Every weekday from 10 a.m. to noon you will find Molly Qerim Rose hosting ESPN’s First Take along with commentators Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman live from South Street Seaport in New York. She’s finally back at Pier 17 now after more than six months of hosting the show from her Greenwich basement due to the pandemic. Qerim Rose (she’s married to Jalen Rose, former NBA star and fellow ESPN personality) was born in New Haven, raised in Cheshire, attended UConn and got her master’s at Quinnipiac, where she was recently inducted as part of the inaugural class of the School of Communications Hall of Fame. — Mike Wollschlager
What kind of sports fan were you growing up? What were you watching, who’d you root for?
Giants, Celtics, UConn women’s basketball, men’s basketball, UConn football, we used to go to the Yale Bowl. There was a tennis tournament called the Volvo, then it became the Pilot Pen, at Yale. That’s kind of what we did as a family, we were a sports family.
If UConn plays Quinnipiac, who are you rooting for?
Not even close?
I grew up a UConn fan. Even the reason we grew up Celtics fans, because of my dad, was because they played at the Hartford Civic Center. They played a few games a year and we would get to go to those NBA games, so it was a big deal. Yeah, UConn, not even close.
Do you know what you have in common with Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali and Elvis?
Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali and Elvis. Absolutely not.
You’re all in an inaugural hall of fame class.
Love it, love it. Yup, we are all HOFers. Don’t ever get it twisted.
What did you think when you found out you were being honored?
I guess I was just shocked. It’s not something that I ever expected. I grew up right down the road. I could ride my bike to Quinnipiac. I never thought one day I would be a part of their inaugural hall of fame class to be honest with you. I was honored, humbled and very surprised.
You’ve said your writing really improved while you were at Quinnipiac. In what ways do you feel it went to the next level?
Quinnipiac prepared me for what I do today. It’s not like I have all day to write a two-hour show. The news comes in, the meeting ends and then it’s crunchtime. So, essentially they taught us how to write for time, how to write under pressure and then also how to be able to take a wealth of information and disseminate it quickly and efficiently to the masses.
Are you writing full scripts or are you just writing ideas and notes and you make it up as you go?
At this point I don’t use a prompter and I ad-lib a lot. I’ve been covering sports a while so it’s kind of ingrained in my mind. Maybe the scripts are shorter than they used to be. I need to get the nuts and bolts across — the who, what, where, when, why — so the fans have that and then you can ad-lib the other details. In breaking-news scenarios there’s no time. It’s in your ear instantaneously.
How long does it take to get the hang of somebody talking in your ear while you also have to be talking out of your mouth?
I’ve been doing it so long now that it’s second nature. Our set is on the rooftop, and I’ll hear helicopters going off above and the wind’s going — we’re on the roof in this bubble, on the rooftop of Pier 17 so we can be distanced for COVID purposes, safety purposes — and then I’ll have a producer in my ear, then Max and Stephen A. are talking and the stage manager’s trying to tell me something. I think it’s just a skill you develop.
Can you do me a favor and tell everybody in the media that it’s QUINN-ipiac and not Quinni-PEE-ac?
Oh my goodness. I know, that drives me nuts.
You interned for Conan O’Brien. Do you have any stories from your time with him?
Sometimes I think when people work closely with celebrities, it’s like, “Oh, I liked them more before I really knew them.” I do not feel that way about him. He’s cool, he’s real. There was no diva. I was a production intern so I barely had any interaction with him outside of he’d come in and tell a joke or in the elevator he’d crack you up. But I was doing things like getting him his coffee, so I was just a nervous wreck not to screw that up. But that was a really cool experience to be a part of, because at that time he was at 30 Rock. I was running all around the city getting all the props for his skits. That was a really awesome experience that UConn set up for me. I was all about internships. That’s the one thing I preach to any student that asks what advice I would give. Do as many internships as you can.