With Steve Kerr as the de-facto front-runner in the Knicks coaching search, executives at CBS Sports and Turner Sports are starting to ponder life without one of their best basketball talents.
The New York Daily News reported that Kerr had dinner last Friday with Knicks president Phil Jackson (followed by a Saturday phone call) to discuss the team's vacant coaching position. During his Sunday broadcast of the Nets-Raptors game, Kerr confirmed he'd met with Jackson. Kerr has made it clear in multiple interviews that he wants to get into coaching and the smart money says Kerr will work in the NBA next season. (Godspeed, if it's as the head coach of the Knicks.)
Sports television viewers will feel the loss. As a broadcaster, Kerr has developed into one of the best basketball analysts around -- knowledgeable, skilled at communicating with the audience, and, most appreciatively, self-deprecating in a world filled with human hot-air balloons. He and Marv Albert have formed one of the more enjoyable television soundtracks for any sport. Kerr has also worked hard to become better-than-expected NCAA college basketball analyst for CBS and Turner during the tournament.
What does Turner Sports have to say that about the possibility of losing Kerr? The network's executives declined comment this week through a spokesperson when SI.com requested an interview on the topic of contingency plans for Kerr's potential departure.
Here is what I can tell you: Regarding the NCAA tournament, the strong likelihood is that CBS and Turner would not add anyone new for the Final Four broadcast. Both networks were pleased with the chemistry between Jim Nantz and Greg Anthony and the thought is no new voice would be needed if Kerr left for the NBA.
There is a possibility Turner could push for one of its staffers to come in but Anthony does have connections with both networks. The more interesting situation is whether Turner pushes in the future to have Marv Albert call the final instead of Nantz. CBS and Turner would have to find a new analyst for Albert during the first two rounds of the tournament.
The NBA situation is much trickier for Turner. Management is high on both Reggie Miller and Chris Webber. Both have experience as courtside analysts, with Miller having a lot of experience calling games with Albert. Miller could easily move off his current role with Kevin Harlan and jump into the No. 1 spot with Albert. Whether that's a good move or not is based on whether you think Miller talks too much during a broadcast. (Personally, I'd prefer Webber.)
Webber has starred in the studio but is getting reps this playoffs with Joel Meyers on multiple playoffs series (Trail Blazers-Rockets, Hawks-Pacers and Spurs-Mavericks). Executives are watching his performance closely, and Webber previously told this column that he really enjoys doing live games.
Turner could also assign Anthony to a role with Albert on its top NBA team. Anthony is working with Brian Anderson during the playoffs on Grizzlies-Thunder, Bobcats-Heat and the Pacers-Hawks.
Finally, the ultimate wildcard would be Charles Barkley. There is no way Turner would place Barkley out of the studio for an extended period but Barkley has repeatedly asked his bosses to do more games on-site as an analyst. Last December they assigned him to work with Albert and Kerr on a Knicks-Nets game. Turner could mix and match with a number of analysts to get Barkley in the mix.
The Noise Report
SI.com examines some of the more notable sports media stories of the past week:
1. Reinforcing their standing as the best sports television studio show in history, Barkley, Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith were definitive and passionate about what NBA commissioner Adam Silver should do with Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who is under investigation by the league for allegedly making a series of racist remarks on an audio tape. Here is what they said.
1a. Some Sterling links worth reading:
• ESPN.com's Peter Keating wrote a devastating 2009 profile on Sterling and his enterprises.
• Deadspin has a guide to Sterling's comments over the years.
• ESPN.com's J.A. Adande on the NBA's unwillingness to do anything about any of the previous incidents with Sterling:
• SI.com's Michael McCann on the legal implications for the NBA.
•Grantland Charles P. Pierce on Sterling as a fan's worst nightmare.
1b. I spoke with TNT NBA reporter Craig Sager last week from his hospital room in Atlanta, where the longtime Turner Sports broadcaster is undergoing treatment for adult acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. Here's Sager on his treatment and what he thought of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich wishing him well in a national interview.
1d. ESPN NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy was recently excoriated by Sirius XM personality Howard Stern after the broadcaster called Stern out on ESPN for leaving a Knicks game early. I asked Van Gundy what he made of being crushed by Stern.
Said Van Gundy, "Yeah, you know what's funny is I was sitting in a movie theater watching this movie, it was an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, "Sabotage" or something like that, I don't know. It's a new action film. So a friend of mine texted me and said, 'Can you believe what Stern said about you? And so I'm sitting in the theater saying, 'Why would David Stern be talking about me now?'
I was like perplexed. I said, 'What did he say? So he came back with what he said and I'm like, 'Man, that is not like the Commissioner to call me a douchebag' I didn't know what it was about. So then when I got out of the theater where I was one of two people actually at the movie and called this guy, he told me it was Howard Stern. I didn't know why he had been upset or he was talking about me. I didn't really think about it and then someone told me later that it was about me. I guess I said something jokingly about him leaving a game early. I didn't really even know too much about it. I didn't even know he was still on. I guess he's on Sirius. I didn't know. So it was funny."
1e. Magic Johnson offered some poignant thoughts about the Sterling situation on Sunday afternoon as a guest on his former show, NBA Countdown.
