As the words of her career role models rang out, Katy Winge had to fight to hold back tears on live TV.
This season, Winge was promoted by AltitudeTV as the first female analyst in Denver Nuggets history, so to celebrate her accomplishment, the Altitude team put together a congratulatory video with appearances by Jenny Cavnar and Doris Burke and played it before the Nuggets’ first regular-season game.
“It was completely unexpected,” Winge said. “I was caught off-guard, and I had to reign in my emotions a bit… They’ve been incredible. I work with some fantastic people.”
Since her promotion, Winge boasts a variety of job titles with the Nuggets, including reporter, analyst, and host. In her new role, the 25-year-old will do radio color commentary and television analysis, in addition to sideline reporting, in-studio and on-site hosting, feature reporting and podcasting.
“She has a great sense of self, and what she brings to the game is overwhelming,” said Erin Slack, a producer at Altitude who works directly with Winge. “You don’t see a lot of people her age walk in and dominate and have that confidence and presence.”
This is one the coolest moments of my life and it includes me doing everything in my power not to cry on TV.
— Katy Winge (@katywinge) October 18, 2018
Winge didn’t just happen to stumble upon this opportunity. She majored in broadcast journalism and marketing at Illinois State University and received her master’s in sports journalism from Northwestern, with a number of internships along the way. Winge was also a member of the basketball team at Illinois State, which she said has helped her thrive in the basketball industry.
“It is the reason I am where I am today, to play the game at a high level, understand it, and actually be in it and experiencing what’s going on on the court,” she said. “Knowing that part of the strategy is invaluable, and my knowledge of the game is so much better because I played, and I’ve been around people who know the game, and I’ve watched game film. It has been the defining factor.”
“She adjusts really well, and that’s part of her basketball background — from being on the floor on offense or in a room with a group of people — she’s like a chameleon, and that’s a great quality to have,” Slack added.
Winge’s accomplishment as Altitude’s first female analyst is impressive, but she credits others at every chance she gets.
“There are so many pieces to these broadcasts and so many people behind the scenes,” she said. “I always try to make the effort to go to the truck and say thanks, and to the photographers that make me look good. It matters — your relationships, and the way you treat people.”
Beyond the people she works directly with, Winge mentioned the women that pioneered the path for her in the sports industry.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the people who’ve helped me get to this point,” she said. “It’s an amazing step for Denver sports fans and for Altitude, but I didn’t get here by myself, without the people who came before me… I’m honored to be the first [for the Nuggets], but everybody else put in the work before me to allow me to have that chance.”
“It’s cool to see all these females break out in different ways than the ‘sideline’ reporter,” Slack said. “They’re more than just a pretty face – they’re very versatile, and it’s great to see these females thrive.”
Hiring more women in the sports world brings a unique point-of-view to the industry, Winge said.
“It’s a different voice, and that goes for diversity across all platforms and sports,” she said. “We can relate to fans, and the fans can relate to us. It adds another voice and perspective, and that’s only going to better the coverage of teams.”
“It’s also an opportunity to be a role model for young girls who are interested in basketball and love watching it,” she added. “To see that someone can obtain those roles is huge.”
Winge said that the Altitude team has been welcoming since she first began with the Nuggets.
“What I’ve loved the most about it is it hasn’t been about me being a female,” she said. “People will be like, ‘Girl, you know the game. You know what you’re talking about.’ For people to turn to me for that, and be respected and recognized for that aspect of my skill set is great… It’s just basketball at the end of the day.”
“The exciting part about it is you need that female support, but you also need that male support, and through the Nuggets and Altitude, we get that a lot through our executive producer, Ken Miller,” Slack added. “He’s always pushing everyone as a team, and he’s done a great job with females in general.”
The promotion comes at an ideal time for Winge — buzz around the Nuggets is on the rise as of late.
“Honestly, when I was looking for jobs, I knew I wanted to work in the NBA, and it didn’t matter what city,” she said. “The fact that I ended up in Denver was the biggest blessing. I love this city, this team, this franchise. Last season was awesome, watching them explode onto scene, especially with the Western Conference being as tough as it is. I’m very optimistic.”
“In a lot of ways, it’s comparable to my career, as well,” she added. “It’s cheesy, but I worked really hard to get to where I am, and I’m growing in this role and in the NBA, so it’s fun to be with a team that’s up-and-coming.”
Since joining the team last season, Winge has experienced a roller coaster of big events, from the celebration of the Nuggets’ 50th anniversary to the team’s playoff hopes being stripped away by the Timberwolves in the final game of the regular season.
Through the ups and downs, the season was certainly memorable, and she listed her interview with Allen Iverson and her interview with Gary Harris after a buzzer-beater game-winner against the Thunder as two of her top moments with the team.
Experiencing those moments and following along with the team’s growth is something Winge doesn’t take for granted.
“Having all of that knowledge, knowing their work ethic and culture being built, and having the role that I have now is awesome and so exciting,” she said. “I am so thankful to be a part of this team right now.”