Analyze This: ESPN NBA Games Becoming Sportscenter Clones

Forget about coaching, Jeff Van Gundy is auditioning for an anchor role on Sportscenter than a return to the sidelines. Van Gundy punchlines outnumber relevant basketball points, and the spread gets worse every game. While the lack of competitive games this postseason, case in point Game 3 in the Eastern Conference Finals, doesn’t help, NBA telecasts with ESPN/ABC’s top broadcast team are continually tilting more toward the entertainment before sports act that has consumed Sportscenter.

Last game he’s joking about Mark Jackson’s SAT score, another game Van Gundy discusses his non-distinguished high school playing career, even his public campaign for Jackson as head coach was over the top. His coaching career clearly made him insane. Listening to the game, as a serious basketball fan, it seems Van Gundy cares less about the game than a possible tryout on Last Comic Standing.

Jackson is a markedly better analyst, who can balance humor with game analysis. Watching him the past few years covering Nets games, he’s both entertaining and able to break down the game to simple terms for viewers to understand. He calls out players that deserve to be called out, he makes valid points, and is great at discussing what a team or coach needs to do in certain situations. Jackson takes you into the mind of a player at certain points in the game. In other words, what a good analyst should do.

Mike Breen is a straight shooter, and does his best to officiate the circus Van Gundy brings. Maybe its trying to appeal to the casual fan that cares less about X’s and O’s, and wants to be entertained. No other explanation for why Hubie Brown is not the top analyst on the network. A basketball fan can sit captivated listening to Hubie break it down for hours. Van Gundy is more apt to give you blow by blow on the American Idol vote.

This has nothing to do with Van Gundy’s coaching ability, he’s proven his worth beyond question in that field – he took a James Dolan owned Knicks team to the Final, what else does he need to do. No doubt he can be a great analyst, if he tried. Is it Van G’s motive, or did one of the suits behind the scenes get to him to spice it up?

For my hoops, give me Hubie any day. I’ll settle for Jackson. Stick Van Gundy in Bill Walton’s old role, so he can make a few outlandish comments in the studio.


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