Jeff Van Gundy May 20, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; ESPN commentator Jeff Van Gundy during game three of the Western Conference Finals for the 2023 NBA playoffs between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Denver Nuggets at Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The layoffs at ESPN are continuing. The network has cut quite a lot of prominent figures over the last few months, including executives Russell Wolff and Mike Soltys, as part of wider cost-cutting at parent corporation Disney. And early in June, Andrew Marchand of The New York Post reported that more layoffs were ahead, specifically including some prominent on-air talents. That’s now coming to pass, and one of the big cuts looks to be NBA on ABC/ESPN lead analyst Jeff Van Gundy.

On Friday, Marchand reported that ESPN had sent out an internal memo Friday morning discussing this, and that around 20 on-air personalities were expected to be let go in this new round of layoffs. (This comes after the previous three Disney-mandated rounds, which cut around 7,000 employees across the wider company.) And he then later reported that one of the specific layoffs is Van Gundy. Here’s more from that piece on who could replace Van Gundy:

ESPN has let go its top NBA game analyst Jeff Van Gundy, The Post has learned.

…Van Gundy’s exact salary is not known, but he was making millions. 

…ESPN is expected to replace Van Gundy on its No. 1 team.

Internally, JJ Redick, Doris Burke and Richard Jefferson are the most likely candidates.

Doc Rivers could be an outside choice; especially if his salary demands are offset by what the Sixers still owe him after firing him as their coach.

ESPN has also put out a statement on these layoffs, which they’re calling a “public-facing commentator exercise”:

“Given the current environment, ESPN has determined it necessary to identify some additional cost savings in the area of public-facing commentator salaries, and that process has begun. This exercise will include a small group of job cuts in the short-term and an ongoing focus on managing costs when we negotiate individual contract renewals in the months ahead. This is an extremely challenging process, involving individuals who have had tremendous impact on our company. These difficult decisions, based more on overall efficiency than merit, will help us meet our financial targets and ensure future growth.”

The 61-year-old Van Gundy had been at ESPN/ABC since 2007, pivoting to analyst work following his firing by the Houston Rockets. This year, he called the NBA Finals with play-by-play voice Mike Breen and analyst Mark Jackson for the 15th time, extending their record as a trio. That was his 17th Finals. And he ends his ABC/ESPN career just short of 100 Finals games, a mark that Breen (who has called the Finals 18 times) reached this year.

There’s been some talk of who might be next on the top ESPN/ABC NBA team for some time, from a couple of fronts. The Breen/Van Gundy/Jackson trio has had its admirers, but has also had its critics. And there have long been people making the case for Burke in particular (at ESPN since 1991, working in various roles on their NBA coverage since 2003, and serving as an analyst for select games since 2009 and more regularly since 2017), with Breen in particular saying “Someday she will be” (a lead analyst) back in 2018.

Redick, Jefferson, and Rivers all have much less experience calling games. But they’re interesting candidates to have mentioned there as well. We’ll see what direction ESPN goes in, and we’ll see what’s ahead for Van Gundy.

[The New York Post]



About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.