Spander: Tennis analyst Gilbert feels for struggling local teams 

He’s here, watching Roger Federer succeed and thinking about the Raiders’ inability to succeed.

He’s here, raving about Serena Williams picking up her game and moaning about the Warriors picking up Ekpe Udoh in the NBA draft.

Opinions. Brad Gilbert will offer them. He’ll offer them for pay on ESPN, where at this Wimbledon and other tennis events, he serves as an analyst.

“I’ve been coming to the majors for 30 years,” said Gilbert, who as a player made the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 1990. “This was the most eventful first four days I’ve ever seen, with Isner and Nadal and everything else.”

He’ll offer them for free in discussions of teams from the East Bay, where he was born (in Oakland) and grew up (in Piedmont), and although Gilbert a few years ago moved to San Rafael, his choices of franchises haven’t changed

“The way the Warriors are being run is a travesty,” said Gilbert. “The people in charge have no clue. They already had [Brandan] Wright and [Anthony] Randolph. Why Udoh? They didn’t draft for need, they just drafted.”

It’s been a great life, and career, for Gilbert, who will be 49 in August. He won 20 tournaments on tour and once was as high as No. 4 in the rankings. His upset of John McEnroe in 1986 so affected McEnroe he whined, “I’m not going to play tennis if I lose to jerks like that,” and left competition for six months.

When Gilbert finally left competition, he coached Andre Agassi, helping him back from despair and 141st in the rankings to victory in the 1999 French Open. Gilbert then worked with Andy Roddick and Andy Murray before settling in with ESPN.

“It’s been tough on me,” said Gilbert. Not as a commentator. He’s at Roland Garros for the French then a couple of weeks later at Wimbledon for the All England Championships. As a fan.

A man who dresses in black, he finds the Raiders’ decline particularly painful.

“I’m old school,” said Gilbert. “It’s shame that kid [JaMarcus Russell] couldn’t get it together. But he should have taken the responsibility on himself. And the Raiders coddled him.

“They keep going with Band-Aids. What about [Darren] McFadden? The kid practically invented the Wildcat [formation] at Arkansas. He’s yet to be a part of it in the Raider offense. That’s on the coach [Tom Cable]. It doesn’t figure.”

Gilbert’s thinking is to use what you have to your advantage, no matter the judgment of others. He authored a book, “Winning Ugly,” on how an average player can defeat a more skilled opponent. The Raiders and Warriors, in particular, and his favorite, the A’s, in general, have been losing ugly.

“It’s been rough,” said Gilbert. “I’ve got a 21-year-old son, Zach, who’s at Cal Berkeley, who has yet to see a winner in his whole life.” Other than the Golden Bears basketball team, that is.

A week on, Gilbert muses about the historic Wimbledon match which lasted 11 hours and 5 minutes, American John Isner winning the fifth set 70-68.

“It gripped everybody,” said Gilbert. “A great thing for tennis. What the sport needed.”

What Brad Gilbert needs is for the Raiders and Warriors to play like Roger Federer. To win.

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on and E-mail him at

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Art Spander

Art Spander

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on and Email him at
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