LAS VEGAS – John Crotty is getting his first taste as the Miami Heat’s new TV analyst during summer league, but nobody is going to see it.
Crotty and Heat play-by-play announcer Eric Reid will work four games from the Thomas & Mack Center this weekend, complete with director and producer, as a dry run. The broadcasts are not televised but the audio will be analyzed and scrutinized to help Crotty and Reid prepare for their first season together.
“Chemistry is a big part of what we do on the air,” Crotty said. “I recognized that when I was doing radio as well as in the studio and it will be the same with Eric. This is the first step.”
The two worked the Sacramento-Phoenix and Cleveland-Chicago games at the Las Vegas summer league Saturday. They will work two more contests Sunday. They were unable to do a Heat game because Miami’s first two were in the smaller arena.
The broadcast was as real-life as possible with the director and producer talking in their ear. It just wasn’t on camera.
“It will be more just the cadence of getting used to the back and forth,” said Crotty, who is replacing Tony Fiorentino. The Heat announced in June that 2017-18 would be Fiorentino’s final season in a role he held for 14 years.
Crotty, 48, has worked as the radio analyst for 12 years alongside play-by-play man Mike Inglis, mostly for home games, and as a TV studio analyst for six years. The Heat have not named a TV studio analyst to replace Crotty.
Crotty also has some experience doing television as a college analyst for Fox.
“I feel like I’ve done a little bit of every medium,” Crotty said. “The difference will be since everything’s on the air, I don’t have to help describe the action. Now it’s more about the how and why it happened. Why did the guy get open to take that shot? And maybe, too, describe the strategies that are taking place by both teams and maybe why a certain trend is working more on the court or why a particular play is working.
“That will be the fun part for me and hopefully I can articulate it in a way that people understand and find interesting.”
Crotty also will bring the player perspective after spending 11 years in the NBA, including 1996-97 with the Heat, and having experienced every emotion from being a rotation player to having to survive on a 10-day contract.
“I have a lot of different perspectives I think I can bring to the broadcast,” Crotty said.
MIAMI – Tony Fiorentino has done it all during his 30 years in the Miami organization – an assistant with the Heat and WNBA Sol, a scouting coordinator, a summer camp director and 15 seasons as a television color analyst.
But through it all Fiorentino, who will call his final regular season game Wednesday, never felt he left the sidelines.
“People have asked me, ‘Do you miss coaching?’” Fiorentino said before Miami’s loss at New York Friday. “And I said, ‘No,’ because I run the Heat camps in the summer, which is a form of coaching, and I feel like I was coaching on the air.”
Fiorentino, 68, will leave the broadcast booth but remain with the organization running basketball camps and working community events. He has teamed with Eric Reid to call more than 1,100 games. Reid and Fiorentino are the only announcing team in the league where both have been with their organization from its inception.
The Heat will honor Fiorentino during halftime of his last regular season game Wednesday. He could work a few playoff games.
“It’s really unique to work with somebody that you’ve been friends with for 30 years,” Reid said. “The chemistry was natural. Everything people heard was real. We’re both from New York. I knew of Tony when he was a high school coach. Then we both get to Miami and all these years later we’re paired up to do games. Just a great experience working with a true lifelong friend.”
Former Heat guard John Crotty, 48, will replace Fiorentino. Crotty has been a member of Heat broadcasts for 12 years, working with Mike Inglis on radio and appearing on Fox Sports Sun’s studio show.
Fiorentino echoes Reid’s sentiments, saying one of the things he is most proud of has been working alongside a close friend.
“It’s always about who you work with,” Fiorentino said. “And all we ever tried to do was be honest, entertain and inform the fans. And I think we did that for 15 years. Even though we wanted to win, the Heat to win, and we favored the Heat, we were always very honest with calls, we were very honest with the opponents, giving the opponents credit.”
Opposing coaches and referees have approached the pair to credit them for their work ethic – Fiorentino and Reid are one of the few broadcasting duos who attend every opponent coaches media session before each game – and objectivity.
“I think they appreciated the honesty we had on the air,” Fiorentino said. “We don’t ever try to kill anybody. We do have a great relationship with most of the coaches in the league.
“I was a coach when I started announcing. I learned a lot from Eric on how to ask questions and try to get the most information you can to make the game more enjoyable for everybody. That’s cool to get that respect from those people.”
Fiorentino had the knowledge from being a former coach, something that helped prepare him for when he started analyzing the game and for a living.
“I was trying to educate the fans and look at the game through a coach’s eyes,” he said. “My job was always to try to figure out why a coach did what he did.
“I’m a little biased obviously, but I think coaches make the best analysts because sometimes it’s how you say something. A player may not be playing well, but there’s a way to say it without killing the player.”
Fiorentino has seen the highs (three titles) and the lows (15 wins in 2007-08). But that 2007-08 season stands out.
