Photo credit: ESPNN

If you thought Chris “Mad Dog” Russo was above floating some conspiracy theories about ESPN, you would be incorrect.

Last week, Russo unleashed an insane rant, in which he suggested that both NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Kansas City Chiefs principal owner Clark Gunt are among those placing bets in Vegas. This was in response to the league’s crackdown on gambling and subsequent suspensions.

While his latest rant isn’t related to the NFL or gambling, it’s clear Russo wants to continue to take aim at commissioners of major sports, and did so again Tuesday. Perhaps this one holds a little bit more weight, considering he’s platformed by ESPN.

Russo is of the belief that there is more than meets the eye when it comes to Jeff Van Gundy being let go by The Worldwide Leader after 17 years. Russo admitted that he may hold a little bias here, considering he’s known the former head coach of the New York Knicks for over 30 years, and that Van Gundy is often a guest on his show.

Still, something smells a little fishy to the “Mad Dog.”

“Let me put it this way, I can’t fathom the idea that ESPN in these layoffs…would fire Jeff Van Gundy,” Russo said on his Sirius XM podcast Mad Dog’s Daily Bite on Tuesday. “You’re not going to convince me that ESPN (and Disney boss Bob Iger) woke up in the last two weeks, looked at the budget sheet, and said, ‘We gotta fire Van Gundy because we gotta save some money.'”

Russo said if that was the case, they should’ve fired Marc Jackson instead.

“Fire the both of them,” he continued. “Save real money, bring one guy in, and pay him half. If you really wanted to go out there and save money with your NBA crew, which you could’ve done is fired the both of them and just hired Doc Rivers and paid him half of what those two were making. You could’ve saved a fortune and done a two-man booth. You could’ve easily have done that.”

You are not going to convince Russo that ESPN woke up one day and decided to “can” Van Gundy. He did mention that a couple of times.

“ESPN will never admit it. They’re gonna say it’s our call. Nonsense. Why would they get rid of a great team? That team is a great team with [Mike Breen]…You’re not going to convince me that that team, that everybody likes. Nobody doesn’t like that team. I mean, is it [Al] McGuire, [Dick] Enberg and [Billy] Packer? That’s special. That’s an all-timer. It’s also 40 years ago. Is it [John] Madden and Pat [Summerall]? In this day and age, that team is as good as a team that you’re going to find doing broadcast television doing an event. You’re not finding any better team. You’re not doing it.”

That leaves Russo with only one choice: the conspiracy theory route.

“That leads me to the conclusion that someone in the league office must’ve told ESPN, ‘I want Van Gundy out,'” Russo claims. “We all know he’s biting. We all know he gets on the officials. We all know he doesn’t hold back with his NBA opinions. He tells you what he thinks, which is what a great broadcaster is supposed to do anyways. What is going on right now in the negotiation scenario? ESPN and NBC and TNT, what are they doing? They’re all negotiating with [commsioner Adam] Silver and the NBA. 

“So, if you’re asking me, little talk show host, who may not know a thing, this is just my opinion, Silver is the one who fired Van Gundy. Silver told ESPN, ‘I want him out. You want to do the games in the next contract? I don’t want Van Gundy doing the games. I don’t want him knocking the league. I want a pom-pom guy in there….’”

It’s unclear if Russo remembers that he too is an ESPN guy, appearing weekly on First Take, though the longtime radio host reiterated that it was only his opinion.

We’re sure all of this will go over well behind closed doors. 

[Mad Dog’s Daily Bite]

About Sam Neumann

Since the beginning of 2023, Sam has been a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. A 2021 graduate of Temple University, Sam is a Charlotte native, who currently calls Greenville, South Carolina his home. He also has a love/hate relationship with the New York Mets and Jets.