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ESPN Adds Ten To Bolster College Hoops Coverage

Jason Barrett

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ESPN networks extensive 2015-16 men’s basketball season coverage is complimented with the addition of six new analysts and four new play-by-play commentators. The new crew join an established line-up of the nation’s leading experts covering approximately 1,200 exclusive games across ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNEWS, SEC Network and Longhorn Network.

SEC Network

  • Glen “Big Baby” Davis – a Baton Rouge, La. native, “Big Baby” Davis brings a wealth of college and NBA knowledge to SEC Network as a studio analyst. Davis was a McDonald’s All-American that led LSU to its first NCAA Final Four in appearance in 20 years in 2006. He was voted SEC Player of the Year (2006) and went on to play in the NBA for the last eight years, winning an NBA Championship with the Boston Celtics in 2008.
  • Andrew DeClercq – a former Florida standout, NBA player and coach, DeClercq joins SEC Network as a game and studio analyst. As a player at Florida, DeClercq was pivotal in the Gator’s first NCAA Final Four appearance (1994) and was drafted by the NBA in 1995. Since retiring in 2005, DeClercq’s focus shifted back to Florida, coaching high school basketball for nationally ranked Montverde Academy and later Foundation Academy.
  • John Pelphrey – a member of the Kentucky basketball Hall of Fame, Pelphrey played and coached basketball in the SEC before joining SEC Network as a game analyst. As a player (1988-1992) Pelphrey is a member of an elite group, coined by Coach Rick Pitino as “the Unforgettables”. He went on to coach at several colleges, including Florida under Coach Billy Donovan – leading the Gators to a National Championship game and four straight NCAA Tournament appearances – and head coach at Arkansas (2007-11).
  • In addition, it was announced earlier that the SEC Network has hired longtime Georgia women’s basketball coach Andy Landers and Tennessee Lady Vols standout Candace Parker as analysts.

ESPNU

  • Antwan Jamison – “North Carolina Mr. Basketball,” Jamison will contribute to ESPNU for the first time this season. Jamison was awarded both the Naismith and Wooden Awards while playing college basketball at UNC and is one of only seven UNC players to have their jersey retired. In addition to All-American and ACC player of the Year awards, he was the fourth overall pick in the 1998 NBA draft. Jamison’s NBA career spanned three decades and included NBA All-Rookie Team, two-time NBA All-Star, NBA Sixth Man of the Year award and playing for the USA National team. Jamison currently contributes to Lakers studio coverage in Los Angeles, and will work select ESPNU games and studio in addition to that role.
  • Jason Capel – also a UNC standout, Capel speaks from a former player and a former coach’s experience. He played basketball at Chapel Hill from 1998 to 2002 and went on to be the Appalachian State Head Coach (2010-2014). Capel also contributes as an analyst for Raycom. His first ESPNU assignment was the UNC at Kentucky alumni game.
  • Chris Spatola – the fifth all-time leading scorer at the United Station Military Academy, Spatola was a four-year starter at West Point (1999-2000) before serving in the Army for five years. After completing his service, he went to work for Duke basketball coaching legend Mike Krzyzewski and was a member of the coaching staff for four ACC tournament title wins and a National Championship.
  • New to ESPN, Ted Emrich, Alex Faust, Kevin Fitzgerald and Jenn Hildreth bring a depth of play-by-play experience to the ESPNU booth. Hildreth will also contribute to SEC Network games.

The season gets underway across networks on Friday, Nov. 13 with an SEC Network doubleheader showcasing Albany at No. 1 Kentucky at 7 p.m., followed by Eastern Washington at Mississippi State at 9 p.m. and an ESPNU doubleheader – an early-round game of the 2K Classic featuring Siena at No. 5 Duke at 7 p.m., followed by McNeese State at LSU.  Game assignments will be announced in the coming week.

Sports TV News

Al Michaels: Condensed Prep Time For Thursday Night Football ‘A Downside’

“It’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us.”

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There were bound to be unexpected hiccups and unintended consequences as Al Michaels moved to Thursday Night Football with Amazon Prime Video.

He told The Boston Globe Thursday that one of the downsides of the week’s schedule is less prep time with the teams playing in the game.

“When we go to see the teams, it’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us,” Michaels said. “And all the time I’ve been doing this, I’ve built some great relationships with coaches and players and GMs and owners and you name it, and I don’t get that much time to spend with them anymore. That’s a downside part of it for me. Some of the best stories you get come from those relationships.”

Michaels has raised eyebrows this season while not being shy about his disdain for some poor matchups early in the schedule. However, he now understands that there are quality games as the season approaches its close.

“The schedule was a little leaky with the Carolina-Atlanta game and a couple of other games that we’ve had, but now we’re positioned for a nice run down the stretch,” said Michaels.

The 78-year-old was also asked how he remains energetic and passionate for the job he’s held for so long.

The games are exciting. I love sports. You don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s no script. And unscripted television is the greatest.”

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Sports TV News

Jimmy Pitaro: Reaching Younger Audience A Priority for ESPN

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience. As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

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Many in the media industry have voice concern that millennials and Gen Z aren’t consuming traditional media outlets like previous generations. ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro said it’s a priority for the network.

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience,” Pitaro said, quoted by Morning Consult sports business reporter Mark J. Burns. “As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

Pitaro made the comments at Sports Business Journal’s Media Innovators conference Wednesday. It is a continuation of comments he has made in recent years.

In 2018, Pitaro said at ESPN’s upfront “I think we are doing a fantastic job serving the sports fanatic,” said Pitaro. “What about the casual sports customer? Are we doing all we can to serve him or her?”.

In 2019, Pitaro said it was “all hands on deck” to reach a younger audience and women. “We have to be open and go to where our customers are,” he said in regards to reaching younger viewers on social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

Earlier this year, Pitaro added that ESPN won’t be leaving linear television anytime soon.

“What I will tell you is that as I sit here right now, that business is still incredible,” Pitaro said. “We serve the sports fan anyway and at any time. I know there are a lot of people that still want ESPN in that traditional ecosystem.”

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Sports TV News

Don Mattingly Joining Blue Jays Staff After YES Network Courtship

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

Jordan Bondurant

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YES Network

The New York Yankees regional sports network can take Don Mattingly off its talent wish list. Mattingly was announced Wednesday as a bench coach for the Toronto Blue Jays starting in 2023.

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

But Mattingly told Andrew Marchand of The New York Post this week that he had another opportunity in the works but wouldn’t elaborate.

YES also has been considering luring Yankees legend and Hall of Famer Derek Jeter into broadcasting. But no formal talks have taken place.

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