ABC team gets A in chemistry

For now, TV trio works seamlessly

By Brian Mahoney
Associated Press / June 9, 2010

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Good coach and reliable point guard. That’s always been a winning formula in the NBA.

It’s a combination that has the Celtics and Lakers in the NBA Finals.

And it’s working out well for the team calling the games.

Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy, and Mark Jackson are old pals whose relationship dates some two decades to Madison Square Garden when they were starting their pro careers.

But with Van Gundy and Jackson frequently linked to openings for coaching jobs, how long can ABC keep its team together?

“I hope, like, another week,’’ Van Gundy said. “And then I hope Mark, if he gets the chance to be his own head coach, if that’s what he wants to do, and then if not, I hope it’s a long time because I really do enjoy the job. But more importantly I enjoy the people.’’

Van Gundy professes no desire to get back into coaching for now, while Jackson would like an opportunity but says he’ll be fine if it doesn’t come. Yet Breen, the play-by-play man, realizes there will come a day when he looks down the table and sees new faces.

“I know they’re going to go,’’ Breen said. “I’m just praying that it still lasts a few more years before they get their coaching jobs.’’

The trio became friends when Breen was in his early years calling Knicks games. Jackson began his 17-year NBA career as the Knicks’ point guard and was Rookie of the Year in 1988. Van Gundy was an assistant and later the team’s head coach.

Breen said much of his basketball knowledge comes from listening to Van Gundy.

“What you hear on a game night is the same things you would hear if you went out to dinner with us any other night,’’ Jackson said.

Jackson speaks his mind. He’s likely to say something such as, “Rajon Rondo is the best player on the floor right now. Period.’’

Van Gundy, who seemed to wear a permanent dour expression when coaching in New York and then Houston, has shown himself to be somewhat of a comedian. He throws out theories that make his partners scratch their heads and commissioner David Stern roll his eyes.

Van Gundy has his wild theories, but some — such as eliminating fouling out — seem worthy of consideration, especially in a series in which Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett have spent time on the bench because of foul trouble.

“I think that the coaches coaching in the league now and the coaches who coach in general have too often been overlooked for their ideas,’’ Van Gundy said. “Not mine, but I think it’s such a resource that needs to be mined a little bit more.’’

Fans seem surprised that Van Gundy doesn’t want to take his thoughts back to the bench. His name is mentioned every spring when there are openings, but he doesn’t pursue them.

Jackson would like his shot, and there was thought he might get it a couple of years ago in New York or perhaps now in Atlanta. But the ordained minister says that God will put him where he wants to use him.

Just to be safe, Breen jokes that he might spread rumors about his partners to general managers to kill their job prospects.

For now, he’ll keep enjoying their time together. This is the fourth Finals they’re calling, and even if it’s their last, they’ll live on next season as the voices of the NBA Elite video game.

But Breen, who works with just one partner — Walt Frazier — calling Knicks games on MSG Network, knows it would be hard to find a combination with the chemistry of the coach and guard.

“They’re never rattled on the air,’’ “I don’t have to call [Van Gundy] on anything because Mark beats me to it. They have so much respect for each other and they like other, and that combination is just perfect for on the air.’’

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