Mar 18, 2019, 9:59 AM EDT
Jordan Cornette (’05, basketball) was a two-time team captain and earned four Monograms with the Notre Dame men’s basketball team from 2001-05. He is the program’s all-time leader in blocked shots (201) and helped the Fighting Irish reach the Sweet 16 in 2003. He currently works for ESPN and recently returned to campus to call Notre Dame’s game against Clemson. In addition to his men’s basketball duties with ESPN, Cornette co-hosts ‘The Jam’ on WCIU in Chicago and does radio work with ESPN1000. The Cincinnati, Ohio native graduated from Notre Dame’s College of Arts and Letters with a degree in English. Follow Jordan on Twitter.
What’s it like to come back to campus to call games for ESPN?
“It’s so cool because for so long I sat there as the guy doing radio. Coach Brey gave me my opportunity to do radio right out of college because he knew I could always talk about basketball better than I played. I was fortunate to sit next to Jack Nolan, who’s a legend, and soak up the different fundamentals of what works in broadcasting. Jack took it real slow with me and I was able to be groomed into a role and eventually TV came along. It’s surreal for me because when I was doing radio, I would look to my left and see LaPhonso Ellis (’92, basketball) broadcasting the game on TV. I looked up to Phonz as a player coming in here and tried to follow in his footsteps. I’d see what he was doing in TV, and say I’d want to do that someday. To have that opportunity has been really, really special.”
How did you build your career to get to this point?
“I kind of paid my dues and learned the production side of things first. I did the behind-the-scenes work to really learn what TV is all about from the production side. Then I got to the point where I felt like I was ready to get in front of the camera. I had to learn how this whole thing works. It was much like being a freshman on a college basketball team and knowing your time will come as an upperclassman. Now it kind of feels like I’m an upperclassman. Once that door opened and that opportunity came, I kicked it in.”
With working in so many areas in the media, including covering topics outside of the sports world on your morning show, how are you able to balance everything?
“It’s a lot of work, but at the end of the day I tell people that there are no callouses on my hands. It’s not really work, it’s a lot of fun stuff. I’ve always been a guy that if you ask my old teammates, they’d joke that I was always into some weird stuff. I was also into politics and other different things, which definitely are skillsets required for the morning show. For me, it was always more than just basketball. What I did was use sports as a vehicle to open up other doors for me. That comes from having two great parents and having great resources at Notre Dame, like Pat Holmes, our academic advisor. It’s understanding Notre Dame is a special place and a lot of doors are going to open for you. I was able to utilize some of those things to create some really great opportunities and I’m enjoying those now.”
How did attending Notre Dame impact your life the most?
“It opened up my eyes to the fact that basketball’s a game, but it’s a vehicle to give you opportunities that some kids who come to this school simply don’t have. From ringing the bell on Wall Street, to going to the White House, to getting a chance to travel the world when I had absolutely no money in my pockets, Notre Dame brought me in front of things that maybe, naturally, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to. To max out on those opportunities, and have the hunger to say I want to do more once my four years here are done, was a jumping point for me to do a lot more. Notre Dame created experiences and being able to max out on those has been fun.”
What does it mean to still be so connected to your former teammates and other peers from your time at Notre Dame?
“It’s incredible. I look at guys who played at other universities and after their four years, those relationships end at graduation. That is absolutely not the case (at Notre Dame). I’m still friends with former baseball players and football players among many others. We share the same experience, but not the same sport. We came into this thing as athletes, wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, and grew into men, grew into fathers, grew into husbands, into businessmen and people who are doing things outside of sports. I still keep in touch with so many of my former teammates. It just goes to show you how strong the bond is and it’s bigger than sport.”
What advice would you give to current student-athletes, specifically members of the men’s basketball team?
“I’d tell them to stop and smell the roses. That sounds really cliché, but life is going to present you with other opportunities, but this is a pretty sweet spot that you’re in right now. You get to show up on this floor and play with so many fans in this community and nationwide watching you on TV. You’re living in that spotlight, so bask in that glory. There’s not a lot of people who ever get that kind of experience. Also know you’re more than just the sport you play. When the ball does stop, what are you going to do? Have a plan. Don’t overwhelm yourself by worrying about what’s going to happen after you graduate, but start to have an idea. There’s no better place in the world that’s going to prepare you like Notre Dame will. Take advantage of all the opportunities. Get to know your classmates who don’t play sports. Some of my best friends are guys who I lived with in the dorm. Those are relationships I’ve always cherished. Soak this place up because there are a lot of special people here.”
What are some of your favorite memories from your time at Notre Dame?
“The stories in the locker room. So many people will ask me about what it was like playing in the Carrier Dome against Carmelo Anthony or against some of the other teams in the conference like the incredible UConn teams with Jim Calhoun. Some of that stuff I have honestly forgotten about, but what I don’t forget are the flights with the team, joking around in the locker room, commiserating after a loss, celebrating after a win, going through it in practice together. It was a struggle, a joyous struggle, with all of the highs and lows over the four years of playing the game, but doing it all together and having that brotherhood makes it special. As I mentioned, baseball guys, football guys, soccer guys, definitely my basketball family, it’s all one family (at Notre Dame). That’s so special to me now because I’m so far removed from my time here. To still have those connections makes me feel like I’m really still here and part of Notre Dame because it stretches so much further than your four years.”
What does it mean to carry on the legacy of your late brother, Joel?
“It’s incredibly special to me. My brother is someone who lives in me every day since he passed back in August of 2016. Being able to commentate on these games, I think about how my brother would react to the job I did tonight as the critical older brother. He’s the guy who would celebrate my wins. I still find myself talking to him day-to-day and I feel like he’s a part of me. What’s really special is to call some of these games and have an assistant coach, a head coach, a trainer come up to me and say that they loved my brother and they tell me a story about him. That is something I really cherish and is incredibly special to me because it makes it feel like a piece of him is here with me. With our journey in March, him making the Sweet 16 (with Butler) the same time I did in 2003, that’s something that gives me chills thinking about. When March comes, this is a really special time and a bond that we share.”