August 19, 2022

Tv Sports: Revolving Door Is Not an Open-and-Shut Case

In March, the Fox News Channel took Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum off its air because of the likelihood that they would run for president, as they eventually did. But that’s politics.

Jackson as a coach-analyst is just sports. Just the way things are. Jackson was hired by Golden State before Game 4 of the Dallas-Miami series. At most, his tenure on ABC will last through Game 7.

So why not keep him around for more of LeBron and Dirk and Dwyane and Kidd?

Jackson is smart and often insightful and has a teasing chemistry with Jeff Van Gundy, his former Knicks coach, and Mike Breen. Break that up in the name of, what, a potential conflict of interest?

What sports TV executive would do that? It’s just sports television. Heck, ESPN-ABC can shimmy on the Jackson bandwagon (or mimic his helicoptering antics) and marvel at his multitasking: while preparing to call games, he held a news conference for the Golden State media, hired an assistant coach and taught all his players to say, “Mama, there goes that man!” Drop him from the finals? Heck, no.

Only a churl would suggest that every word Jackson says about the Mavericks free agents DeShawn Stevenson, Tyson Chandler and J. J. Barea and the Heat free agents Mario Chalmers and Mike Bibby should be parsed, shaken and stirred. In such moments, what is he? The Warriors analyst? The ABC coach?

In sports TV, who is this hurting? Even ESPN’s new ombudsman, which goes by the august name of the Poynter Review Project, has not weighed in. Maybe it will decide the subject is not as worthy as “The Decision.” After all, networks have long employed coaches, managers and players for game and studio jobs. (ESPN is virtually a halfway house for those caught between the booth and the locker room.)

Many ex-coaches leave after a year or two. Some come and go and come and go (see: Doug Collins).

Some never head back to sidelines or dugouts, like John Madden.

A few, like Jackson, have kept calling the postseason for a network after being hired to run a team.

One champion of this particular discipline is Doc Rivers. He was hired to coach the Boston Celtics in April 2004 yet continued to call ABC’s playoff games for another six weeks, through the N.B.A. finals.

The Celtics were 36-46 that season and were swept in a first-round playoff series before he was hired.

He had time to hire his staff, drive to Boca Raton to woo the free-agent-to-be Mark Blount and study for the finals. Whew! Between Games 2 and 3 of that year’s Lakers-Pistons finals, Rivers took a red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Chicago to attend a predraft camp with the Celtics. At the time, he was asked why he had not left ABC to spend every waking minute with the Celtics. He told The Boston Herald: “That’s just the way it is. I don’t worry about that at all. I just look at it that this is an obligation that I have to fulfill.”

And didn’t that work out O.K.? In Rivers’s fourth season, the Celtics were N.B.A. champions.

Collins spent slightly longer as a coach/analyst (or was it analyst/coach?) in 2001 when he was hired by Michael Jordan to coach the Washington Wizards while still employed as NBC’s lead N.B.A. game commentator. Collins has bounced frequently between coaching (he’s on his fourth team, the Philadelphia 76ers) and TV analysis on NBC and TNT. He’s lucky he’s so good at analysis because he burns out as a coach. As Wizards coach, he got to exult on TV in May 2001 as the dismal Wizards (19-63 in 2000-1 ) were awarded the No. 1 draft pick and then returned to his other job, calling games with Marv Albert.

Jackson is likable enough to hope that he succeeds as a coach and does not suffer the fate of Matt Millen. Millen was a fine N.F.L. analyst at Fox Sports. After being named the president and general manager of the Detroit Lions, he called one last playoff game and then led the Lions through more than seven years of ignominy. Jackson must hope that he is, as he would say, better than that.


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