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Hawai'i, HPU on ESPN anchor's mind

by Chuck Cordill, Sports assoc. editor

 

It’s said that success comes at a cost. The cost varies with the individual, but inevitably, sacrifices must be made. For Neil Everett, former HPU Sports Information director and present co-anchor of ESPN-TV’s SportsCenter, success means enduring the brutal cold of the American northeast winters, enduring the sometimes equally brutal people of the area and the national news business, having to wear a coat and tie to work, and wearing stage makeup. And oh yeah—they don’t put gravy on the rice in Bristol, Connecticut.

 
 

Everett may not be at the pinnacle of his “gig” at SportsCenter, but he is definitely at a summit. (“Gig” by the way, is an Everett “favorite word.” He’s a sportscaster with the heart and soul of a laid-back, mellow musician.) Everett’s having fun, but he knows where he is at all times and remembers the way home. Just picture a trail from Bristol to Hawai‘i with spam musubi trail markers.

“ My feet are in New England, but my heart and mind are always back in Hawai‘i,” said Everett. “I’m enjoying the journey and where it’s taking me. This is a different world. Different food, different people, different mind-set. You have to make some adjustments. But I really love Hawai‘i, and I will be back.”

Everett’s career journey began in downtown Honolulu, at what was, then, Hawai‘i Pacific College. It was 1986, and he was fresh from the University of Oregon with a journalism degree and a year of radio experience. HPU President Chatt Wright and former Vice President Jim Hochberg saw his potential and hired the 24-year-old Everett as the school’s Sports Information Director.

“ To this day I’m grateful for President Wright giving me my start,” said Everett. “It really feels good to look at how much the University has grown and to know I am a part of that. Honestly, during my days there, I never felt like I was going to work, it was so much fun.”

Everett still remembers calling the play-by-play for the 1993 NAIA national basketball championships when Tony Sellitto led the Sea Warriors to Hawai‘i’s first and only national college basketball crown.

It was fun, but also a labor of love. At that time, computer applications for graphics and publication were in their infancy. Everett remembers painstakingly cutting out images with an “exacto knife” and placing them on pasteboards to prepare media guides for HPU’s various sports programs.

“ I just really wanted to help the different athletic programs showcase what they had to offer,” said Everett. “I took some pride in doing that and hope it served its purpose. We had to get creative. What takes only hours now with the right software took much longer then. But at the time, we really had fun doing it”

For somebody who has reached the top, Everett is surprisingly modest. That is probably his strongest character trait. He’s very down-to-earth and remembers his roots.

“ I live my life from the inside-out,” said Everett. “I know where I came from, and I will never forget it. Remembering where I came from, my Hawa‘i roots, helps me deal with what I have to.”

HPU Athletic Director and Head Basketball Coach Russell Dung came on board a year after Everett. The duo forged a professional relationship as well as a life long friendship. Dung has been a fan ever since. And he isn’t surprised at Everett’s ability to deal with his fortune.

“ I’ve known Neil for many years, and he’s the same man,” said Dung. “He’s always been down-to- earth, pretty humble. He never forgets where he started. He’s never been one to seek the limelight: just a normal guy like the rest of us. The kind of guy you’d like to have a beer with and watch a game.”

Dung recalled an incident last year that characterized their friendship and Everett’s continued interest in the school. Everett had a commitment in Washington state, but altered his travel plans.
“ He re-routed his flight and caught up with us when we played Montana State-Billings on a road trip,” said Dung. “That meant a great deal to me personally, because it was my first year as head coach.”

While performing his duties at HPU, Everett branched out into local television and became the Sports Director for KGMB-TV. It was there that he honed his on-camera skills. Along the way he mentored an enthusiastic young lady named Liz Chun. Today she is KGMB’s Sports Director and Hawai‘i’s only female sports anchor.

“ Neil is the reason I’m in the position I have now,” said Chun. “He was a great teacher, I learned so much from him. I followed his footsteps, and he taught me the proper attitude, the work ethic. He showed me how to inject energy and life into projects, and how to enjoy the work.”

Everett submitted a demo tape to ESPN and interviewed with the network in 1999. “I didn’t hear anything from them, so I put the project on the back burner,” Everett recalled. He got a call in May of 2000 and was offered a four-year contract worth $400,000. He accepted the offer with mixed feelings.

“ Sure, I was excited about the opportunity. It was a major step in my career,” he said. “But it hurt to leave Hawai‘i. I still stay in contact with HPU and my friends in local television.”

Few were surprised at Everett’s promotion to sports television’s “greatest gig.” His protégé at KGMB sees him as an inspiration for others who aspire to reach their goals.

“ I always knew he was that good—as good, if not better than the other ESPN anchors,” said Chun. “Very few people can do what he does, the way he does it. You can tell he really loves doing what he does. You can’t make that a part of the act; he’s a natural, a true gem. He’s done a lot for Hawai‘i television by showing he can deliver with the best.”

Chun and others get a kick out of the way Everett seems to work a “Hawai‘i comment” into practically everything he does. Even when he announces game times, he’ll work in something like, “and that’s 4 p.m. for you folks in Hawai‘i.”

“ I do that as a little way to stay in touch,” quipped Everett. “I want to make sure the people in the islands don’t forget me.”

Everett’s on-air delivery is seamless, natural. Most viewers would assume he’s a sports junkie. But the 41-year-old Everett admits he’d finish in the lower ranks of a trivia contest. He’s a strong writer, but he puts in his time at the research desk.

“ It’s fairly common to take a chair and begin putting everything together around 2 p.m. and not get up until 8 p.m. makeup.”

Chun says Everett’s phone calls to Hawai‘i rate increases as the temperature dips, and she has the impression that he’ll soon be wearing one of his trademark aloha shirts. His contract with ESPN is up for renewal in July of 2004, but he looks ahead. “I enjoy working at the network and will continue to do my best,” said Everett. “But Bristol is not where I want to be buried.

“ I’d love to come back and work at HPU in some capacity,” said Everett. “My crazy schedule here makes it almost impossible to get my master’s degree, but I really want that. I’d like to eventually get into teaching or journalism. Maybe even get back with the athletics staff. I’m glad that President Wright and some of the staff are still there. It’s nice to know there is someone there to talk to.”

 

2003, Kalamalama, the HPU Student Newspaper. All rights reserved.
 
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