SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Jazz legend Jeff Hornacek's daughter Abby Hornacek moved from the state when she was 10, but as a new travel and lifestyles host for Fox Nation, she's getting a chance to come back — on camera.
Abby Hornacek was born in Utah and lived here until her family moved to Arizona following her dad's retirement from professional basketball in 2000. She grew up playing sports and doing outdoor activities with her family, going on to play college sports and graduating from the University of Southern California.
She served as a contributor to ESPN and a sideline reporter for Fox Sports prior to joining Fox Nation.
Abby Hornacek will host two shows on Fox Nation, one featuring national parks — including Utah's parks — and another a "ride to work" series with Fox News and Fox Nation hosts and personalities.
"It is very exciting. It's really, really nice to be a part of this team. Everyone here is wonderful," she said.
Abby Hornacek spoke with the Deseret News by phone about her memories of growing up in Utah.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Deseret News: I understand that you are a travel and lifestyle host. Could you explain what your position entails?
Abby Hornacek: I'm hosting a new show about national parks called “Parks with Abby Hornacek.” Essentially, we are traveling around to all the different national parks, and I'm a huge adrenaline junkie. So, we're going to be doing an adrenaline activity at every national park. … I'm doing a few other shows that will be announced in the future. I don't really do politics. It's not really my realm. It's more of adventure and travel and lifestyle.
DN: Can you tell me a bit about "Meet Abby"?
AH: You can watch it on Fox Nation. I traveled back to my (Phoenix, Arizona) hometown, and I just kind of showed how I grew up and what made me into who I am today. We went back to my high school, we went back to my grade school where I used to play basketball, and then we met my family — that was really special to me. We sat down with one of my brothers, my other brother couldn't be there, but my mom and my dad and then one of my brothers and just kind of went to all the hot spots that I used to go to in high school — Camelback Mountain, the Sugar Bowl, which is an ice cream spot, Grimaldi’s, which is where I fell in love with New York pizza before I even came to New York. So, a lot of great things that shaped me into who I am and the kind of person I am with Fox as well.
DN: What are you most excited for with your new role at Fox Nation?
AH: I'm really excited for this national park show because I think in today's (political) climate, especially, we sometimes lose sight of what makes America so beautiful. And I mean, we're literally going to all these places. I love nature. Part of my love for nature came from growing up in Utah, as you know, because Utah is very outdoorsy, and there are a lot of great activities that you can do — mountain biking, camping, hiking, … snowboarding — I think that kind of burst my love for the outdoors.
DN: What do you think will be the most rewarding part of your position at Fox Nation?
AH: I think the most rewarding part about this job … is the people I get to work with. All the producers and editors and writers and people that I've come in contact with have all been so wonderful, so helpful and very, very down to earth. And that's something that is super important to me. So, in any job that I have, that's kind of a primary focus. And to think that Fox has hit that is a really, really special thing to me.
DN: What do you think will be the most challenging.
AH: I think when it comes to the national parks show, I am so in love with the outdoors and national parks and conservation efforts that I'm worried I won't be able to show everything that I want to show at each park because all of them have so much to offer. And I almost feel this responsibility to make the viewer see what I'm seeing. And I know that what we see in person doesn't always translate to what we can watch on television. So, I do feel a responsibility to be able to translate the beauty that I'm seeing into the eyes of the viewer.
DN: How do you feel Utah national parks compare to the rest of the country? Will you be featuring any Utah national parks in your show?
AH: Yes. You know, maybe I'm biased … because I was born in Utah, and I lived there till I was 10. But I think Utah national parks are among the most beautiful in the country, and I grew up going to a few of them. And I think that really brings me back to when I was younger, which is super special to me. … Once I moved away from Utah I went to Arizona, which also has beautiful national parks, but I really don't think that any can compare to Utah. We definitely will be hitting all the Utah ones — Zion, Arches, you name it. I am so excited. .
DN: Do you think having a professional basketball player as a dad drove your interest in sports?
AH: I think definitely it did just because I was around it a lot. But I also think that the main reason I was so in love with sports and the outdoors was my family in general — my mom, my brothers and my dad included. I was young still when I lived in Utah — my dad retired in 2000. … Although I remember going to his games, I think the biggest part for me was all the special time that we spent (as a family). We used to go camping almost once every week, and we would go mountain biking in Utah and hiking at (Mount) Olympus and all of that. So, I think the memories that are attached with these activities I used to do with my family as a whole are really what makes me want to, you know, continue in the realm of outdoors.
And, of course, playing (basketball) with my brothers in the driveway. … Neither of them ever took it easy on me. So, I think that's why I became an athlete. And, you know, I was in sports broadcasting before taking this job. And I definitely understand the game of basketball, and being an athlete myself I do understand what it's like to be an athlete in other sports as well. So that helps. But I really do think it's the family time that I was raised with.
DN: How do you feel your experiences thus far have helped prepare you for your position at Fox Nation?
