Sports Media Watch visited Turner Sports last week and had a chance to speak with NBA Digital Managing Editor Michael Doyle. Topics of conversation included what current NBA players would make good television analysts, why NBA TV declined to retain Gary Payton, and what really happened between Scot Pollard and Cheryl Miller.
SMW: So you basically run all of this – you are Mr. NBA TV and NBA.com.
Doyle: (laughs) That is correct. I am a part of it. Right now, we’re doing our [NBA] Game Time show. Sort of a pregame to TNT’s pregame. So we kind of ramp up tonight’s action.
SMW: Are you in charge of the people who show up on a given night on NBA TV?
Doyle: No. We actually have a talent relations group that handles all of the scheduling. But in terms of, when you had Kobe Bryant join us one night during the regular season – whenever we have guests join us in studio or some of our postgame shows or halftime segments, I pretty much coordinate all of that.
SMW: When you schedule a guest like – Matt Harpring guested a lot this season, and I guess he’s still in the NBA technically …
Doyle: Actually, he was traded from the Jazz to the Thunder, and I believe the Thunder waived his rights. So he is no longer with the team officially.
SMW: So he essentially goes from being a guest to being an actual analyst.
Doyle: Correct. Long and short, we brought Matt in. He’s well spoken, a good contributor with the Jazz or the Magic, played on several different teams. Always came across well on TV, good quotes.
SMW: Is that the type of stuff you’re looking for?
Doyle: It is. We are looking for guys who can really explain the game to our viewers, break down the game, who’s entertaining, who’s animated – but also can have some fun and give the nuts and bolts of the NBA.
SMW: When I came in December, [Inside the NBA producer] Tim Kiely said two people he would like to join in the future would be Allen Iverson and Shaquille O’Neal.
Doyle: (laughs) I laugh at that, because I would agree with Tim. In fact, Allen – there’s never a dull moment with Allen. And he has been on our radar for some time. And hopefully, before this year is out, we can bring him in on set.
Shaquille – actually, I used to work in the talent relations department for TNT, so I was influential in getting Shaquille to be a guest analyst during his first stint here, as well as Kobe. So Shaq has promised the world that when he’s done playing, he wants to be a TV analyst. He’s told me that several times. So, we’re going to hold him to it, and hopefully get him in here once his career’s done.
Allen, Shaquille, Rasheed Wallace – those are guys that aren’t afraid to speak their mind. They have that Charles [Barkley] quality, per se. This year, I think Joakim Noah became a guy who –
SMW: He has a long time.
Doyle: He has a long time, but if there’s a spot available and he’s willing to make the trip to Atlanta, of course. We’ll give him the platform.
Chris Paul was on last week. We had Shane Battier in here a few weeks ago. Rick Fox, who’s been in the league, he’s not that far removed from the game – anybody who has playoff experience and can provide our viewers with valuable insight, you want them. You want to give them that opportunity, and give them the platform to share that with our team.
SMW: How often do you have an Avery Johnson situation, where you bring someone in on your side, and they end up going to your competitors, ESPN?
Doyle: Our announce stable is sort of a revolving door. You look at it now. Doug Collins, Mike Fratello, those guys are being courted for head coaching positions.
So, it’s time and chance – if your stable is full, you just don’t have the space to bring guys on to be a part of the team. So it’s sort of time and chance, and I think that was the case with Avery and Jalen [Rose], for that matter. But both guys came in, Avery in a guest role, and Jalen, serving as a sideline reporter, did a solid job for us.
You look at Chris Webber. Chris came in, I got a call from his agent a couple of days after he had retired, saying Chris is available and wants to come join the TNT set, and it worked out. The producers, Tim Kiely, the producers loved him. And now he’s working for both TNT and NBA TV. He’s become a valuable contributor.
SMW: Anyone unlikely? Do you think Tim Duncan could come in and be a good guest?
Doyle: I think Tim would be great. You look at his background, four championship rings. But Tim is one who’s shied away from the media. We’ve approached him several times, and he’s politely declined on occasion. But you kind of respect that. You know the guys who really want to come forth and give TV a shot, and those guys who, once they’re away from the court, they want to remain away from the court.
So it’s a catch 22 to some degree. Steve Nash, Grant Hill, the list goes on and on. You sit and wait to see. Until that time you have them join for halftimes and postgames. But you build relationships, and that’s what this business is all about. Building relationships. The brief stints that players have, to come in when they’re visiting in Atlanta and they have an off day, we bring them in and sort of to test the waters.
SMW: Gary Payton was here for one year. What happened with that, how come you guys didn’t keep him on for another year?
Doyle: Well, I think with Gary, it was sort of a one-year deal. We were at the beginning with NBA TV, and things just didn’t work out for the most part. And you hear fans who say, ‘hey, where’s Gary’ and ‘what happened,’ but we’re still – we’re only in our second year of existence. You’re always trying to find different mixes, who can work with whom, et cetera. And that’s just part of growth.
SMW: What happened with Scot Pollard and Cheryl Miller? As a viewer, it seemed fun and lighthearted, but then he never came back.
Doyle: We got a lot of questions regarding the exchange on-air, and I will tell you this – it was very lighthearted off-air. There was no animosity between the two. There’s a history with the two, Scot playing a long time with the Pacers, very close to Reggie [Miller]. So there’s a relationship there. It may have looked rather uncomfortable on television, but however, they have a – Cheryl is just that type of person, who will kind of give some give and take a little bit. She will welcome you with open arms, and she did with Scot. There were no hard feelings amongst them. Although what appeared on air looked, again, rather uncomfortable, there weren’t any problems with the two of them.
SMW: How come he hasn’t been back? I was actually interested in seeing him as an analyst since his playing days.
Doyle: It had nothing to do with his performance on-air. We just haven’t reached back out, to be honest with you. … But nothing to do with his on-air performance for him not being back. And I think if you asked Scot how was his experience with NBA TV, he’d probably be like ‘I had a great time, just waiting on a phone call.’