As a rule, I mute most basketball telecasts and watch them accompanied by jazz. On college games, you get the lounge acts that are
Well, I have finally found a basketball broadcasting team worthy of the Bill Evans Trio.
ABC/ESPN's No. 1 NBA tandem of
They combine sensible play-by-play with smart conversation and minimal shtick.
(I am reminded of the basketball voice that was the best blend of plain talk and street shtick ever:
(By the way, while I'm in a good mood, let me spread some Couch Slouch love to ESPN's
(Note to editors: This is my one positive column of the year, to convince readers that I actually like something, because I'm always told that I never like anything.)
Breen, as the play-by-play leader, sounds all the right notes. Unlike serial screamers
Jackson speaks in no-nonsense language, with a clipped, succinct rhythm. He doesn't waste words or our time. He is full of common-sense convictions. "Mama there goes that man!" is the extent of Jackson's shtick, and he uses it sharply and sparingly.
Then there is Van Gundy, the unlikely star of the group.
When Van Gundy coached in New York and in Houston, on the sideline he always looked as if he hadn't slept in a month or seen the sun for a year. Who knew this ashen basketball lifer could offer such an entertaining broadcasting life?
Van Gundy is to basketball commentary as Van Gogh was to post-impressionism.
(Actually, when he was coaching, it wouldn't have surprised me if Van Gundy sliced part of his ear off following a loss.)
Van Gundy is frank, refreshing and unassuming, with a sneaky sense of humor; for instance, he insists the network should not put up a graphic identifying
Granted, at times Van Gundy seems completely out of touch with most pop culture or the world around him -- I doubt he knows about the breakup of The Beatles or the Soviet Union -- but that's part of his quirky charm.
And, unlike many coaches, Van Gundy's not afraid to criticize anyone. He's the perfect bar companion to watch a game -- knowledgeable, without being a know-it-all, plus he doesn't talk too much and he might even buy you the next round.
Most of the time, Jackson is deferential to Van Gundy, his former coach whom he still calls "Coach." But some of their best moments are when they mix it up and disagree. When they argue, they jab at each other playfully; it feels organic and genuine (or as genuine as something can feel like on TV).
It's a great, relaxing listen, and I can't listen to enough of it. Besides, I was getting sick of jazz.