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Kevin Kugler Needs to Be Careful When Making Final Call of Duke-North Carolina

“On your [final] call, Kevin, make sure you don’t say that whoever wins just won the championship.”

Derek Futterman

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Kevin Kugler

When people think of college basketball, they often ponder over hypothetical matchups, especially those in the NCAA Tournament. Watching Saint Peter’s run to the Elite Eight round would have likely been enough of a story to signify this year’s tournament, but college basketball fans have now shifted their attention towards a situation that has been looming in the background since the tournament began in 1939.

The Duke Blue Devils will face the North Carolina Tar Heels for the 258th time in history. However, it will be their first-ever tournament meeting, let alone in the Final Four with a trip to the national championship game on the line.

Fans from Durham to Chapel Hill are eagerly anticipating this showdown, set to take place Saturday night from the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans. The home stadium of the New Orleans Saints has a basketball capacity of 74,000, and there will unquestionably be no open seats. The excitement extends far beyond North Carolina, though, as fans from all across the United States and the world look forward to the game, set to begin just after 8:45 ET.

One of the broadcasters set to bring the game to listeners is Kevin Kugler, the lead play-by-play announcer for college basketball on Westwood One. This long-awaited game has dominated the sports conversation all week and as a national broadcaster, he knows it is a very big deal to be on the call for the game.

“If you’re someone who’s doing this game on a national level and you can’t say this is a big deal, you probably shouldn’t be doing these games,” Kugler said while being interviewed on The Mac Attack Thursday on WFNZ in Charlotte. “Whether you’re a fan in North Carolina of these, or you’re someone who watches college sports from afar, this is a huge deal.”

The storyline, aside from Duke and North Carolina finally meeting in an NCAA Tournament matchup, is that it could be the final game on the bench for Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski. Kugler knows that the Tar Heels’ fan base would love nothing more than to spoil Duke’s tournament run and end the career of the renowned Coach K after defeating the Blue Devils in their final regular-season home game in early March.

“If you’re a North Carolina fan… you have the chance to end his career with a loss to your team in the Final Four,” said Kugler. “That has to be the lottery ticket for any North Carolina fan, and if you’re a Duke fan, you get the chance to send Coach K out in the National Championship game and, oh, by the way, you get to step on your rival on the way there.”

This year’s Final Four contains seven of the national championship winners since 2008, which happens to be the same year Kugler began calling Final Four games on Westwood One. Sure, the matchups could turn out not to be as competitive or engaging to fans as is being anticipated, but it could also end up being one of the most storied semifinal rounds in tournament history.

“This is the blue blood of the blue blood Final Four, and people can argue ‘Villanova is not a blue blood,’ [but] Villanova’s a blue blood now,” said Kugler. “Maybe [they are] not a blue blood from the standpoint of 1984, although they won the title in 1985, but they’re not a blue blood in the sense of Duke, North Carolina, [and] Kansas. They are a blue blood in the sense of success though, and Jay Wright has…”

And then the interview suddenly stopped. Kugler had been dropped from the show, presumably because of a bad signal or loss of phone battery. (Did he use up the battery calling last week’s Providence-Kansas game via cell phone?) But Chris McClain and Travis “T-Bone” Hancock had other ideas as to why they had just lost their guest.

“Did he get dropped because he started talking [about] Villanova?,” asked McClain. “Was it not allowed? Too much talk about one of the other teams in the Final Four other than Duke or UNC.”

Kugler quickly re-joined the program and said what he supposedly meant to say before being cut off of the program.

“I’m sorry – I should have just said, ‘The only thing that matters in this Final Four is Duke-North Carolina. Then you guys wouldn’t have hung up on me,” he quipped.

The hosts also made it a point to give Kugler a valuable reminder before calling perhaps one of the most anticipated college basketball games in NCAA Tournament history.

“It is going to be a real buzzkill when the winning team fan base realizes they [have] to play one more game in order to win a title,” said McClain.

