Brian Scalabrine talks about his transition to broadcasting
SI.com's Jake Fischer recently wrote an article on Brian Scalabrine, highlighting Scal's long journey to the NBA, his career in the league, and his post-retirement gig as the Celtics' color analyst for away games on Comcast Sports Net.
There are some great quotes included from the White Mamba himself as well as Mike Gorman, Tommy Heinsohn, and a couple of Scalabrine's former coaches.
The article begins with Scal recalling his first broadcast three years ago for a Celtics preseason game against Fenerbahce in Turkey. He was unable to pronounce the name of any Fenerbahce players besides Bo McCalebb, so he found ways to incorporate Bo's name into every play so he wouldn't have to talk about anyone else.
According to Tommy Heinsohn, that fun, outgoing personality that Scal possesses has helped him to stand out in the broadcasting world:
“He’s a fun guy. He’s a very high-energy person and he’s got a zest for life,” says Tommy Heinsohn, the former Celtics head coach and longtime color analyst.
He's not limiting himself to just being an analyst, either. In true Scal fashion, he's riding the wave of his recent success by starting an online video series on Yahoo! Sports entitled "The White Mamba Minute."
Much like his in-game analysis as a broadcaster, the show will be both fun and informative. As a way to honor his ginger brethren, every week during the show Scal will name his "Prestigious Redhead of the Week":
“Blake Griffin wins it every week,” Scalabrine cracks. “And then Matt Bonner wins it one time. So I’ll be like, ‘Let’s update our scoreboard! The update is: Blake Griffin, 36 weeks in a row; and, Matt Bonner… still at zero! Back to you guys!’”
On a more serious note, he remembers going from being cut from all three freshman sports in high school to being the varsity sixth man as a sophomore to being an All-State selection by his senior year.
He initially didn't get any D1 offers coming out of high school, so he went to Highline Community College in Washington, about 25 miles from where he grew up.
When asked about Scal, his coach during his time at Highline gave him the highest form of praise that a coach can give a player:
“He’s a [sic] obsessive-compulsive worker,” says Joe Callero, Scalabrine’s coach at Highline and the head man at Cal Poly. “After 28 years of coaching, he is the hardest worker I have coached.”
After redshirting his sophomore year at Highline, he was able to transfer to USC. As a Trojan he was the team's best scorer for two of his three years and led them to a 24-10 record and an NCAA Tournament berth his senior year in 2000-01.
He was drafted 34th overall in the 2001 NBA Draft, and remembers his mom crying tears of joy while he was busy worrying about making the regular season roster his rookie year:
“My mom was crying after I got drafted. It was ridiculous,” he says. “That doesn’t mean shit, you know? Like what are you doing? People in general like to celebrate mediocrity.” Scalabrine never took a moment to exhale and appreciate the fact he made it. “It wasn’t like that for me. I was always afraid of getting cut.”
In his article a few days ago on the Players' Tribune, Scal talks about how that fear could have become a reality if it weren't for the greatness of Jason Kidd in that 2001-02 season that included a victory over the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals:
"Here’s how I could have had a two-year career in NBA: I get drafted by a team other than the Nets, don’t make the NBA Finals my rookie year and never get a chance to play alongside Jason Kidd. If that sequence of events goes down, I’d probably have been playing in China or Europe, when the Celtics won a title in ’08."
Over the course of his 11-year NBA career, Scalabrine was the definition of mediocre, but as he explains in the SI article, he learned to accept his role as a human victory cigar in the fourth quarter of blowout wins at the Garden:
“I really embraced the fact that my teammates worked really hard to get this 20-point lead, let’s cap it off with a bucket! Let me give the people what they want! I started playing to the crowd, waving to them to chant louder,” Scalabrine says. “I’m incredibly cocky, even though I’m not very good. It’s almost irritating to my opponent.”
Scal also goes into detail about his famous post game press conference after the Celtics 2008 Finals victory over the Lakers, saying that the only reason he was interviewed was because no one could persuade Doc Rivers or a key player to leave the party in the locker room.
That press conference was also referenced in his Players' Tribune article, and Scal admits that he may have been slightly intoxicated at the podium:
"Okay, so the issue was not how much I drank, but when I drank. You see, I had my pre-game meal at 3 p.m. Then the game starts at 9 p.m., and we were celebrating at 1 a.m. A bottle of champagne goes a long way on an empty stomach. After we won, there was champagne everywhere, and it was great. Everyone should get to experience the joy of spraying champagne on their teammates, even if it’s after winning a rec league championship. If you can do it, do it. Before I actually took the podium, I had been looking for my wife so we could take a picture with the trophy. And then I heard Kobe was going to go on stage, so my inebriated mind decided I should hijack the podium because … why not? I mean, that’s the only time in my career I ever stopped Kobe Bryant."
Scalabrine ended his NBA career in Chicago and retired following the Bulls' loss to the Sixers in the first round of the 2012 playoffs.
Immediately after his retirement, he contacted Comcast Sports Net and asked if he could help to cover the Celtics for their series against the Sixers in the second round. The folks at CSN agreed without hesitation and Scal hopped on the next flight to Boston.
Minus his one-year assistant coaching stint with the Golden State Warriors in the 2013-14 season, he's been a mainstay on their broadcasting team. He's confident that analyzing Celtics games is exactly what he wants to be doing right now:
“This is my job. This is what I’m passionate about, what I study. I love the Celtics. I love the area,” he says.
Celtics' longtime play-by-play announcer Mike Gorman, whose opinion on this topic should be highly valued, says that Scal has the potential to be a legend when it comes to calling games:
“I think Scal will be a very, very good longterm addition to us at Comcast Sportsnet and my only hope would be that, at some point, he doesn’t get stolen away by the networks because I think, potentially, he’s that good,” Gorman says. “He’s right there with Tommy and Bill Raftery and the old days of Billy Packer. I’ve worked with a lot of people in my 35 years of doing college and professional basketball, and he has the potential to be one of the best.”
High praise from someone who's over 30 years deep in the Celtics' broadcasting game.