JJ Redick Doris Burke Mike Breen Credit: ESPN/ABC

“While Van Gundy was one of the best game analysts in sports, top ESPN executives were wary of his desire to coach again.”

That quote comes from a July 2023 Andrew Marchand report in the wake of ESPN laying off Jeff Van Gundy (and many others), ending a tenure that began in 2007 after he called his 17th NBA Finals alongside Mike Breen and 15th alongside Mark Jackson, who ESPN would push out a month later.

Oh, the irony.

JJ Redick and Doc Rivers replaced Van Gundy and Jackson in the booth, joining announcer Mike Breen to form a new top NBA crew. Whatever hopes that ESPN had for that team to last 17 years evaporated in the span of six months when Rivers left to become the head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks.

Now comes news that Redick, who has long positioned himself as one of basketball’s smartest talking heads with a desire to coach one day, is interviewing for the Charlotte Hornets’ head coaching vacancy.

In theory, ESPN might have broken up a well-respected booth that was together for almost two decades for one that couldn’t even last one season.

Concerns over analysts leaving for the coaching ranks are ever-present in this world. It’s true that Van Gundy was rumored to be itching for a return to coaching and is currently a senior consultant for the Boston Celtics. Plenty of coaches move back and forth in the media world. And everyone knows that you hire Doc Rivers for media work at their own peril.

But there’s something particularly damning about the possibility that ESPN blew up “something special,” as Breen put it, and now finds itself potentially planning for an NBA Finals broadcasting crew stuck together with duct tape.

That said, it might work out even better than ESPN could have planned, or hoped.

Doris Burke completed her ascension to the top announcing team after Van Gundy and Jackson left. While she, Breen, and Redick make a very capable trio, there are also moments where you wonder whether or not they’re ultimately the best fit for one another. And if Redick leaves, it might provide the opportunity for ESPN to elevate another much-deserving talent. Perhaps a person without coaching or media domination aspirations who will put their all into announcing and helping complete a trio that can carry ESPN’s NBA coverage into the next decade.

Richard Jefferson was the other leading candidate for the gig before Redick got it, so it might simply be a matter of elevating him when needed.

There’s also the possibility that ESPN just lets Breen and Burke run the show, as was reportedly a possibility before Redick came aboard. Three-person booths can be a delicate balance to get right. Breen-Van Gundy-Jackson had it figured out. Perhaps Breen-Burke-Redick can gel over time as well. But there might be something refreshing about simplifying things and letting the two veterans do their thing as a duo.

While there will be some schadenfreude to go around if Redick leaves for a coaching gig, ESPN will likely end up the better for it. And if he stays, well, ESPN probably knows that they need to start grooming his eventual replacement as he clearly has his eye on other opportunities, or at the very least wants people to see him as someone who can be lured away. Whether that’s Jefferson, Bob Myers, Monica McNutt, or someone else altogether, they’ve got a solid roster of analysts to choose from.

About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to sean@thecomeback.com.