PM
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Former Los Angeles Lakers'player Bill Walton arrives at a memorial service for Jerry Buss, whose Lakers won 10 NBA basketball championships under his ownership, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

The Pac-12 Network is happy to have Bill Walton at courtside for the league’s post-season tournament. Walton is clearly happy to be there.

So happy that he’s not paying particularly close attention to what he’s saying. Like when he made a joke about a double murder during Thursday’s coverage.

That’s classic Bill Walton. He’s never had much of a filter. Or, you could argue, much common sense.

The folks P12N were so excited about Walton’s work during Utah’s upset of Cal on Thursday they sent out a press release celebrating his best moments. Moments that sounded positively Walton-esque to anyone who remembers back to the early ’90s when he was working NBA games for NBC.

Moments like:

• “Fantastic pace to this game. Shot clock not a factor, refs inconsequential; Players soaring like eagles here over the desert sky,” he said, attempting to wax poetic.

• “When I watch basketball, I say, ‘What has happened to this game?’ All it is, is these little guys dribbling incessantly, aimlessly, without purpose, only to draw attention to themselves. Please save us,” he said, no doubt prompting many viewers to ask to be saved from Walton.

• “[Jordan] Loveridge used a stiff-arm. Rick Neuheisel is here. He’ll appreciate that one, but this is basketball,” said Walton in what was more standard cliche than pearl of the tongue.

There are times when Walton’s bluntness is a welcome relief from the kind of don’t-hurt-anybody’s-feelings analysis we hear so much of on TV. And the fact that he’s being blunt about Pac-12 teams on the Pac-12 Network is sometimes pretty amazing. Like when he took California to task for allowing Utah to take Thursday’s quarterfinal to overtime (on the way to a surprising 79-69 victory).

• “Quit feeling sorry for yourself and start playing ball. You had a chance to win and you couldn’t turn him [Jarred DuBois] back and you didn’t commit a foul. It would have been an easy one to finish off right there, but you let a left-handed guy dribble to his left and hit his own shot. DuBois has been doing that pretty much all night, pretty much on command all season,” Walton said.

At the same time, there are moments when you have to wonder why anyone in their right mind would allow Walton to say anything live on TV.

Early in Thursday’s Oregon-Washington game, P12N showed a rather innocuous bit of staged footage — school mascots (including Utah’s Swoop) and cheerleaders getting out of a limousine.

“I think Walton is somewhere in the middle of that thing,” said play-by-play announced David Pasche.

“I was way in the back, along with Ray Lewis,” said Walton. “And it was unbelievable how much fun — oh my gosh. How many people were in there?”

Yes, folks, that’s right. Walton was clearly referencing the 1990 double murder that Lewis fled in his limousine. Apparently, he thinks that ought to be the subject of an attempted joke.

Viewers weren’t the only ones who thought it was odd.

“I think we’ll just dismiss the Ray Lewis comment,” Pasche said.

That little exchange didn’t make P12N’s press release of Walton’s best moments. Given that it occurred, it’s kind of surprising P12N issued that press release extolling Walton’s greatness.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.