AH: I think that being in sports has been such a blessing because there is a lot to keep track of. You have to know how to ask the right questions. You are really looking for a storyline in so many different aspects of the game. I was also in Chicago for two years hosting a live sports show, and we would be on air for, you know, four hours at a time. And I think just being able to sit down, be in studio. … I was really given the opportunity to give my analysis when it came to an NBA game, NFL, college football, college basketball — we talked about everything. And it really gave me the confidence, and it gave me the mental capacity to be able to recognize certain important things and what makes them important and what doesn't, and then formulate an opinion about that.
I think I got a lot of enthusiasm also working in sports because people love the topic. They love their teams. They love their different sports, and I think that's really translated well into this job with Fox because Fox has such passionate fans. So I think appealing to a passionate fan it's something that really, really prepared me.
DN: What got your start into sports journalism?
AH: I was an athlete in college and in high school, … (and) I ended up getting double foot surgery when I was in college. So, I realized I probably couldn't play to the level that I was able to in the past. I was like, "If I can't play volleyball, then I will talk about sports for a living." And it's funny because you'll see in "Meet Abby," if you watch it, everyone who knows me is like, "You were so shy growing up that we would have never expected you to have this job." I think, for me, when I went to college I was working for Annenberg TV — I went to USC — I was a multimedia journalist my freshman year, and I really was so terrified to even conduct an interview. So it took me a lot.
And I think it was the encouragement from my family and my parents — my mom, especially, she was like, "If you're uncomfortable doing something, those are the things you should be doing." And I really have carried that with me into everything that I've done, not just work. … And then also just being an athlete and wanting to continue along that path. I was given a lot of great opportunities early on with Fox Sports West and then Fox Sports San Diego. And I had a friend in college — his name is Tommy Morris — he really gave me a great opportunity on a show called "San Diego Prep Insider." So that was kind of one of my first, true hosting experiences, and I was able to get that when I was in college.
DN: What are some memories that come to mind about your time in Utah?
AH: Utah was honestly such an amazing place to grow up. I think my first thought goes to how family oriented it is there, and that's how I was raised. We did everything together, and my family is the most important thing in my life. And you also are given the opportunity to be outside as much as possible. I remember being at my house and thinking I was going to be an archaeologist because we would just go next door to an empty lot and search for things and dig in the backyard. And then in the summer, we would go on hikes and collect leaves. And then in fall we would rake the leaves onto our trampoline and jump into the leaves.
There's just a lot of great activities in Utah because it is such a beautiful state.
DN: Did any memories come to mind from when your dad played for the Jazz?
AH: Yeah, so obviously that was a huge part (of my memories). We weren't allowed to go to (Jazz) games on school nights. So we're always, you know, going on the weekend, unless it was an important game. If Michael Jordan was in town, my mom would let us go. So that was always an exciting moment, obviously when the Jazz played the Bulls — that was always a great time. And it's funny being older and looking back at it because I was young. I didn't truly appreciate the type of basketball that I was seeing. And now looking back and watching old games, watching old footage and talking to people who remember the '90s I mean, it's so cool to be able to say that I lived through that.
I remember going to the games and Lindsay Stockton, John Stockton's daughter, was one of my best friends. And we used to run around and, you know, look after the Jazz Bear … and being young kids (we thought), "Wow, it's so cool. He's climbing to the very top of this ladder and he's sledding down the stairs." I remember all of his antics, and I was like, "How is someone doing this? This is amazing." And then Lindsay Stockton and I used to go after the games, and we used to be on the floor … while our dads were doing their interviews, and we would clean all the scuff marks off of the wood floor. We thought it was the coolest thing.
And then when the Jazz won, as you know, you get the streamers come down from the ceiling. And we used to go and collect all the streamers and then we would go and help … — we loved picking up trash. So we would go to the janitors and would ask for trash bags, and we would help them clean up the stands. And it was just an immersive experience with the Jazz. And I don't know if Wally is still there, he is the guy who takes the tickets, and you know he's … been there forever. And I don't know his status and his health and everything. But he was one of our favorite memories because he was just such a shining face every time.
And being able to go to the games with my family and be able to sit at the podium. My dad used to take us into his interviews. … I know that Steph Curry and his kids are … famous because Steph Curry always brings his kids to the podium, but my dad did that before Steph Curry. There just wasn't social media back in the day. So it's just a lot of great memories being together with family and being able to witness, really, the '90s basketball.
DN: Did you witness your dad's relationship with Utah Jazz fans? What was that like?3 comments on this story
AH: Yeah, and I still do. You know, we’ll be walking anywhere in New York or Arizona and people will be like "We loved you on the Jazz." … I'm so proud that he is my dad — it's not the fact that he played basketball. I think it's the type of father and husband that he is. When you meet him, he is the most down-to-earth person. He will talk to anybody. And my biggest memory of that and him with Jazz fans is he … treats everyone the same. It doesn't matter if you're the president of the United States or someone that's working in the arena, because in his mind, which is true, everyone has their job, and they're making a difference in their own way.
So I just remember my dad walking into the arena, which was at the time called the Delta Center. I know it's not anymore, but he would walk into the Delta Center, and he would know every single custodian by name. And he’d try to remember who he met and really just give everyone the time of day, so I think that's why fans like him. And I mean, obviously I can't speak for them, but that's why I'm proud to be his daughter, (because of) the man that he is.