NBC adds to postseason call with Collins hiring

Media Watch

March 19, 1998|By Milton Kent

The official NBA trading deadline has passed, but NBC has pulled the equivalent of a last-minute move to bolster its playoff position with the acquisition of Doug Collins for its No. 1 announcing team.

Collins, who was the best NBA analyst in the business for six years before leaving the booth to return to coaching with the Detroit Pistons, immediately gives NBC a needed shot of veteran leadership heading into the postseason.

At the same time, Collins, who was fired 45 games into this season after leading the Pistons to successive 50-win seasons, gets back into the game he dearly loves at a job that he excels in.

"I don't feel scarred [by the firing]. I told Dick [Ebersol, NBC Sports president] that after six years in broadcasting that I needed to do this [coaching], and it was a very positive experience," said Collins. "I feel very good about where I am, and I think it will make me a better analyst."

Collins will join Bob Costas and Isiah Thomas beginning March 29 for the San Antonio Spurs-Indiana Pacers game and continue with them through the NBA Finals, and remain through all of next season, as well as contribute to NBC's Olympic telecasts from Sydney in 2000.

Collins, who coached the Chicago Bulls for three years, had been talking with Turner, where he made his reputation as an analyst, about returning, but was unable to come to an agreement with the cable giant.

"At Turner, it was frustrating for me because I always wanted to be a part of the finals. This is going to give me the opportunity to do that," said Collins.

Ebersol said the acquisition of Collins was in no way a reflection of dissatisfaction with the work of Thomas, who has been panned in some corners, but rather a chance to pick up a superb talent who had become available.

At the same time, Ebersol said he hopes Thomas will work at being more concise with his stories and commentary.

"I think Isiah has shown enormous growth in the last five or six weeks," said Ebersol. "I think he's going to be a world-class talent."

Bill Walton, who had joined the former lead team of Marv Albert and Matt Guokas for the title series, will instead contribute to the pre-game, halftime and post-game shows during the finals.

Meanwhile, Ebersol said he was "disappointed" with a recent arbitrator's decision that reinstated the contract of Golden State Warriors guard Latrell Sprewell, but said he was "even more disappointed" with Sprewell's statements since the decision was announced earlier this month.

"That's indicative of the guy having some serious problems. I have to wonder what the arbitrator was thinking," said Ebersol.

Sideline patrol

In yet another attempt to bring some life to the creaky "Monday Night Football" format, ABC announced yesterday that Lesley Visser will serve as sideline reporter this fall.

Visser, whose garish hats have become a strange staple of ABC's Triple Crown coverage, was a regular on the old "NFL Today" on CBS before jumping to ABC and ESPN in 1994, and joins Boomer Esiason as a new addition to the "MNF" crew.

In case you were wondering, Visser is married to Fox/Turner announcer Dick Stockton.

Real solid effort

Frank Deford's feature on Durham, N.C.'s Mount Zion Academy is the centerpiece of tonight's worthwhile "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" on HBO at 9: 30 p.m.

If the name of the school doesn't ring a bell for anyone outside the most rabid basketball aficionados, it's because it's a Christian-based high school that blends education with a strict sense of discipline. It also produced Toronto Raptors rookie and lottery pick Tracy McGrady.

Armen Keteyan also takes a look at the point-shaving scandal that enveloped the Arizona State men's basketball program. The story doesn't introduce any new material, but is useful background in the midst of the NCAA tournament, which is doubtless why the piece is airing in this month's program.

Weekend ratings

The ratings for the top 10 most-watched sporting events on Baltimore television last weekend:

Event, Day, Ch., R/S

Maryland-Ill., Sat., 13, 12.3/24

Mich.-UCLA, Sun., 13, 10.3/18

Valpo-Fla. St., Sun., 13, 7.5/17

Mich. St.-Prin., Sat., 13, 7.3/18

UConn-Ind., Sat., 13, 7.0/13

Md.-Utah St., Thu., 13, 6.6/16

UNLV-Prin., Thu., 13, 6.4/10

N.C.-UNC-Char., Sat., 13, 6.0/16

Duke-Radford, Thu., 13, 5.9/11

TCU-Fla. St., Fri., 13, 5.6/14

R-Rating. S-Share

Pub Date: 3/19/98

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