Analyze this: McDonough, Breen offer advice on working with Bilas, Van Gundy in hoops crossover

(L-R) ESPN commentators Jeff Van Gundy, Mike Breen, Jay Bilas and Sean McDonough.
(Joe Faraoni / ESPN Images)

Mike Breen and Sean McDonough, two of the industry’s top play-by-play commentators, will welcome an analyst from a different league to their booth tonight and Monday, respectively.

The midseason one-game addition is part of a crossover that begins with college basketball analyst Jay Bilas joining the ESPN NBA team of Breen, Jeff Van Gundy and Lisa Salters on the Los Angeles Clippers at New York Knicks telecast (tonight, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN). Van Gundy will then team with Bilas, McDonough and Jeannine Edwards for ESPN’s Big Monday Presented by Verizon contest pitting North Carolina at Virginia (Jan. 20, 7 p.m., ESPN).

Breen and McDonough have worked with a variety of analysts in their careers, so a new face next to them on press row isn’t necessarily a challenge. However, a few tips from a colleague who knows his partner best can prove quite beneficial when there is little time to learn someone’s quirks and nuances. These tips might be helpful, even if they are delivered tongue-in-cheek.

McDonough’s tips to Breen on working with Bilas:
• “Don’t be thrown off by his fervent belief that his opinion is always insightful, even when it is clear to most clear-thinking human beings that he couldn’t be more wrong if he tried. As I like to say about Jay, he is ‘often wrong, but never in doubt.’”
• “Don’t be surprised if he doesn’t know your name. He doesn’t care. After all, this is the man who has hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers @JayBilas yet he follows no one. I have worked with Jay for more than a decade and he usually calls me ‘Big Guy’, ‘Chief’, ‘Captain’, or ‘Boss’ because he can’t remember my name.”
• “Don’t worry if you are a little bit hoarse heading into the telecast. You won’t talk very much during a two-hour game alongside Jay.”
• “Be prepared to pay for dinner. . . always. If you want to have the privilege of extra time in his company, Jay expects you to pay for it.”

Breen’s tips to McDonough on working with Van Gundy:
• “Unfortunately, I can’t give Sean tips on how to deal with Jeff off the air. Jeff and I haven’t spoken off the air in about four years.”
• “We got into physical altercation after I claimed NBA refereeing was harder than NBA coaching, and it got violent. Fortunately, [Golden State Warriors head coach] Mark Jackson was still our partner then and he was able to break it up before anyone got seriously hurt. To Jeff’s credit, he has been able to separate personal from professional and we’ve still been able to broadcast together on the air.”
• “As far as on-air advice for Sean, the first thing is don’t make eye contact. Jeff prefers not to have anybody looking at him. And secondly, he should refer to all coaches as a ‘great coach’. And he would get on Jeff’s good side immediately if he has at least 26 NBA coaches who he feels deserve NBA Coach of the Year consideration.”

Ben Cafardo contributed to this post

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