“What I’m most proud of for us is that we did our best job I think when we won 15 games,” Fiorentino said. “We brought it every night. If you were listening to our broadcast you would never know we won 15 games that year. It’s easy to do it when you’re a championship team. But to bring it every night and be prepared. … ”
Fiorentino was asked about specific moments from his broadcasting career that stood out. Here are three:
* Dwyane Wade’s coming out during the Eastern Conference semifinals against the New Orleans Hornets. Wade, a rookie, scored the game-winner with 1.3 seconds remaining in his first playoff game, giving the Heat a 91-89 victory. “That’s the game when Dwyane Wade came of age, when he made the winning shot and I said something like, ‘Stan Van Gundy went to the rookie and he delivered.’ So that was cool.”
* Another Wade game winner, this one in New York, stands out. “We’re from New York and we know how passionate the fans are. There were 20,000 fans here and I said right after Eric did his thing, ‘How do you quiet 20,000 New Yorkers? Make Dwyane Wade make a jumper at the buzzer.’ So, I really enjoyed that one.”
* Not all of the memories involved Wade, or even a magical play. One night in Minnesota Fiorentino mentioned how a young boy in the stands was eating all kinds of junk food. “We’re getting ready to do the open and we’re sitting on our stools looking toward the stands and we see a kid eating an ice cream cone, he’s eating a cookie and we’re thinking, ‘Man, he’s eating too much stuff.’ Don’t you know, I think it was the second quarter, all of a sudden we hear something, I turn around, the kid threw up all over my jacket. And we were just starting a West Coast trip, it was a suit I had to wear again on the trip. So I had to send it to the cleaners when we got to Los Angeles.”
John Crotty is moving over from radio to television.
Crotty will become the Miami Heat’s next analyst for all TV broadcasts beginning next season, the team announced today. Crotty, 48, will work alongside play-by-play broadcaster Eric Reid, replacing longtime analyst Tony Fiorentino.
Crotty, who played 48 games for the Heat in 1996-97, has been a member of the broadcast team since January 2005 when he became the Heat’s radio analyst. He will become the seventh person to serve as the TV analyst for the franchise and the second former player.
“It’s truly an honor to have such a lengthy history with the Miami Heat; first as a player, then as a radio broadcaster and now as the TV color analyst,” Crotty said in a statement. He went on to say that he is “humbled by the big shoes I have to fill, but very excited to take on the challenge.”
After a standout college career at the University of Virginia, Crotty entered the NBA as an undrafted free agent with the Utah Jazz in 1991. He spent the majority of his 11-year NBA playing career in Utah backing up John Stockton.
Crotty played for seven different franchises. In Miami, he averaged 4.8 points and 2.1 assists while serving as Tim Hardaway’s backup.
Crotty first appeared for the Heat on television during the 2006 championship season, when he was added to the team’s post-season coverage. He was a part of two Emmy Award-winning parade coverage shows and since the spring of 2012 has served as a studio analyst for all Heat home and road games. In addition to his work with the Heat, Crotty has also served as a color analyst on college basketball games for Fox.
“John has been part of the Heat family for many years, and has earned this opportunity,” said Eric Woolworth, president of the Heat’s business operations. “We are thrilled to have him on board as our color analyst and excited about the future of our broadcasts on Fox Sports Sun. We have every confidence that John is going to do a great job.”
The Heat have seen six former players, coaches and broadcasters serve in this role. Crotty joins a group that includes Reid (the team’s first TV analyst), Dave Wohl, Jack Ramsay, Ed Pinckney, Mike Fratello, and Fiorentino.
The Heat announced in June that this would be Fiorentino’s final season in a role he held for 14 years.
The team has not announced plans to fill Crotty’s current role on radio.
MIAMI – Andy Elisburg was a 20-year-old intern with the Miami Heat in 1988 when managing partner Billy Cunningham said he needed some chores to be done around the office.
“No problem,” Elisburg said, “I’ll get one of my guys to do it.”
Cunningham looked at Elisburg: “You have people? You’re an intern.”
Elisburg epitomizes where the Heat have come in 30 years. Starting as an intern for public relations director Mark Pray, Elisburg, who turns 50 next month, was a student at St. Thomas University when he was hired to do, well, everything, and started working his way up to senior vice president of basketball operations/General Manager.
When Elisburg worked with numbers nearly 30 years ago it was those he’d type into a bulky computer to be included in the media guide. Today when he works with numbers it’s negotiating multi-million dollar contracts.
The Heat start their 30th season Wednesday with their season opener in Orlando. Elisburg is one of a handful of people who have been with the organization continuously for the three decades, including broadcaster Tony Fiorentino (who was an assistant coach on Ron Rothstein’s original staff), Eric Reid and Jose Paneda.
Back then, the Heat had about 20 employees, not including players. Today, that number is close to 200.
