The good news for Mike Breen is the Knicks are relevant again, which makes calling their games more enjoyable. The bad news is ESPN’s new-found interest in them puts him in some awkward spots.
With ESPN and MSG both televising Celtics-Knicks Wednesday and Heat-Knicks Friday, Breen called the former game on MSG, then will move down press row to call the latter for ESPN.
He said while he works 50-55 games per season for both networks, contractually ESPN has first dibs. But the network allowed him to do the Celtics game on MSG essentially as a favor; it will do so again Jan. 7 when Amar’e Stoudemire’s return to Phoenix appears on both channels.
“[The arrangement] works because the executives at both have gone over the top to be gracious and accommodating,’’ he said. “I say to [ESPN], ‘I’ve got a bunch of really big Knicks games, they’re all on ESPN. Can I do one for MSG? I don’t want it to be where I’m not doing all the big games.’
“They were gracious and said, ‘Sure, you can do Boston for MSG, but we need you for the Heat.’’’
Breen’s national schedule leads to some awkward absences from MSG, such as on opening night. But it’s worth it to the network to be flexible with him.
For one thing, there is a prestige factor in having your local announcer also be the lead voice for the league's national broadcast partner.
For another, forcing him to choose between the two would in effect be forcing him to choose the national gig, no matter how strong his ties are to the Knicks and MSG.