Mike Fratello figures viewers will hear his famous nickname from its famous author within the first 15 seconds or so of Thursday night’s NBA play-in broadcast on TNT.
"He’ll be welcoming everyone and when he gets done telling them that it’s a balmy day or a rainy day, whatever the temperature is, then I think he’ll go directly to the 'Czar' next to him," Fratello said in an inteview with Newsday.
The "he" Fratello referenced is Marv Albert, and the occasion will be a reunion of the two longtime TV partners for the Eastern Conference play-in game between the Pacers and Wizards. Fratello even did a mini Albert imitation when he said the word "Czar."
Turner arranged the pairing as part of Albert’s last season calling NBA playoff games. He announced on Monday he would retire at the conclusion of the Eastern Conference finals.
Fratello, whom Albert long ago dubbed "the Czar of the Telestrator," still works as a TV analyst, notably doing many Clippers games locally this season. But he has not partnered on a game with Albert since Nov. 2, 2017.
On that occasion the Warriors defeated the Spurs, 112-92, in San Antonio behind 24 points from Kevin Durant.
The circumstances this time will be different, including the fact Albert and Fratello will not be on site but rather will call the game off monitors in an Atlanta studio.
But Fratello appreciates the chance to be a part of his friend’s playoff sendoff.
"We always enjoyed working with each other, because I think we both tried to do our homework, both knew the other person was going to come in prepared for the game," Fratello said. "One of the things that has made Marv so good over the years is he’s not just an announcer . . . It was the fact that Marv understands basketball.
"Things that you’re talking about Xs-and-Os-wise, he understands all that and gets it. So it makes him a little bit better than other people who might have great voices also, because he really looks at the game and when you say something he’s got it."
Fratello said the fact the two became "very, very close friends" allowed for frank feedback from Albert that helped Fratello transition from coach to broadcaster.
"He was never afraid to teach and to help me," Fratello said. "Sometimes people that were in coaching, whatever the sport, when they go into TV the people that they work with don’t want to say anything that will hurt their feelings or make them angry.
"That was never our relationship. Our relationship was, if there was something wrong that could be corrected, he would tell me. I appreciated it because it was helping me try to grow as a broadcaster and learn from the best in the business. Why wouldn’t I listen? Why wouldn’t I pay attention to that?"
Albert turns 80 next month, and Fratello is 74. Albert’s retirement came as no surprise, but his old friend said he wished it were not so.
"I was hoping that it wouldn’t be that, because I think he still has more years left in him," Fratello said. "He’s done more than his fair share in bringing the NBA to where it is right now and how well it’s recognized and the number of people who follow it, because of that voice, hearing that voice.
"All the big games that he’s done over the years and then his voice on the video games for young kids growing up, he was their voice. So he’s earned it. If it’s time for him in his mind to walk away from it, he certainly has earned it and left this league in a great place."