“On your [final] call, Kevin, make sure you don’t say that whoever wins just won the championship,” said Hancock.

“[I’ve] got to write that down,” said Kugler. “‘Not the championship.’ All right, good. I got that down now. I should be fine.”

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WFAN to Broadcast ‘Evan & Tiki’ Live from Citi Field for Subway Series, Full Show Simulcast on SNY

“That’s right – we will be broadcasting live at Citi Field at the magnificent Cadillac Club.”

Barrett Sports Media

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Evan & Tiki
Courtesy: Audacy

The first half of the 2024 edition of the Subway Series is forthcoming with a matchup between the New York Mets and New York Yankees from Citi Field in Queens, N.Y. Baseball fans can look forward to stars including Francisco Lindor, Aaron Judge, Pete Alonso and Juan Soto facing off on the field as the teams try to claim bragging rights within the Big Apple. Preceding the two-game series, consumers will be able to listen to Evan & Tiki on WFAN and watch the program on SportsNet New York (SNY).

The afternoon drive show, however, will not be in the studio, but rather on location from the ballpark in the Cadillac Club at Payson’s, a premium membership space in right field. Co-host Evan Roberts made the show announcement on Wednesday evening where he provided details about the two-day broadcasting setup from the ballpark.

“It’s the Subway Series, and for the first time in a very long time – I honestly can’t tell you the last time this happened – but for the first time in many years, we are bringing the show to Citi Field,” Roberts said. “That’s right – we will be broadcasting live at Citi Field at the magnificent Cadillac Club.”

Roberts recalled that a listener generously gave him tickets to a Mets game in the Cadillac Club and described the space as a “badass speakeasy that’s inside right field.” The WFAN show will broadcast live from the space while also being simulcast on SNY. The regional sports network does not generally simulcast the full four hours of the program, but it will be doing so as part of the two days of broadcasts taking place from Citi Field.

“Thank you very much to Cadillac, thank you very much to Citi Field, thank you very much to SNY,” Roberts said. “It’ll be very cool to be on for a full four hours on both days – June 25 and June 26 – so it’s a big Subway Series show live from Citi Field for the first time in, like, forever. I don’t remember the last time we’ve broadcasted as a station inside of Citi Field, so that’s very, very cool.”

WFAN recently presented a Kickoff to Summer event from D’Jais in Belmar, N.J. featuring programming across its weekday lineup. The Boomer & Gio morning show was live in Las Vegas, Nev. for Super Bowl LVIII and has had additional special live shows from various venues in the New York metropolitan area, frequently selling out the crowd and including special guests. Brandon Tierney and Sal Licata also broadcast their midday show live from MLB Network’s Studio 42 in late-March concurrent with Opening Week of the Major League Baseball season.

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Eric Hasseltine and Chris Vernon Remember Jerry West’s Days as General Manager of the Memphis Grizzlies

“The first time you meet him, you’re in awe.”

Barrett Sports Media

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Graphic with a picture of Jerry West and the dates of his birth and death
Graphic Courtesy: Los Angeles Lakers

Jerry West, aka “Mr. Clutch,” aka “The Logo,” passed away this morning at the age of 86. West is a 3-time Hall of Fame selection, inducted as a player in 1980, as a member of the 1960 US Olympic Team in 2010 and he will be enshrined again later this year as a contributor. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said West was “one of the greatest executives in sports history.”

West played for, coached, scouted for and was the General Manager of the Los Angeles Lakers, however in 2002, the first team he worked for other than the Lakers became the Memphis Grizzlies.

At the time West arrived, both Chris Vernon and Eric Hasseltine were a part of Sports 56 WHBQ in Memphis. Hasseltine was the pre-game, halftime and post-game host for the Grizzlies Radio Network and did a daily show. Vernon hosted middays and was also around the team quite a bit, covering games, practices and any other media availability with the team.

