Local CBS Sports Radio Personality Talks People, Passion and Purpose
Writer / Jon Shoulders
Photographer / Jamie Sangar
For Kent Sterling, it’s not about the sports.
Sure, Sterling has hosted the sports-centric Kent Sterling Show on CBS Sports 1430 AM in Indianapolis since 2014, and possesses the same level of enthusiasm for athletics and competition he discovered throughout his youth playing baseball, tennis, basketball, football and golf in his native Lake Bluff, Illinois.
His radio show regularly features players, coaches, athletic directors and sports media personalities, with in-depth commentary on all corners of the sports world.
Still, Sterling insists that his passion is ultimately for learning about people and telling their stories.
“What I really enjoy talking about is what separates a person who succeeds at a high level from a person who doesn’t,” he says. “I’m interested in the discipline and hard work necessary to become an Andrew Luck or a Paul George — how those guys came to be those guys and how they respond to adversity. A lot of the lessons you hear about when talking to people in athletics are universal.”
A 1986 graduate of Indiana University’s School of Journalism, Sterling feels his popular radio show has been a fitting next step in a career that has included management positions with Emmis Communications in Indianapolis and Hubbard Broadcasting in St. Louis and even a stint performing at The Second City improvisational comedy theater in Chicago in the early 1990s.
“Second City was really good training – you learn to trust yourself and trust your process,” Sterling says. “Doing a sports talk radio show or any kind of talk radio show, it can be a little bit daunting unless you learn to let go of the nerves and wondering what you’re going to do to fill three hours. If you focus and work hard on the things you love, they tend to mesh and create the career you should have. That’s kind of the way I look at Second City and my time in Chicago.”
Now, three years into The Kent Sterling Show, which airs on weekdays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. EST, Sterling begins formulating the day’s program as soon as he rolls out of bed and begins checking his Twitter feed for breaking sports news. As a primer for the afternoon show, Sterling also posts a brief live video each morning on Facebook to get his followers and listeners excited about the biggest stories of the day.
“I try to go places that radio people typically don’t,” he says. “If the Colts or the Pacers are going to have media availability I’ll go over to their facilities and sit in, and get a one-on-one (interview) or two. I think I can get just a little bit more understanding if I go the extra mile and go places, and sit and listen to people speak. Because of that, I think we have the best guests in town and the best insight in town. With the Indianapolis 500, we did our show from the pace car garage every single day the track was open.”
Sterling feels early involvement in athletics helped shape his professional work ethic and discipline, and he says the same of his son Ryan, who played basketball as an undergraduate at Loyola University in Chicago.
“I got to see firsthand how sports informed him and made him the person that he’s become,” Sterling says. “He just graduated from law school at IUPUI and sports are a big part of what he’s accomplished — figuring out how to manage his time and how to see adversity as something he can overcome rather than as something that’s going to discourage him.”
Sterling says he probably couldn’t name a single favorite interview among the wide range of sports personalities with whom he’s spoken on air, but a few certainly stand out in his mind.
“Johnny Bench was really stellar,” he says. “I did about 25 minutes with him and couldn’t stop asking him questions. There are some guys and girls you just enjoy talking to, who are willing to reveal parts of themselves. You feel like there’s an implicit trust where you can’t ask them a bad question. Stephanie White and Matt Painter are like that. The people with Butler basketball are so enjoyable to talk to.”
After three years as a full-time sports radio personality, Sterling’s passion and painstaking commitment to his craft show no signs of fading any time soon.
“If I ever wind up seeing sports as something I have to do instead of something that I get to do, I’ll probably pack my bag and go do something else,” Sterling says. “But I don’t envision that ever happening. I love writing about it and I love talking about it. There’s so much that happens within each athlete and each team. It’s endlessly fascinating.”
For more details on The Kent Sterling Show, visit cbssports1430.com/shows/kent-sterling-show.