Halby's Morsels

Harlan beats Anderson and Eagle for Turner sweepstakes; Doris Burke hopes ESPN will recognize her


Some lazy late spring notes to share:


  • By now, Kevin Harlan, 61, can profile every player in the NBA without consulting a sheet of paper. He started in the league with the Minnesota Timberwolves and then began to fill in with NBC. His dad, Bob, 85, is a retired president of the Packers. Kevin’s voice is booming and golden. He’s covered the NBA for Turner for decades and this year, he got the big assignment, the Western Conference finals. He’s pairing with Reggie Miller on Warriors-Mavs. Before executive David Levy, left Turner, it was a foregone conclusion that Brian Anderson would get Turner’s top NBA assignment, not Harlan. Change of guard, change of mind.
  • I’ve heard and studied the best basketball broadcasters, NBA and college. I savor the best. Those NBCers who presided over Final Fours in the late 70s and early 80s, including Bird-Magic or Michigan State-Indiana State, were unforgettable, the trio of Billy Packer, Dick Enberg and Al McGuire, l-r).
  • The best threesome who have ever called the NBA regularly are still active, Jeff Van Gundy takes long gaps between comments when you’re wondering if he’s there. Yet he’s funny and unpredictable. I knew Mark Jackson a bit when I called St. John’s games. Never knew him to be so acerbic, yet so ‘terrific,’ (a word partner Mike Breen infuses often). Mark keeps getting better and better. His work at the pulpit has helped his public speaking. No NBA network play-by-player knows the game, rules and has his finger on the strategical pulse as Breeny. The iconoclastic Turner studio personnel are unbeatable, Chuck, Shaq and the Jet. Then again, pre/post requires a completely different dynamic. And let’s give some credit to those creative geniuses in the Turner studio who squeeze everything they can out of photoshop.
  • Keith Jones Turner’s NHL analyst is better as an ‘in-game’ commentator on the NHL. He was excellent on Turner’s coverage of Toronto-Tampa Bay series when the Leafs lost again. Goodness. Last Stanley Cup win was in 1967. In other words, since the league expanded from the ‘Original Six’ to twelve, 57 years ago, Toronto has never won the cup. Jones is also more spirited when covering the game live. On NBC, he almost showed a disinterest and rarely shared an opinion. Jones also emotes more calling the game itself. Play-by-player Kenny Albert also gives Jonespro ample room. Kenny sets it up for the perfect mix and lets the game breathe, more so than Mike Emrick.
  • Have you noticed that for the most part, ESPN often uses a three man booth on NHL, Turner goes two.
  • NBA? What’s happened with Doris Burke. She’s just not as good Mark Jackson, Jeff Van Gundy or Hubie Brown. She told Richard Deitsch of The Athletic last week that she’s not giving up and would like to one day do an NBA Finals. A talented announcer, but no Hall of Famer.  Does she belong in the Hall before Brent Musburger, 6 Final Fours and 6 NBA Finals? You tell me.
  • NHL: Turner wants Wayne Gretzky as a TNT hockey analystAs for Wayne Gretzky, he is who he is. The Great One is okay but his commentary is not at the level of his unimaginable on-ice performance. (Gretzky, right, and Chuck)
  • Barry Melrose is one of three or four in the ESPN-NHL studio. It’s like squeezing Tony Romo or John Madden onto the NFL Today set. Romo, Madden and Melrose deserve their own stage.
  • The short marriage between NBC and Drew Brees is ending. His work didn’t sparkle sufficiently for the Peacock. Andrew Marchand in the New York Post speculates that Brees can end up on one of the Fox NFL broadcast teams. Initially, media prognosticators conjectured that Cris Collinsworth would join Al Michaels wherever he ended up but it didn’t eventuate. Al had no options other than Amazon which needed him desperately. But the bigger audience is on Fox so the bulk of fans will sadly lose Al. When Tom Brady heads into broadcasting with Fox, the network confirmed that Kevin Burkhardt will be his partner. If the network didn’t add that assurance, speculation would continue until Brady hangs up the cleats.
  • Reports by the New York Post indicate that Dan Orlovsky, who’s been with ESPN since 2018 will call a limited number of NFL games next season with Steve Levy and Louis Riddick in ESPN’s No. 2 TV booth. For my money, I love Steve. He has personality and he’s distinct. Riddick is not bad. Orlovsky is a tough listen. When he talks, which is way too often, he sounds like his pants are burning
  • I did some channel browsing last Sunday and watched a replay of a  Las Vegas-Los Angeles Chargers game on NFL Network. Michaels and Collinsworth were a fun watch. Unfortunately, we won’t likely see them again, at least next season. They will sure be missed. If Al can get Herbstreit to tone it down, it might be the greatest accomplishment of his illustrious career. Kirk, please shush a little. You’re working with the best. The only analyst who has the potential to be worse than Herbie is Orlovsky.
  • Contributing columnist Don Haley: Peacock and Apple TV are trying much too hard to fill our tired ears, largely with inanities. Let the game breathe and shut up. This isn’t radio. Get back with us when you figure out what you’re talking about.
David J. Halberstam

David is a 40-year + industry veteran who served as play-by-play announcer for St. John's University basketball in New York and as radio play-by-play voice of the Miami Heat in South Florida. He is the author of Sports on New York Radio: A Play-by-Play History and The Fundamentals of Sports Media and Sponsorship Sales: Developing New Accounts.

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