These days, Vernon hosts the Chris Vernon Show on Grizzlies-owned Grind City Media and also works as an analyst on the Memphis Grizzlies television pre- and post-game shows. Hasseltine has been the radio play-by-play voice of the team since 2005 and also serves as the team’s Radio Operations Manager.

BSM asked Hasseltine about his first impressions of West when he joined the organization. “The first time you meet him, you’re in awe. He was such a fiery competitor. He was everything you heard about him, he hated to lose.”

Hasseltine said West was very good to him as a member of the radio team and also said, “He was as excited as anybody when the team won, and as angry as anybody when they lost.”

Hasseltine said he remembers vividly when the team started to turn the corner after West had arrived. He said ‘The Logo’ would often ask he and his broadcasting partner at the time, Sean Tuohy, “How much fun are you guys having?”

“Jerry West always wanted to be competing,” Hasseltine added. “He loved basketball, and he loved putting together teams and seeing things in players others didn’t see.” Hasseltine said just his presence made a difference and that if West walked into a practice, “The players played harder, they wanted to prove to him they deserved to be there.”

On the Chris Vernon Show today, Vernon said, “[Jerry West] gave us instant credibility and he ran the show.” He talked about West going out on a limb hiring Hubie Brown and how he was the one ultimately responsible for getting people interested in the team and attendance rising.

Vernon, who actually does his show today from what used to be West’s office, added, “He was always cool to me.”

Vernon shared stories about people seeing West around town, often finding him at a bar with a glass of wine after a Grizzlies game. He said, if the outcome wasn’t good, people would hear West “bitching about the Grizzlies.”

West retired in 2007, although he would later also work for the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Clippers.

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ESPN Radio is Documenting the NBA Finals Every Step of the Way

“It’s the best basketball of the year, it’s the highlight of the basketball season.”

Derek Futterman

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NBA Finals on ESPN Radio
(Illustration) | ESPN Radio Logo – Courtesy: ESPN | NBA Finals Logo – Courtesy: National Basketball Association

The Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks are currently competing in a seven-game series to determine who will hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy as NBA champions. No matter who wins the 2024 NBA Finals, either franchise would be capturing its first championship in more than a decade and overcoming levels of adversity faced in recent years. Stars on both teams such as Jayson Tatum, Luka Dončić, Jaylen Brown and Kyrie Irving have been at the center of discussion, but there has also been additional coverage surrounding key contributors, coaching decisions and more.

ESPN is presenting coverage of the NBA Finals across a variety of platforms under its existing media rights agreement with the NBA with experienced broadcasters delivering information and analysis in real time. ESPN Radio, the national audio network for the company, has been broadcasting NBA Finals games for the last 28 years and is continuing that tradition to conclude the basketball season.

Play-by-play announcer Marc Kestecher, analyst P.J. Carlesimo and reporter Jorge Sedano are on the call for the best-of-seven series, which continues on Wednesday night at 8:30 p.m. EST. Preparing for a series that oftentimes has sudden twists and turns off which to react, some of which can alter play entirely, requires an indefatigable work ethic and steadfast commitment to the daily grind. The trio has called games throughout the NBA Playoffs, including select matchups during the first two rounds and the entire Eastern Conference Finals. Nonetheless, calling games in the NBA Finals is very much an assignment they do not take for granted.

“[Calling the NBA Finals] is always an honor,” Kestecher said. “It’s the highlight of my year, and we root for close games and great finishes, and we got a few of those, this crew, in the Eastern Conference Finals, so I hope that we get some more of those here in the next couple of [weeks].”

“It’s the best basketball of the year, it’s the highlight of the basketball season,” Carlesimo added. “I’ve done Olympic gold medal games, I’ve done NCAA championships, and there’s nothing like an NBA [Finals].”

Kestecher and Carlesimo have called the NBA Finals together since the 2020 season and encompass the lead broadcast team for ESPN Radio’s coverage of the league during the regular season. Sedano, however, is taking part in his first NBA Finals assignment this year and vividly recollects when Pete Ciccone, ESPN Radio program director of network play-by-play, called to inform him that he had been selected. Throughout the year, Sedano works as a reporter across the NBA on ESPN property, contributing to both radio and television broadcasts while also hosting Sedano and Kap in afternoon drive on ESPN LA 710.

