Mike Breen has called 15 NBA Finals alongside Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson. The two NBA legends gave insight on strategy, game experience and more as Breen sat in the play-by-play seat.
But Van Gundy and Jackson are out after heavy layoffs at ESPN, and Breen couldn’t be more disappointed.
“It’s sad because we really thought we had something special, and that’s going to be the thought going forward is that we were able to do it a lot longer than anybody ever did,” Breen told the New York Post about the firings of Van Gundy and Jackson.
“It’s something we’ll all treasure, but we just wish it was a little bit longer.
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“You don’t expect it because it was such a great team. And to have it completely broken up was a surprise.”
NBA fans know Breen’s voice well, as the Basketball Hall of Famer’s signature “Bang!” has highlighted some of the game’s best moments over the years. Van Gundy and Jackson have been constants by his side at center court, with Van Gundy serving two years longer than Jackson’s 15. Jackson was head coach of the Golden State Warriors during his two years before entering the booth.
When Breen was the radio voice for the New York Knicks in the ‘90s, Van Gundy was an assistant coach with the team while Jackson was the Knicks’ point guard. It’s a relationship that spans decades, one that goes far beyond the profession.
“They were the dream partners,” Breen said. “All the accomplishments were because of what we did together. I really do feel personally any success I had was because I had those two guys next to me. They just provided everything you would want in analysts. They’re smart. They’re funny. They’re knowledgeable about their sport. They’re opinionated. They love their sport but are not afraid to criticize. They just had a little bit of everything.
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“The other part of it is the personal part, and that’s tougher. Now, we’re going to be friends until the day we die.”
ESPN is expected to give Breen two new partners — Doris Burke, who will be promoted from her sideline reporter duties during the Finals, and Doc Rivers, who was just fired as the Philadelphia 76ers’ head coach, according to the Post.
If Burke is promoted, she would become the first woman calling the NBA Finals.
Rivers has worn a headset before, calling the NBA Finals with Al Michaels in 2004.
Breen will have to move on without his two brothers in the booth, but their time together will never be forgotten.
“I look up to both of them because not just their talents as broadcasters, but the kind of men they are. I just feel so privileged to have that time,” Breen said of Van Gundy and Jackson.
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“I’ve always said that I’m so honored to call the Finals every year, but what made it so special for me is I got to call it with those two. And seeing it come to an end, it’s hard to come to grips with.”