SiriusXM is going through a changing of the guard; CBS’ opening of the real Tourney begins today

david halberstam round profile

SiriusXM: Steve Cohen and Eric Spitz

I was not at all stunned to hear that Steve Cohen stepped down after firmly building SiriusXM’s sports division. He had a vision of how to do it; always keeping his eye on his mission and doing so so magically. He  built the department into a dynasty. He put the financial support and guidance he got from his bosses, like icon and CEO Mel Karmazin and president Scott Greenstein. All teams and leagues, big or small, are affiliated with SiriusXM.

While in some ways satellite radio is nibbling away at over-the-air and advertiser- dependent broadcasters, it appears like terrestrial radio is fighting the Russians with brooms. Historically, in the annals of broadcasting, Cohen’s luster won’t dull. He’s accomplished a lot. With its unstoppable bandwidth, the satellite streamer has now delved into podcasting too.

Over the course of the years, a Long Islander, Chris Russo, has also produced quite a large stage. The naked-ear demonstrates how callers reach out to Russo from all corners of America. Early on, Chris struggled for callers. He’s a national big-timer now.

Russo covered Rollins College in Orlando. When he arrived home after school, he slowly became a star and fixture at WFAN – during its incipient years in the late 1980s. He always wore a big smile and can win your genuine friendship in a heartbeat.

We wish Cohen and his family and him all the luck in the world. He’s obviously a very capable broadcaster.

While nothing is official, as I can see it, Eric Spitz, his underling for years, will succeed him. Spitz is assertive, understands radio and has been around the game for some thirty years.

The biggest early global challenge for the company was merging Sirius and XM. It was Mel who fought-back every Governmental challenge. The man’s will was uncontainable. He was all about closing deal. He also made some of his hard-working and driving employees wealthy.  There are no sports broadcast entities anywhere with more play-by-play live events. Yet it’s a complicated business that early-on needed the support of the big automotive companies, investors in satellite undertakings and landing big names like Howard Stern. So it was in SiriusXM’s embryonic years. Steve Cohen was part of that team.

If you’re driving today, all games are available on SiriusXM.

It’s sad to hear they are making significant layoffs. Go explain! Cohen told me several years ago he wouldn’t stay at SiriusXM forever. We wish him luck and are glad that he is followed by a longtime colleague in Eric Spitz.

Schedule first Thursday and Friday

First Round Games – Thursday Afternoon, March 16

12:15 p.m.          CBS      Birmingham, AL – (9) Maryland vs. (8) West Virginia;  Jim Nantz / Bill Raftery / Grant Hill // Tracy Wolfson

12:40 p.m.          truTV    Orlando, FL – (13) Furman vs. (4) Virginia;  Kevin Harlan / Dan Bonner / Stan Van Gundy // Lauren Shehadi

1:40 p.m.            TNT      Sacramento, CA – (10) Utah St. vs. (7) Missouri; Brad Nessler / Brendan Haywood // Dana Jacobson

2:00 p.m.            TBS      Des Moines, IA –  (16) Howard vs. (1) Kansas; Brian Anderson / Jim Jackson // Allie LaForce

2:45 p.m.            CBS  Birmingham, AL  (16) Texas A&M-CC vs. (1) Alabama; Nantz / Raftery / Hill // Wolfson

3:10 p.m.            truTV    Orlando, FL     (12) Col. of Charleston vs. (5) San Diego St.; Harlan / Bonner / Van Gundy // Shehadi

4:10 p.m.            TNT      Sacramento, CA   (15) Princeton vs. (2) Arizona; Nessler / Haywood // Jacobson

4:30 p.m.            TBS      Des Moines, IA  (9) Illinois vs. (8) Arkansas; Anderson / Jackson // LaForce

First Round Games – Thursday Evening, March 16

6:50 p.m.            TNT      Birmingham, AL  (9) Auburn vs. (8) Iowa; Nantz / Raftery / Hill // Wolfson

7:10 p.m.            CBS      Orlando, FL       (12) Oral Roberts vs. (5) Duke; Harlan / Bonner / Van Gundy // Shehadi

7:25 p.m.            TBS      Des Moines, IA   (15) Colgate vs.  (2) Texas; Anderson / Jackson // LaForce

7:35 p.m.            truTV    Sacramento, CA   (10) Boise St. vs. (7) Northwestern;  Nessler / Haywood // Jacobson

9:20 p.m.            TNT      Birmingham, AL    (16) N. Kentucky vs. (1) Houston; Nantz / Raftery / Hill // Wolfson

9:40 p.m.           CBS      Orlando, FL       (13) Louisiana vs. (4) Tennessee; Harlan / Bonner / Van Gundy // Shehadi

9:55 p.m.            TBS      Des Moines, IA         (10) Penn St. vs. (7) Texas A&M;  Anderson / Jackson // LaForce