“To get this opportunity for me, it’s just incredible,” Sedano said. “Again, an honor, a pleasure, and I get to work with two of my favorite people in Marc Kestecher and P.J. Carlesimo, two guys who have been so incredible and so kind with me over the years that it’s, again, a dream come true for a guy like me for sure.”

During the NBA Finals, Sedano is situated courtside and makes observations throughout the game, some of which he communicates to live event producer Jon Madani by means of a talkback system. Additionally, he provides reports that do not interfere with the action to grant the listening audience insight into the discussions and real-time adjustments being enacted.

“He’s not going to want to regurgitate pablum – he is going to want to convey to the listener something that they don’t know,” Ciccone said. “He understands the importance of that – he understands the responsibility he has in being the guy to secure that information for the listening audience, and again, he just knows the sport inside and out.”

Kestecher is calling the NBA Finals on ESPN Radio for the eighth time in his career, through which he has experienced a deluge of contests that are determined by the final possessions. Despite the heightened levels of urgency and intensity, Kestecher tries not to get ahead of himself over the course of the game and stays grounded in the moment while accurately depicting the game and its accompanying setting.

“I try not to realize it’s the Finals,” Kestecher said. “You’re always in tune with what game it is – what’s at stake has always been a big thing in our career to make sure you’re pointing that out time and again, and then leaning on P.J. and his wealth of experience, and Jorge has been around for so long, and I’ve got Jon Madani in my ear as well, an extra set of eyes with all the experience he has.”

Carlesimo has comprehensive basketball knowledge and experience that he is able to apply on the broadcast. Calling games on radio rather than television though, Kestecher needs time to call the action and ensure that the listener remains aware of the situation. The arrangement can ostensibly be viewed as a challenge for some analysts, but it is a venture towards which Carlesimo exhibits avidity and takes a conscientious approach.

“That’s the fun of radio,” Carlesimo said. “I always said, ‘If I ever owned a network or was a network chief, I’d make all the TV analysts do radio’ because it teaches you to be silent and get in and get out.”

Those involved with the broadcast need to make decisions in order to safeguard against falling behind on the action, which oftentimes moves at an expeditious pace in these intense matchups. Part of this responsibility falls on Madani, who informs Carlesimo if he needs to stop explaining something or Sedano if they need to omit a report. Everyone within the broadcast evaluates the aggregate performance and tries to make improvements to benefit the consumer. At the same time though, there are added logistical facets within the environment of the NBA Finals that indicate the exigency of these contests.

“The demands from everybody – it’s not just us showing up and calling a game,” Madani explained. “You’ve got all of our ancillary resources. We’ve got talk shows from our network; we’ve got talk shows from other networks who all want to get the perspective of these three intelligent individuals who are going to have the benefit of calling what’s potentially history. Sports has always been the best reality TV – that’s never going to change – so you never know what you’re going to see.”

The ESPN Radio broadcast team consists of professionals with vast experience calling momentous games, and they aspire to accurately portray the action to the listening audience. Whether the series ends in a four-game sweep or results in a pivotal Game 7, they will be there to document the action with comprehensive analysis and reporting pertaining to the competition. Despite their busy schedules and time on the road, the personnel within the NBA Finals broadcast on ESPN Radio remain energized and focused on granting fans a means to connect with the players, coaches and organizations vying to garner an enduring achievement of prestige and excellence.

“Again, we’d like to think that we treat every broadcast as a big game, even a Sunday afternoon in February,” Ciccone said. “‘Why are we here on the network? Because it’s a big deal. This game between these two teams, the star players, it’s a big deal.’ It’s the same approach, and just like the players, they’re coached to stay true to their same approach, that’s what we’re doing on the broadcast side.”

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