Neil Best leaves no stone unturned in the world of sports media.
Brooklyn roots, Canadian sounds for Raptors analyst Jack Armstrong
TORONTO -- Jack Armstrong grew up in Brooklyn, attended Nazareth High School there and still retains the unmistakable sound of his home borough in his raspy, former coach’s voice.
But Saturday, the Fordham alumnus and former Niagara coach played an important role in getting Canadians riled up about the officiating in Game 1 of the Raptors’ series against the Nets.
During the telecast on TSN, the station's longtime analyst took issue with the lack of defensive foul calls against the Nets during one stretch.
What did he say? He recreated it before Game 2 Tuesday night:
“They’re not playing a ‘Hands-Up Harry,’ CYO, two-one-two zone, they're playing man-to-man for 12 minutes with no defensive fouls!’’ Armstrong recalled. “That’s what I said.’’
Armstrong, 51, still lives in Lewiston, N.Y., where he did when he coached at Niagara through 1998, but he has been at TSN for 16 seasons and has become a recognizable face (and voice) of the NBA throughout Canada.
“I love it,’’ he said. “People are very passionate.’’
That was evident Saturday amid a raucous atmosphere before, during and after the game. Armstrong laughed when told he played a role in stirring emotions north of the border and noted GM Masai Ujiri had been far more provocative than he ever was on the air.
"I would never say such a thing!’’ he said, smiling, referring to Ujiri’s vulgar jab at Brooklyn last Saturday, for which he was fined $25,000 by the NBA.
Armstrong still is a Brooklyn kid at heart and is enjoying the fact his old hometown has its own team – and that come Friday he will call a playoff game there.
“I’m absolutely thrilled,’’ he said. “It’s great. Growing up in Brooklyn, every bar I ever went into had a picture of the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers. So to see Brooklyn finally have a team again, it’s wonderful. I’m so excited for all of my friends and family that still live there.
“It’s great. I think it’s great for the borough. It’s part of the resurgence of the borough . . . Growing up in Brooklyn you’d refer to going to Manhattan as ‘going to the city.’ You had this feeling of being second class. Now we have our own team again.’’
Armstrong, who commutes about 80 minutes from home to downtown Toronto, said Canadians do not take his sound for just any old American accent. They can hear the Brooklyn in him across the continent.
“They definitely know the difference,’’ he said.