Fifth Estater

ESPN's Lead NBA Broadcaster Is a Classic Two-Way Player

Breen balances dual roles of calling games for local, national audiences 5/27/2013 12:01:00 AM Eastern

Mike Breen

Title:

Play-by-play broadcaster, NBA, ESPN/ABC

Play-by-play broadcaster, New York Knicks, MSG Network

Education:

B.A., Communications, Fordham University, 1983

Employment Highlights:

Sports reporter, Imus In the Morning, WFAN,1986-2000

Play-by-play announcer, MSG Network, 1992-current

Play-by-play announcer, Summer Olympics, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008; Winter Olympics, 2002; NBC Sports

Current role at ABC/ESPN since 2003 (lead NBA play-by-play announcer since ‘06)

Personal:

Born May 22, 1961; wife, Rosanne; sons Michael and Matthew; daughter, Nicole

When the Oklahoma City Thunder was ousted from the NBA
playoffs on May 15, it assured there would be no sequel to last
year’s championship battle between Kevin Durant’s Thunder and
LeBron James’ Miami Heat.

But when the NBA Finals tips off June 6 on
ABC, one area where viewers can always expect
consistency is with ESPN’s long-running play-byplay
man, Mike Breen. This will be Breen’s eighth
time calling the NBA’s title round for ABC.

While fans around the country know Breen
as the national voice for the NBA, fans in New
York get a double-dose of the Fordham University
grad, as he is also behind the mic for New
York Knicks telecasts on MSG Network.

“It’s more of just being in tune with the audience,”
says Breen on the differences between
calling a national game vs. a local contest. “It’s
more of a difference in terms of how much attention
you pay [to the teams].”

For example, Breen says if the Knicks are losing
at the end of the first quarter, “I’m talking
more about what the Knicks are doing wrong [on
MSG]…whereas if I’m doing the [same] game for
ESPN or ABC, I would probably lead with why
the [other team] is off to such a great start.”

Where some might find it dif!cult to juggle
broadcasting to two different types of audiences,
Breen says he benefits from covering
the NBA’s other 29 teams as well as the Knicks.
“It might be [an opponent’s] first time playing
against the Knicks, but I may have done three
games [with] them already,” he says. “In terms
of preparation—knowing teams, knowing players,
and knowing coaches—it’s a big benefit.”

Sometimes those two worlds collide and Breen
has to call a Knicks game for ESPN or ABC, although
he doesn’t worry about being seen as
unfairly slanted toward Knicks star forward
Carmelo Anthony and company. “I don’t feel like
I have to scale back,” he says, noting that a larger
factor in how he calls a game is the arena it’s
played in. “It’s more of where you’re at.”

For Breen, the biggest difference comes in his
two broadcast partners, Walt “Clyde” Frazier
on MSG and Jeff Van Gundy on the national
games. “The biggest difference is the suits,” he
quips. “Jeff has two, Clyde has about 400.”

While their “style” may be different, the respect
Breen has for both Hall of Fame guard Frazier
and the onetime Knicks coach is the same. “I feel
like I’m living a dream, getting to work with both
of them,” he says. That respect is reciprocated.
“Mike is the Tim Duncan of broadcasting,” Van
Gundy says. “Understated greatness is the most
difficult greatness to achieve, and Mike has it.”

As Breen gets set to wrap his 22nd season calling
NBA games, he can’t help but reminisce about
one of his early years, when he got to cover the
New York Knicks’ return to the NBA Finals in
1994 after a long absence (Breen was working
for radio titan WFAN at the time). He says the
moment that always sticks out to him is when
star Knicks center Patrick Ewing jumped onto the
scorer’s table and raised his arms to the crowd.

“It was like he was embracing the crowd, giving
them a big collective hug,” Breen says, noting
Ewing’s sometimes frosty relationship with the
hometown fans. “It was a cool moment.”

Breen also had a front-row seat to “Linsanity”—
when the undrafted Jeremy Lin took the sports
world by surprise in a short run as the Knicks’
point guard last season. “The Jeremy Lin stretch
last year was one of the most incredible things
I’ve ever seen,” Breen recalls. “That was pure joy.”

Breen has come a long way since covering
school board meetings in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.,
for WEOK/WPDH radio while attending Fordham.
His big break came as a sports reporter
on WFAN’s Imus in the Morning. “That was a
huge break for me and a great learning experience,”
Breen says of working with the famed
I-Man. But it was of course more than that,
since Imus tends to make foils of everyone
else behind the mic. When pressed about the
WFAN show, Breen jokingly admits to having
played the role of Imus’ “punching bag.” He
has also called play-by-play for the NFL and
worked several Summer Olympics.

Breen credits coming from a family of five
boys—and one “very influential neighbor” who
built his own radio station in his basement—for
giving him the itch. “I just kind of got a bug about
doing radio or broadcasting from [that],” he says.

The impending start of the NBA Finals also
means the offseason is around the corner, although
don’t expect Breen to relax too much:
“I’m a full-time dad and a part-time golfer.”

E-mail
comments to
tim.baysinger@gmail.com and follow
him on Twitter:
@tim_bays

Mike Breen

Title:

Play-by-play broadcaster, NBA, ESPN/ABC

Play-by-play broadcaster, New York Knicks, MSG Network

Education:

B.A., Communications, Fordham University, 1983

Employment Highlights:

Sports reporter, Imus In the Morning, WFAN,1986-2000

Play-by-play announcer, MSG Network, 1992-current

Play-by-play announcer, Summer Olympics, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008; Winter Olympics, 2002; NBC Sports

Current role at ABC/ESPN since 2003 (lead NBA play-by-play announcer since ‘06)

Personal:

Born May 22, 1961; wife, Rosanne; sons Michael and Matthew; daughter, Nicole

 

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