Only a handful of people, including partners Cunningham and Lewis Schaffel, Rothstein, assistant coach Dave Wohl, director of player personnel Stu Inman and trainer Ron Culp, had worked in the NBA.
For the others it was on the job training.
“Those first games it was really crazy because people really had no idea what to do,” Elisburg said.
During the very first time out of the very first game at Miami Arena, Pray handed the partial box score to a runner with instructions to make copies and “give one to everybody.”
The runner suddenly stopped, looked back and wondered, “how am I going to make 15,000 copies for everyone in the building.”
Finally, he was told, “not everyone. … everyone on press row.”
“It was an incredibly rich and wonderful experience,” Elisburg said. “With the fans, we got a chance to experience NBA basketball and professional sports together. It was very much kind of trial by error in learning what works and what doesn’t and what we had to do.”
Elisburg recalls the entire staff rolling 15,000 posters the night before that opening game.
And although Rothstein had spent five seasons as an assistant coach in Atlanta and Detroit, moving over one seat on the bench was a major adjustment for him, too.
“Anytime you get your first head coaching job the reality is you are a little naïve,” Rothstein said. “The real world hasn’t hit you yet. You’re really full of yourself. You really are. I knew that we weren’t going to be good and I knew that we would lose a lot of games. I had no idea it would be that tough.”
Everybody grew together. … through 17 consecutive losses to start their inaugural year, 33 wins the first two years combined, the first coaching change in 1991 when Kevin Loughery replaced Rothstein and their first taste of the postseason in 1992.
“The philosophy of the Heat from the beginning was we’re going to build through the draft which is exactly what we did,” Rothstein said. “We actually were the first of the expansion teams to make the playoffs, Year 4, unfortunately that was after I was gone. I felt our first three years really set the foundation. Year 4 didn’t happen in a bubble.”
Those drafts netted Rony Seikaly, Grant Long, Glen Rice and Steve Smith, the heart of that first playoff team.
Fast forward 30 years from Nov. 5, 1988, the night of the first ever regular season game for a South Florida NBA franchise, to now where three championship banners hang in the rafters of the AmericanAirlines Arena.
But that does not tell the whole story about where this franchise has come, an ascent similar to the one taken by the intern in the public relations department who now holds the title of General Manager.
“You never know when you start something up that it becomes your home and your family,” Elisburg said. “You don’t think 30 years from now we’re going to be here.
“One of the things that is really special when you are a part of something like this is you’re building something beyond you. We’ve built a foundation what will stand the test of time, a history that people will be part of. It’s been special being part of all the things we’ve achieved and the struggles.”
Miami Heat celebrate 30th anniversary in NBA: The Palm Beach Post looks back
Mike Fratello has been a part of the NBA since 1977 as a coach or broadcaster.
Fratello was an assistant with the Knicks before becoming head coach for the Hawks, Cavaliers and Grizzlies. And he’s had several stops as an analyst, including NBC, TNT, NBA TV and currently doing Nets games for the YES Network. One of those was working with Eric Reid on Heat telecasts from 2002 to early in the 2004-05 season.
We caught up with Fratello to talk about the Heat and his career in our latest Q&A installment.
Q: Is Erik Spoelstra one of the best coaches in the league?
MF: “How many guys have gone to four straight NBA finals? That is a statement in itself. It’s not easy to do that. I don’t care what kind of players you have. Yeah, you have better players that give you a chance to win more games but still you got to coach them, you got to organize them, you got make game decisions. You draw up stuff in time outs. You go in at halftime and come up with something when it’s not going well that night.
“He’s done a terrific job with whatever management’s been able to give him. I said in in our broadcast (last week), how about losing LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, possibly three Hall of Famers, and your job is just keep marching forward, somehow find a way.”
Q: You went from the booth as a Heat analyst to coaching the Grizzlies early in the 2004 season. Talk about that time?
MF: My last year I got about 15 games into the season and I was offered the Memphis job. I went to Pat Riley and told Pat what had come up. I felt I had an obligation to Pat and the organization and also TNT because I was working for both of them. I told Jerry West I would have to first go to them. They were friends and they were great to me so I didn’t want to upset them. Both of them were incredible.
Q: Compare preparing for a game as a broadcaster and preparing as a coach?
MF: “The similarities are that when you’re a coach you pay attention to detail and you do the same thing as a broadcaster. You want to have as much information. I have a lot of friends who are assistant coaches and head coaches, I use it to get a few minutes with them so I feel good talking about their team that night, what’s gone on. The rest is doing your homework on the team, knowing what the team has done lately, who’s been playing well, who hasn’t been playing well, who’s been missing games. You’re organized and prepared in coaching, you wind up doing the same thing when you’re on TV.”
Q: You have worked with a who’s who of broadcast partners. What’s your favorite story involving one of your partners?
