Van Lier’s Bulls Role Thinned Out

By Off the BASN Sports Wire
Updated: October 26, 2004

Norm Van Lier

NEW YORK, NY—If you want to see Norm Van Lier on television talking about the Bulls these days, make sure to watch the commercials.

His appearance to help sell tickets in the “Through Thick and Thin” advertising campaign is all there is.

After several seasons doing pre- and postgame analysis on Fox Sports Net, Van Lier didn’t come to terms with Comcast when the cable network took over Bulls programming this season.

Former Bull Stacey King is now the resident expert.

“Of course it’s disappointing,” Van Lier said. “When [Comcast] first offered me what they did�I’m laughing about it now�I said, ‘Is this a joke? I’m not working for that.’ I wished they at least gave me something to bargain with. I put in the years. I love the Bulls.

“But I think they had in mind what they wanted to do. I won’t argue it. Stacey is a dear friend and will do a great job. I just know I’m good at my work. I did a pretty decent job being upbeat through all that losing and offering some type of entertainment.”

A Comcast spokesman said the decision had nothing to do with Van Lier’s capabilities but reflected a desire to go in a different direction with “a fresh face.”

Though the announcing team for game broadcasts remains the same�Tom Dore and Johnny “Red” Kerr�Comcast is seeking an identity separate from the Fox Sports Net approach.

Until Van Lier, 57, finds more steady work, the Bulls have hired him as an unofficial ambassador. He will make occasional community service appearances on behalf of the team. Van Lier got emotional in expressing thanks to Steve Schanwald, the Bulls’ executive vice president of business operations, for the opportunity.

“I didn’t feel a part of the Bulls family for a long, long time,” Van Lier said.

“Stormin’ Norman” Van Lier took no prisoners as a player, and his approach to life isn’t much different. His blunt and outspoken ways can rub some people the wrong way, which might have contributed to the sense of estrangement Van Lier felt. Schanwald disagrees with that perception.

“If that existed, I’m not sure why,” he said. “Norm did our pregame show on Fox for years with our blessing. He also did some work on our radio postgame shows (on WMVP-AM 1000) with our blessing.”

Schanwald immediately thought of Van Lier for the Bulls’ advertising campaign, which features him and Kirk Hinrich talking in a barbershop. Van Lier, whose daughter works in the movie industry, had bit parts in the successful “Barbershop” movies.

“Norm is one of the all-time Bulls greats and is very popular with our fans,” Schanwald said. “He was awesome in the ‘Barbershop’ movies and is just terrific in front of the camera. He’s a natural. He belongs in Hollywood.”

Van Lier has tentative plans to write a book. A longtime fan of music, he also has kicked around plans to open a jazz supper club in Chicago.

But if local TV or radio opportunities arise, Van Lier is all ears.

“I learned one thing in my life in this business: Don’t burn bridges,” Van Lier said. “I was disappointed, but you move on. You have to do other things.”