When Walt Frazier has his headphones on, Mike Breen is his longtime MSG Networks partner on Knicks games – a respected colleague, certainly, but still a guy he is working with to get a job done.
Then Frazier hears Breen call a game nationally for ESPN/ABC, or perhaps on the replay of a local Knicks telecast they called together, and gains a different appreciation for him.
"Sometimes I listen to the games afterward and I might be half asleep and I’m just listening, and I go, ‘Man, that guy’s good,’" Frazier said in an interview with Newsday.
He added, "You appreciate the guy’s talent. It’s like watching players and you say, ‘Oh, man, this guy’s good.’ I’ve been there. I’ve seen the evolution."
That evolution will be recognized on Friday in Uncasville, Connecticut, when Breen accepts the Curt Gowdy Media Award from the Basketball Hall of Fame, part of a delayed and relocated Hall of Fame weekend.
Breen learned he would be honored in February of 2020, but after a couple of COVID-19-forced delays, the time finally is at hand to make it official.
"There is part of it that is still hard to believe," Breen said in an interview with Newsday.
The best part of getting the news last year, he said, was hearing from family, friends and colleagues and having the chance to thank them for the parts they played in his career and life.
"Now that it’s here again I’m starting to hear from people all over again," he said. "It’s starting to get emotional again."
The list of past winners in the award’s "electronic" category is a Who’s Who of basketball voices, beginning with Gowdy himself in 1990 and including Marty Glickman (1991), who heavily influenced Marv Albert (1997), who in turn heavily influenced Breen.
Albert, who turns 80 next month, widely is expected to call his last conference final for TNT this summer. Breen, who turns 60 next week, will call the Finals for the 16th year in a row, and now finds himself an announcing elder statesman.
"I don’t say this with false modesty, but sometimes you look at [the past winners list] and say, ‘OK, what’s wrong with this picture?’" he said. "Or it’s the old phrase: Which doesn’t belong, and why? Because you just don’t put yourself in the category of these people."
Breen has hosted or attended past Hall of Fame events and always is struck by what a humbling event it can be, not only for broadcasters and writers, but even for players and coaches.
"I know exactly how they’re feeling," he said. "It’s a very humbling experience."
Breen said he hopes to continue working as long as he continues to enjoy the preparation part of the job. Some parts never will get old, though.
"There is still nothing like broadcasting the last five minutes of a close game," he said. "I’m still like a little kid when that happens."
Breen naturally was a fan of Frazier the player as a kid in Yonkers, and now has worked with him for three decades.
"We’ve had chemistry from Day One," Frazier said. "Like he tells me all the time, it’s just like we’re two guys talking, with our stories and everything. That’s the way we’ve had it from the get-go."
Frazier called Breen a respected "voice of reason" for fellow announcers and production people, given how long he has been on the job and how much he respects it.
"When I’m working with Mike, I know I have to be prepared; I have to do my homework," Frazier said. "It’s just like playing Earl 'The Pearl' [Monroe] or Oscar Robertson. We definitely have brought out the best in each other."