The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all aspects of LMU athletics. When watching the games, it’s obvious how it has affected the players and coaches, but those behind the camera are adjusting to changes as well. One of the perfect representations of this experience is Jesse Kass, the longtime play-by-play broadcaster for the men’s basketball team.
Kass, who graduated from LMU in 2010, is currently in his ninth season as the voice of the Lions, and it’s fair to say that this one is completely different from the previous eight.
“Normally, I'm around the team a lot more,” Kass said. “I travel with the team in normal circumstances and, obviously, I'm close with the support staff and the coaching staff in the past. So it's definitely been different in that regard.”
Managing his broadcasting work is the latest step in a career that has provided Kass with numerous opportunities and exciting situations. He started at LMU as a student broadcaster for a variety of sports before becoming the color commentator and play-by-play fill-in for men’s basketball towards the end of his time in college. He continued in this role after graduating and took over the play-by-play job full-time in 2012.
“I've done many sports, so I enjoy doing it all,” he said. “But basketball in particular for me is something I've always loved. So I think having that love for basketball and announcing has made it very easy to fall in love with the craft of it, so to speak, and be able to improve and get better.”
Kass has been on the mic for some of the most iconic moments in recent LMU basketball history, including buzzer-beaters, deep runs in the WCC Tournament and postseason appearances. Most recently, Kass highlighted Jalin Anderson’s game-winner against Southern Utah in this season’s opening game as a favorite memory.
Kass has also used his work at LMU to get opportunities on a bigger scale; LMU’s telecasts are produced through the national sports network Stadium. In addition, some of Kass’ WCC Tournament broadcasts for radio have been picked up by Sirius XM, allowing his voice to be heard throughout the country.
“Honestly, any opportunity that comes with it is exciting,” he explained. “But those ones in particular [stand out] and then I've been able to meet a lot of other great people and broadcasters, which is a lot of fun.”
This season, although strange, is an opportunity for growth in and of itself. In addition to his lack of interaction with the team, Kass is dealing with a number of other unusual circumstances. For home games, he is broadcasting without a crowd. When the Lions go on the road, he calls games from a monitor rather than making the normal road trip with the rest of the team.
He acknowledged that the new circumstances required adjustments, but he feels as though he has settled into remote broadcasting fairly comfortably.
“It’s obviously different from being there in person, but once you’re in the flow of everything, it’s essentially the same thing, just in a different setting,” he said.
In terms of the absence of fans and unusual circumstances at Gersten Pavilion, Kass found his rhythm even quicker.
“I was curious if that would be different this year, but the first game of the season — really the first couple minutes — it was like, ‘Oh, it’s the same thing,’” he said. “It’s just a little bit different [in terms of] surroundings. We’re broadcasting with our masks on and there’s support staff who’s working with face shields, but outside of the obvious safety precautions that are necessary, our job has pretty much been the same.”
Regardless of where he calls the game, Kass always tries to create the same environment: a fun, informative broadcast that fans of both teams can enjoy. He feels like he has succeeded in doing so. Now that he has adapted his style to a new kind of presentation, he can try to focus on making the rest of the season as normal as possible.
“I’m focused on, hopefully, some fun LMU basketball,” he said. “I think they’ve had a good season so far. There’s a lot to be excited about and for me, it’s just kind of being there, guiding it, but to a degree getting out of the way and just letting the excitement show itself.”