Game 7 of the NBA Finals takes place this Sunday night, and once it’s over a champion will be crowned. It will also officially signal the end of the Skip Bayless era at ESPN. Bayless is leaving First Take after the NBA Finals to join Fox Sports 1 where he’ll be reunited with former colleague Jamie Horowitz.
Upon his arrival, Bayless is expected to host a new debate show on FS1 opposite his former show. According to Mike McCarthy of the Sporting News, Shannon Sharpe is the leading candidate to be his on-air partner.
With Bayless departing, inquiring minds want to know who will become Stephen A. Smith’s running mate on First Take? In April, we reported some of the names who were given a forum to discuss the position. Yesterday, The Big Lead updated that process when they reported that three internal names were given further consideration.
Last night, I spoke to six different sources, and each confirmed that Max Kellerman is expected to be the choice. The issue of relocating to New York and leaving Los Angeles has apparently been settled, and all signs point to an official deal being finalized and announced soon.
Assuming no last minute surprises occur, the move makes sense on multiple levels. Kellerman has the passion and opinions to go toe to toe with Stephen A. They’re both from New York, have profound respect for one another, and Max’s profile, and on-air style fit the First Take format. He’s also just 42 years old, so the opportunity to develop the show and keep it in tact for a long period of time is possible.
Details remain unclear on how ESPN will fill Max’s void on Sports Nation and ESPN LA 710. There are two names that make a lot of sense. First, there’s Doug Gottlieb. He has a good profile on radio and television, grew up in the market, and has a personality that would play well with Marcellus Wiley, and Michelle Beadle. The only challenge is if CBS isn’t willing to let him out of any contractual obligations.
The other possibility is Jorge Sedano. He too has a strong profile on radio and television, has worked with a former football player in Mark Schlereth, has lived and worked in the market previously, and with Los Angeles being 50% Hispanic, that could make him an even more attractive fit. He’s also under company control.
There are hurdles still to climb, including whether or not First Take operates in the future out of Bristol, Connecticut or New York City, but logistical and contractual issues aside, Kellerman to First Take is in motion. With the show producing big ratings and revenues, and ESPN losing one of its most recognizable personalities on television in Bayless, the network has been under pressure to make a splash. Kellerman helps them emerge from the process looking strong.
The Portland Trail Blazers Hire Kevin Calabro:
The Portland Trail Blazers shocked the basketball universe, and the faithful fans of Rip City, when they announced this week that they were parting ways with broadcasters Mike Barrett, Mike Rice, and Antonio Harvey. The trio of announcers had been part of the organization for more than a decade. Blazers CEO Chris McGowan said a search to find their replacements would begin immediately, except the franchise was further down the line in the process then McGowan let on.
Today we’ve learned that Kevin Calabro has been hired as the new voice of the Blazers. The talented play by play man has been working for ESPN Radio, and the Pac-12 network, and formerly served as the voice of the Seattle Super Sonics before the NBA allowed the team’s ownership group to move the franchise to Oklahoma City.
Blazers owner Paul Allen, who’s based in Seattle, has been a long time admirer of Calabro’s work. Conversations began when Calabro called the NBA Playoff series for ESPN Radio between the Blazers and the Golden State Warriors. There’s no word yet on who will join him on the broadcast but PJ Carlesimo is a name that has surfaced as a possibility.
Under The Radar:
- Folks inside ESPN Radio have to feel good knowing that the brand is firmly planted inside the minds of most Americans. The network, and its morning show “Mike and Mike”, were included in a New York Times crossword puzzle. To see the image and Mike Greenberg’s comments about why this had special meaning to him click here.
- Starting Monday, Jerry Recco and Al Dukes will gain twenty minutes each morning to host a segment and lead in to Boomer and Carton on WFAN. The duo will hit the airwaves right after the Fan’s 5:40am update, and stay on until 6am.
- A behind the scene change has occurred in Denver. 104.3 The Fan has parted ways with Executive Producer Michael Coover. Coover, had been with The Fan since October 2015 following a long run at the Fox Sports Radio network. He’s looking for his next opportunity and can be contacted here.
- Congratulations are in order for Carlos Rojas who will be leaving ESPN Radio in Bristol, CT to join SiriusXM in Washington D.C. Rojas, had been working as a production assistant on the Russillo and Kanell show. The plan is to utilize him in a utility producer role on SiriusXM’s Golf, MLB, and Soccer coverage. His final day in Bristol is July 1st.