10:05 p.m.          truTV    Sacramento, CA    (15) UNC Asheville vs. (2) UCLA; Nessler / Haywood // Jacobson

First Round Games – Friday Afternoon, March 17

12:15 p.m.          CBS      Columbus, OH  (10) USC vs. (7) Michigan St.; Andrew Catalon / Steve Lappas // Jamie Erdahl

12:40 p.m.          truTV    Greensboro, NC    (14) Kennesaw St. vs. (3) Xavier; Ian Eagle / Jim Spanarkel // Evan Washburn

1:30 p.m.            TNT      Denver, CO  (14) UC Santa Barbara vs. (3) Baylor; Lisa Byington / Steve Smith / Avery Johnson // Andy Katz

2:00 p.m.            TBS      Albany, NY   (12) VCU vs. (5) Saint Mary’s; Spero Dedes / Deb Antonelli // AJ Ross

2:45 p.m.            CBS      Columbus, OH  (15) Vermont vs. (2) Marquette; Catalon / Lappas // Erdahl

3:10 p.m.     truTV        Greensboro, NC  (11) Pitt vs. (6) Iowa St.; Eagle / Spanarkel // Washburn

4:00 p.m.            TNT      Denver, CO       (11) NC State vs. (6) Creighton; Byington / Smith / Johnson // Katz

4:30 p.m.            TBS      Albany, NY  (13) Iona vs. (4) UConn; Dedes / Antonelli // Ross

First Round Games – Friday Evening, March 17

6:50 p.m.            TNT      Columbus, OH  (16) Fairleigh Dickinson vs. (1) Purdue;   Catalon / Lappas // Erdahl

7:10 p.m.            CBS      Greensboro, NC     (11) Providence vs. (6) Kentucky;  Eagle / Spanarkel // Washburn

7:25 p.m.            TBS      Albany, NY (12) Drake vs. (5) Miami; Dedes / Antonelli // Ross

7:35 p.m.            truTV    Denver, CO       (14) Grand Canyon vs. (3) Gonzaga;  Byington / Smith / Johnson // Katz

9:20 p.m.            TNT      Columbus, OH  (9) Florida Atlantic vs. (8) Memphis; Catalon / Lappas // Erdahl

9:40 p.m.            CBS      Greensboro, NC  (14) Montana St. vs. (3) Kansas St.; Eagle / Spanarkel // Washburn

9:55 p.m.            TBS      Albany, NY  (13) Kent St. vs. (4) Indiana; Dedes / Antonelli // Ross

10:05 p.m.          truTV    Denver, CO  (11) Arizona St. vs. (6) TCU; Byington / Smith / Johnson // Katz

Thanks to Eye on Sky and Air on Sports

Jim Nantz

He’s making it perfectly clear that he’s rooting for alma-mater University of Houston. His last NCAA Tourney for employer, CBS, Ian Eagle gets the gig next year. The network is accommodating, assigning him to the Cougars, just in case!

Dave Wills

Still saddened by the sudden death of Dave Wills, 58. Reading the nuances, it appears Dave suffered from a bad heart. He and Andy Freed were a popular duo on Tampa Ray radio for the last 11 years. He died on March 5th.

He struck me as a happy go-lucky fellow. When the team advanced during Covid several years ago, the duo traveled to Arlington, Texas to call the World Series. He shared: “We’re the only ones here (other than Fox). I think the Dodgers’ pre and post game guys are here too. “It’s a little strange not to be able to pick the brain of the (opposing) team’s broadcasters because they are not here.” Wills and Freed built an attractive radio team in the Tampa-St. Petersburgh burgeoning sports community, May he rest in peace.

“During the heart of Covid, we’re just happy to be here. Our bosses let us come.” He saw it as a privilege. 

“They asked whether we wanted to travel and whether we even wanted to go at all, during the Covid at the end of the season. We passed on the bubble games and said to management if the Rays make it to the ALCS we would like to be there. So we traveled. We flew commercial and stayed separately from the team. That, calling games from home, was a bit awkward. Calling road games earlier off a monitor was a challenge. We figured as the games get bigger we wanted to be there.”

Restrictions or not, Wills and Reed, were exuberant to attend and call it. All games were in Arlington. Some 11,500 attended each game.

It reminds me of the 1942 Rose Bowl when the United States government intervened in what is always the biggest event of the football year. Washington forced game organizers to move the game to Durham, North Carolina. It was for fear of Japanese attacks off the Pacific.

It was before TV and radio was it. NBC had a reporter in an empty Rose Bowl, describing the odd scene for millions of listeners of an empty park .

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.

Notify of
1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Michael Green
1 year ago

When I saw the name Steve Cohen, I jumped a little. Was it? Yes, it was. He was indeed at WFAN, and he married their traffic reporter, Eileen Marchese. Don Imus really used to work her over about dating Steve, since their last names suggested they might come from different backgrounds. I was also sorry to learn that they lost their daughter. I hope they’re doing all right.