Wednesday turned into quite the day for ESPN personalities weighing in on local NBA broadcasting decisions. First, on The Jump, Rachel Nichols went after Fox Sports Southeast for “quieting” Stephanie Ready by moving her out of the booth. Then on the NBA on ESPN broadcast of the San Antonio Spurs – Miami Heat game, analyst Jeff Van Gundy and play-by-play commentator Mike Breen had some criticism for the Heat over their previously-announced news that this will be their long-time TV analyst Tony Fiorentino’s 30th and final season in that role on Fox Sports Sun. (They plan to have him continue with the team as an ambassador and director of the summer camp program.) First, here’s what Van Gundy had to say:
“Mike, I’ve got to mention this. You told me coming in, and I’m still astounded by it, that they are breaking up the Miami Heat team of Eric Reid and Tony Fiorentino. They’re moving on from that great two, duo, that’s been with this franchise from the start? I can’t believe it. Sometimes you try to change and you go backwards. I’m astounded that they’re breaking these guys up.”
Breen then weighed in himself:
“Eric Reid, the play-by-play man, Tony Fiorentino, the former coach, the analyst, they’ve been together for over 20 years doing the local broadcasts for the Heat, and not only are they fantastic on the air, they’re beloved here. And I agree with you, I was shocked.” Van Gundy then added “I love turning on a Heat game and knowing who you’re listening to. They’re legendary. That would be like the Spurs sending Tim Duncan out to pasture before he was ready.” After that, Breen described Fiorentino as “one of the most likeable guys in our business”:
As Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald pointed out, this was pretty unusual:
Never heard network announcer questioning team announcer decision. Van Gundy just now expressing shock about Heat breakingup Fiorentino&Reid
— Barry Jackson (@flasportsbuzz) October 26, 2017
It makes sense that there’s some criticism of this move (which doesn’t sound like it was at Fiorentino’s instigation), though, as Fiorentino is in his 15th season as a member of the Heat TV broadcasting team and has spent 30 years overall with the franchise (making him an original Heat employee) in various roles. And he and Reid have worked together since 2004-05, and won plenty of plaudits for their efforts. As with “>Nichols’ commentary on Ready, this isn’t so much media personalities telling other companies how to do business as it is regular viewers commenting on a move they don’t like. That may be unusual, but plenty of others speak up about local broadcast changes; why not people like Van Gundy who are not only viewers, but have high-profile platforms? It may not make the Heat change their mind, but at the least, this was a nice tribute to Fiorentino and the work he’s done over the years.