Mike Breen, in his 14th season broadcasting professional basketball, is now ABC’s lead play-by-play man for the NBA. A 1983 graduate of Fordham, Mike has also broadcast Giants football and four Olympic Games, covering ski jumping and basketball among other events. He’s a past member of the Imus in the Morning crew, where he provided deadpan sports reports and the occasional “serenade.” Still the voice of the New York Knicks on MSG, Mike is a long-time supporter of the Cox Classic. He lives with his wife and three children on Long Island, where, during the three months he’s not broadcasting NBA games, he spends “every waking minute with my wife and kids”, frequently on the golf course, where he maintains a 15 handicap. We caught up to him in August.
What did you do on your summer vacation?
Played bad golf. I play over-35 basketball and sprained an ankle before we went upstate on vacation. I played golf in an air cast and hit it pretty well. Not longer, but straighter. I’m thinking of marketing the air cast as a golf self-help device.
You’ve been doing NBA for almost 15 years now. You have any tattoos?
No tattoos. You know it’s funny, everybody asks me, ‘What’s with the players’ tattoos?’ I’ve got no problem with it. It’s a fashion statement and you see as many suburban girls who get them as NBA players. It’s a generational thing.
So the Breen kids will have them pretty soon?
When they are able to do it on their own, they may.
Lot of announcers these days work hard at a signature call. You don’t really have one.
I think fans will know if you try to manufacture one. It has to come naturally. That’s number 1. Number 2, it’s about the game, not about the announcer. My favorite broadcasters growing up all realized that.
Marv Albert. Dick Enberg was a huge favorite. A local guy, the late Jim Gordon. And a really underrated guy, I think, Verne Lundquist. Good broadcasters really seem to enjoy doing a game. Lundquist is like that. No matter who he works with, they seem to be best friends. They laugh, they have fun, they don’t take themselves too seriously.
How do you critique a broadcast? Do you know it’s good while you’re doing it?
When you sign off, you know whether you nailed it. Other nights, you know you covered the game well, you were good. And then some nights you know you were a second too slow, you weren’t as excited as you should have been at a big moment. You look at the tape and that confirms it.
Do you read reviews? Blogs?
I try to stay away from the blogs, but I have friends who delight in sending me the worst things people have said about me. It’s impossible to get a big head. I read reviews, just to know what people think of the show, though you can’t ever let them determine how you broadcast a game. But anybody who tells you they don’t read reviews is lying.
Most exciting event you’ve ever done?
This year it would be Game 3 of the finals. Dallas is up by 13 with six and a half minutes to go and if they win, it’s over. But Dwayne Wade takes the game over and they come back. It was not just the importance of the game, it was the emergence of Wade on that stage.
So, what happened to the Knicks? Is the worst over?
People pointed the finger at Larry Brown, cheap wholesale promotional but every-one from the front office to the entire roster of play-ers had their share of the blame.
What’s in the IPOD these days?
Everything from Jethro Tull to George Winston to Frank Sinatra and lots of movie soundtracks. Hoosiers is big. You go for a run listening to Hoosiers and you’ll break your personal best, I guarantee.
Your dream foursome?
My Dad and my two boys. My youngest is not quite ready for the golf course yet. I know it sounds hokey, but it doesn’t get better than that.
Hey, any idea what happened to that frequent caller to the FAN, Bill from White Plains?
He’s doing extremely well. He plays a lot of golf…he’s down to about a 4. Listens to Imus every day. . .