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It's official: Celtics heading to The Sports Hub

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  September 26, 2013 07:05 PM

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The worst-kept secret in Boston sports radio has now become a reality. The Sports Hub (98.5 FM) will the new radio home of the Celtics, beginning with the 2013-14 season. It is a multiyear deal, but terms were not disclosed.

“We’re very excited,’’ said Celtics president Rich Gotham. “We don’t look at this as stand-alone play-by-play deal. We look at it as a partnership that includes play-by-play rights, but also as a promotional platform for our advertisers and our team.

"There will also be a lot of cross-pollination over the other CBS Radio stations, some synergy with Comcast Sports Net New England [the television home of the Celtics] since a lot of the same personalities appear on both.”

The Celtics had been on Entercom-owned stations since 2005-06 – WRKO for two years and then WEEI through last season – but they parted ways in August.

The Sports Hub now has rights deals with three of the four major Boston sports franchises: the Celtics, Patriots, and Bruins. When the Celtics and Bruins play on the same night, the former will move to WZLX, another highly rated CBS Radio-owned station in the market.

“The real benefit to the Celtics is having a partnership with a cluster of stations, not only 98.5. It’s going to allow us to extend our reach with the audience, complement our broadcast, and promote our team the most effectively."

Gotham said the Celtics, who are in the foundation stages of a rebuilding project, are focusing on “relevance rather than ratings’’ and have no issue sharing a flagship station with the championship-contending Bruins.

There are a minimum of 19 times this season that the Bruins and Celtics will play on the same day or night within a three-hour start-time window, and three more times when the Bruins and Patriots will conflict in the regular season.

“It’s really not a concern with us,’’ said Gotham. “We’ve had a good relationship with WZLX. I go on with Karlson and McKenzie, Mike Gorman calls in there, the relationship already exists. They’re such a strong station themselves” -- frequently at or near the top of the Arbitron ratings for the men 25-54 demographic -- “that we feel it helps us to extend our reach.

"We were in a scenario in the past when our games were occasionally bumped for Red Sox games. It wasn’t a problem for us then, and it isn’t now.”

The long-running and popular broadcast tandem of play-by-play voice Sean Grande and analyst Cedric Maxwell will remain intact. Grande and Maxwell have called more than 1,000 games together since they were paired in 2001-02. Howie Sylvester will be the producer.

Though it's been little more than a month since the Aug. 20 parting with WEEI, it has felt like the partnership with CBS Radio was a drawn-out process, perhaps because the expectation has been that they would end up there.

Noted one astute reader: "There is only one I to dot and one T to cross in Celtics, so what's the hold-up?"

The whole we-can’t-say-it-yet situation reached a particularly amusing level when various team personnel, including Gotham, coach Brad Stevens, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, and Grande all appeared on The Sports Hub's "Toucher and Rich" program Tuesday morning without directly acknowledging that the team's games would be on the station soon.

“We felt like the golf tournament would have been a good time to launch the partnership, but things take time, and we were still working on some of the details of the agreement,’’ said Gotham. “It wasn’t an official launch, but you could call that the unofficial launch of the partnership.”

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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