Cleveland feels it is his job to listen to sports radio, look on the Internet and gather all he can about teams so he has a more clear perspective.
Steve Cleveland is straddling two worlds.
Often, they clash. He's acquiring more knowledge of what it takes to be in one world now that he's lived in the other.
One is a world of high-pressure win-loss stakes as a coach; the other is that of a broadcast journalist, a commentator, paid to add color, both the good and bad.
It hasn't been easy to step out of major college coaching and become a member of the media. Cleveland still has the itch to wear a whistle. As he's visited all the Utah college practices, he's had a familiar tug at his heart to get back in the trenches. But Cleveland's job is to report and commentate, not figure out how to get a guy to set a proper pick.
The former Fresno State and BYU head coach is now doing color commentary for BYUtv, where he'll do at least a dozen games, including the Cougars' upcoming game at Northern Arizona.
"I've enjoyed it," he said. "I'm still learning, but I'm having a lot of fun."
The transition is interesting for Cleveland.
Coaches trust him because he's one of them. They tell him things, some of their secrets, their struggles, issues with players and challenges with their teams with a trust not afforded to most media members. He's granted great access because he's been their peer — he's been one of them.
Yet, to be credible as a color commentator, if any of the teams he covers, including BYU, is messing up, he has an obligation to describe what it is, give his opinion why and tell it like it is.
"I'm not going to beat up anybody on the air, but I'm not going to gloss over bad play; I want to be objective and fair to both teams always and consistently," he said.
Sounds like a good plan.
He credits play-by-play man Dave McCann and ESPN producer Mikol Minor with making his job easier, easing him into the role as color man.
Cleveland is an engaging man. He's perfect for analysis. He knows the science of basketball, the passion and emotion. He likes people. He also enjoys putting words together, unrolling a take. He is honest. He's no brutally honest Johnny Miller, but he's honest enough.
Cleveland has always been a media savvy coach. He's been open, reporter-friendly, honest and forthright in interviews. Yet, as a coach, he always kept to a coach's mandate — stay clear of sports talk radio, the Internet and message boards.
"I'd tell anyone who coaches to stay as far away from that as possible because it will drive you crazy — even if you are winning," he said.
Now, however, Cleveland feels it is his job to listen to sports radio, look on the Internet and gather all he can about teams so he has a more clear perspective.
He's even got a Twitter account and the first day he signed up and word got out, he attracted 400 followers.
"When I decided to go into this, I turned to a longtime friend now in the broadcast business, Fran Franchilla, and he's given me great advice," said Cleveland. "He told me the most important thing I could do is prepare, that you can easily tell the difference between color analysts who prepare before a game and those who don't — you don't want to be one of those who don't."
He's enjoyed the feedback so far. He's been approached in restaurants by fans, thanking him for his commentary, his objectivity, and his work as a coach while at BYU. He has folks from St. George call and say they were surprised to tune into a BYUtv broadcast and hear him say there was some "interesting" officiating at the end of the BYU-Dixie State game that went BYU's way. "Didn't think you'd admit that," said the caller.
Just doing his job — hopefully the right way.
"You owe it to both teams and the broadcast to be as even as you can, that's what's required," Cleveland said.
And he knows it's a challenge to call out BYU mistakes because he's either hired or coached almost everyone on BYU's staff.
Cleveland and his wife Kip have moved into a condo in Provo so he could be close to what's happening. Ironically, all his children have moved back to California.
This BYUtv gig is something new.
"I've never seen anything like it; the reach, the audience, how big an impact it has and it's only on the ground level with football and basketball," he said. "There're still the Olympic sports."
Cleveland and McCann met an LDS couple in Chicago this weekend who are huge Wisconsin Badger fans. They told the pair of broadcasters they've been watching BYU on BYUtv for weeks to "scout" out who Wisconsin might play.
Cleveland gets emails and texts from all over the world, giving him feedback on his new job. "It's something else. It's fun."
He's also humble. "There's a lot I need to learn about this," he said.
So, welcome to the clubhouse, Steve.
It's the land of late-night, after-game dinners, pressroom pregame food and, on occasions if you're truly true to the business, a cold shoulder from a coach or two. You might get to be locked out of a practice someday, or be told players just aren't available that day after you planned your entire afternoon around just that opportunity.
You'll see remarkable games, meet wonderful people, and bump into some real strange ones, too. You might miss a few flights; the media doesn't charter.3 comments on this story
You might even get the mother of a player to call you on the phone someday for something you said; they are the best and worst.
But you, of all, will understand how this goes.
You've been on both sides.