1f. Dr. Jack Ramsay, a legendary basketball figure and a sensational broadcaster, passed away on Sunday at age 89. Upon stepping down from ESPN last May, I wrote a piece where some of those he worked with offered commentary on an amazing life. Dr. Jack will me missed greatly by this column and millions of others.
1g. Chris Ramsay, son of Jack, is a senior director at ESPN.com. He wrote a tribute to his father.
2. Last week Fox quietly canceled the Regis Philbin-led Fox Sports 1 afternoon show, Crowd Goes Wild, due to lagging ratings. The show featured some talented on-air people but never figured it out exactly what it was, a recipe for disaster in a tough timeslot with ESPN and ESPN2's offerings and local news throughout the country.
Look for some of the staffers (Katie Nolan, Jason Gay) to appear on Fox Sports 1 programming elsewhere. "As the channel evolves so must our programing commitments," said a Fox Sports spokesperson. "Fox Sports wants to thank CGW's loyal viewers, talent and all the terrific people behind-the-scenes, especially Embassy Row, for their hard work and commitment to producing a phenomenal and unique sports talk show." The final episode of CGW will air May 8.
2a. Fox said that beginning May 9, The Mike Francesa Show will run from 1-5 p.m ET. on FS1 before shifting to FS2. NASCAR Race Hub moves from 4-5 p.m. ET to 5-6 p.m. on FS1 and will be followed by America's Pregame from 6-7 p.m. ET.
3. Golf viewers have the right to be skeptical about Fox's coverage of the USGA Championships beginning in 2015 given the network has no broadcast tradition of covering the sport. Last week Fox formally announced that Joe Buck and Greg Norman will anchor the coverage, the first of many announcements about next year's U.S. Open coverage.
Mark Loomis, Fox's executive producer for golf, said the network will push things on the technology front (no specifics yet) and that the coverage will feature a "fresh approach and a fresh group of people." Fox executives would not put specifics on when future announcers will be hired.
"If you remember when we first got the NFL, a lot of people were thinking that we were going to come in and do something completely different," said Fox Sports president Eric Shanks. "There was talk about having Bart Simpson in the booth calling the games, and we went out and we went out got John Madden and Pat Summerall. I believe that having a fresh set of eyes with the Fox Sports DNA and clearly the first part of that is with Joe and Greg. And Greg, just like John [Madden], will really set the philosophy for what we do here, and there's probably no person I have met that hasn't been a part of Fox Sports that seems like he should be part of Fox Sports more than Greg. We feel like there is already a connection between some of his thoughts and kind of what the Fox Sports brand is. First and foremost it's about the event, and there is no way that Fox's brand or Fox's attitude is going to be put above the USGA and the US Open brand."
3a. Buck said when Fox got the rights to the U.S. Open, ESPN's Mike Tirico texted him and offered to pass along anything Buck needed. (Tirico has called the U.S. Open multiple times.) Buck said he has also been emailing with CBS golf host Jim Nantz.
3b. Asked what his broadcast style would be, Norman said, "My objective is not to be criticizing golfers. My objective is to be fair and balanced. If I see something that I feel is very pertinent to the situation, I will explain that view to the audience, and I want it to be very fan-friendly and informative. Being informative is not sugar-coating the situation and not addressing some serious issues that could arise in the game of golf, which we have seen in the past. It's incumbent upon myself and Joe and every other member of our team who has a microphone in their hand to have the confidence and the willingness to express themselves."
3c. Norman predicted Tiger Woods would win another major but would not pass Jack Nicklaus for the alltime mark. "The intimidation factor is not the same and the older you get, your nerves are not the same," Norman said. "Your brain is telling you, 'Yes, you can do it.' At the same time your body is reacting differently than when you were in your heyday."
4. Sports pieces of note:
• The MMQB's Peter King had a great piece on how the 2014 NFL schedule was made.
• Sensational interactive work by New York Times sports department on how MLB fans are divided by geographic borders.
• Deadspin's Stacey May Fowles on the intersection of rape, MLB and social media.
Non-sports pieces of note:
•The New Yorker's Patrick Radden Keefe on how the world's most notorious drug lord was captured. This is sensational reporting.
• This Tikhon Dzyadko piece on how Vladimir Putin uses WWII propaganda to sell his vision of Russia is excellent.
• Sarah Lyall on Raleigh News & Observer reporter Dan Kane, whose work helped touch off several major investigations at North Carolina.
• Grantland's Wesley Morris wrote one hell of a lead paragraph here.
• The New Yorker's Maria Konnikova on How To Tell When Someone Is Lying.
• Via Historical Pics: Portraits of Abraham Lincoln: May 1860 and Feb 1865.
• The Atlantic on how poker pros are swiping money from amateurs in casino play.
5. The NFL released its 2014 schedule and once again NBC proved to be a big winner. Here's the TV highlights from the schedule release.
5a. Here's the Shirley Povich Center For Sports Journalism on Jim Murray.
5b. Fox Sports's 1 telecast of the first leg between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich drew 511,000 viewers, the most-watched Champions League game to air on Fox Sports 1.
5c. Loved this Nike World Cup ad featuring Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Zlatan Ibrahimović Wayne Rooney, Gerard Piqué, Gonzalo Higuaín, and SI Swimsuit model Irina Shayk.