Salt Lake Tribune’s Kurt Kragthorpe grew up when coaches didn’t hate the media

Salt Lake Tribune columnist Kurt Kragthorpe watches the end of Thunder shootaround Monday. [PHOTO BY BERRY TRAMEL, THE OKLAHOMAN]

Salt Lake Tribune sports columnist Kurt Kragthorpe is the brother of former University of Tulsa and Louisville football Steve Kragthorpe. They are the sons of Dave Kragthorpe, who was the head football coach at South Dakota State, Idaho State and Oregon State. Kurt Kragthorpe has written for a Salt Lake City newspaper since 1983. He spoke with The Oklahoman before Game 4 of the Thunder-Jazz.

Not too often do you see a football coach/sports columnist brother duo. How did that happen?

“A lot of it had to do growing up in an era when media and the teams they cover were more friendly than adversarial. It literally would never happen again, I don’t think. No one would grow up as a coach’s kid, thinking the media was cool or on their side or favorable. There’s one other pairing I know of in history. Jerry Frei was the coach at the University of Oregon (1967-71), and his son, Terry, became a longtime writer and columnist in Colorado. Our dad, Dave, was a coach. So that was kind of the genesis of it.

How did you get started in the business?

“For me, it started at BYU, when he was an assistant coach there. I got to be the spotter for the radio broadcast when I was like 14 years old. Being in the press box was where I wanted to be. I was never really interested in the coaching part of it. Steve and I were the only siblings, so to have that career contrast was interesting for sure.”

Did you ever cover a Tulsa game when your brother was there?

“Yeah, Tulsa came to BYU in 2006. Then one time the Tulsa World actually hired me to cover the bowl game in Boise, when Tulsa played Georgia Tech. The only flaw with that plan was the Hurricane lost 52-10. It was a fun season (for TU), the irony being that was my first chance to see them play in what had been this incredible turnaround, so the snapshot I got that day wasn’t too good, nor were the words I was forced to say in reviewing the game for the World.”

Your brother has Parkinson’s disease. How is he doing?

“He’s doing well. He actually had this thing called brain stimulation surgery to combat the Parkinson’s. It relieved the tremors and has really improved his health markedly. I think he’s even going to become a spokesman for that kind of treatment, it’s gone that well. He’s still involved with the LSU program. Ed Orgeron, the head coach, actually has him pretty much just come to the stadium on game days and be in the press box and help him manage the game, calling timeouts, saying whether to go for it and stuff like that. So the family connection is, that’s what I do every game, except no one’s listening to me.”

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What’s your perspective on the Jazz?

“I’ve been in Salt Lake for 35 years. What gives me some Jazz perspective, when I was 24 years old, I started covering the Jazz full-time. That happened to be the first five years of Karl Malone, years two through six of John Stockton, so I was able to kind of see that whole evolution and what the Jazz have meant to the market and what those guys in particular have meant to the Jazz.”

Are there similarities between what the Thunder means to Oklahoma and what the Jazz means to Utah?

“Absolutely. The two things you would point to (for Utah) is the 2002 Winter Olympics being here, then the Jazz being here for nearly 40 years now. There’s no doubt it’s literally put Salt Lake and Utah on the map. Analogous to Oklahoma City is, you have Cowboys and Sooners there, and you have Utes and Cougars here, with Utah and BYU, and man, it’s just so fun to have the whole place united behind one team. I know in my job, if I write a word about Utah, BYU fans are going to respond to that one way or another. You just have that voice in your head all the time. Whereas with the Jazz, you just know people are on board and it changes the whole mentality of the production.”

How much more fun is everything in Salt Lake when Utah wins?

“I look at it from my selfish perspective: there was a five-year period when the Jazz didn’t make the playoffs. Man, just makes you remember how long it is from April 15 to football season. Yeah, there’s nothing like the atmosphere for a playoff game. It just makes it so much fun, so every day they play good is good for me and good for the state.”

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