MF: “My first game ever on NBC after seven years as the head coach in Atlanta. My partner would up being Marv Albert. Because NBC had never done an NBA game that summer they asked us to meet in New York to help them have a better understanding what’s important. While we were up there they asked me, ‘Have you ever used a telestrator?’ I said, ‘No.’ They brought me in a room and said ‘Here is what you use to draw with, here is what happens, you hit these buttons.’ You got all these bells and whistles. I tried it and they said, ‘You’ve used this before. You’re drawing like you know what you’re doing.’ I told them I’ve never used it and I said, ‘That’s what coaches do. We draw. That comes easy to coaches.’
“That August they had us do a game at Magic Johnson’s ‘Midsummer Night Magic’ All-Star game for charity. We come on and Marv says, ‘I’d like to bring in my new partner. … the Czar of the Telestrator, Mike Fratello’ I had no idea where that came from, nobody did. When he sprung it I nodded and said, ‘Hey, thanks.’ Who knew that was going to stick all these years later?”
Q: So you’re in an airport, what do people shout ‘Mike’ or ‘Czar’?
MF: “You hear both. The people that work at the airports a lot of those guys, they’re watching the games at night before they come to work at the airport the next morning when you come walking through and they’re like, ‘Czaaaaar.’”
Q: “You’ve won an Emmy and you won a Coach of the Year. Which one are you most proud of?
MF: “You just like doing well in whatever it is. Television you like to do well. Coaching you hope you won a lot of games and if you won a lot of games your players are doing things to help you win those games and you get lucky once in a while. That’s what’s happened in both situations. When you win no matter what it is you enjoy winning.
Q: “You worked with Heat play-by-play announcer Eric Reid for a little more than two years. What stands out about working with Eric?
MF: “He’s really good. He’s all about the team. When you’re doing national games you get told somewhere along the line about being objective. When you’re in Eric’s position you’re part of the team. Why shouldn’t you be more enthusiastic when they are winning and playing great and hit a huge shot at the end of the game? That’s fine. It’s OK to do that. That’s your team. He bleeds that red and black.”
Q: You coached the Ukraine national team from 2011 to 2014. How did that happen?
MF: “I had drafted a young man who played for me in Atlanta, Alexander ‘Sasha’ Volkov. He was a legend with the original Soviet Union team and when Ukraine separated from the Soviet Union, Sasha is from the Ukraine so he became president of the Ukraine basketball federation. He called me one summer and said, ‘Would you come and coach the team? We’re in disarray we just need somebody to come in here.’ I gave him a list of things I’d need. Everything we asked for he gave us. I brought six assistants over with me and wound up with two others from over there. We had the court covered. We were getting there early, stayed late. Their practice habits were incredible.”
MIAMI – Count former coach Mike Fratello among those who believe the Heat have jumped into the playoff picture.
Fratello, who works Nets games on the YES Network and league games on TNT, was in town Monday and witnessed the Heat’s eighth straight win. Besides being impressed with the way Miami (19-30) has fought through a rough start (they were 11-30 two weeks ago), Fratello believes the Heat are back in the playoff hunt.
Miami is 12th in the East, four games behind No. 8 seed Charlotte.
“They’re in their playoff run right now, they’ve put together this eight game streak to get back in there,” Fratello told me. “When you come out of the All-Star weekend you’re in the back stretch, the season is over quick once you come back from All-Star weekend.”
The Heat have eight games remaining before the All-Star Game starting tonight at home against Atlanta. Six of those games are against teams with losing records.
“Grab a couple of more before the All-Star break and then come back out of the break with the momentum, not lose it over that week that they’re going to be off,” he said. “The nature of the game is some teams forget to come back from All-Star break. They go in and they forget to come back.”
But Fratello does not believe that will happen with the Heat because of the makeup of their players and the attitude instilled by coach Erik Spoelstra.
“If your team is tough minded, which Miami is because of the job Erik has done with them, when you come back you steal a game or two because your guys are ready, your guys have not gotten too far away from basketball during the off week, they still had their workouts, they still got their shooting in,” Fratello said. “You grab one or two games that might have been 50-50 games. You get the advantage because your guys are ready and you keep that momentum going and then if the team in front of you loses and you win, you pick up two games all and of a sudden. … “
Fratello, who worked alongside Heat TV play-by-play announcer Eric Reid for a little more than two seasons in the early 2000s, won 1,215 games as coach of the Hawks, Cavaliers and Grizzlies. He led his teams to the playoffs 11 times.
Some interesting conversations come up now that the league office makes all the ballots public, and two Heat TV broadcasters were among the voters: Play-by-play man Eric Reid and sideline reporter Jason Jackson. They found themselves in the crosshairs on Twitter, one for voting Whiteside and one for not voting him. Continue reading “DPOY voting: Eric Reid, Jason Jackson explain their ballots”