Pierce and Garnett homecoming has familiar feel for ESPN’s McNeeley

Former Celtics players Kevin Garnett (L) and Paul Pierce (Joe Faraoni / ESPN Images)
Brooklyn Nets’ stars Kevin Garnett (L) and Paul Pierce (C) return to Boston to face their former team, the Celtics, on Sunday. (Joe Faraoni / ESPN Images)

Brooklyn Nets’ stars Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett will make what is expected to be an emotional return to Boston this Sunday to face the team they won a championship with in 2008 – the Boston Celtics.

However, the two future Hall of Famers aren’t the only ones making a Boston return this Sunday. ESPN coordinating producer and Medfield, Mass.-native Tom McNeeley returns to “The Hub” and will lead ESPN’s telecast (6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN and WatchESPN). Mark Jones, Jon Barry and Chris Broussard will provide commentary.

McNeeley is no stranger to memorable Boston sports moments. His family has lived them. He comes from a line of boxers, including his late father Tom McNeeley, Jr. and his grandfather Tom McNeeley, Sr. Additionally, Tom’s brother “Hurricane” Peter McNeeley famously fought Mike Tyson in 1995.

Front Row had the opportunity to catch up with McNeeley as he prepares to tell a basketball story that has both local and national appeal.

What’s it like to produce a game in your hometown of Boston?
It’s always special. As a young boy, I used to run around the old Boston Garden when my dad (a former heavyweight champ) was involved in boxing. He was also a referee for the old World Wrestling Federation (WWF). And in the old days of wrestling, I’d go and watch him.

Then, I’ll never forget, I was working at NESN and I had the opportunity to work with CBS Sports when they had the NBA contract. We had a chance to see how a national network carried the NBA. So now when I get to go into the Garden in my hometown to produce a game for ESPN, it is extra special.

How do you plan to tell the story of Pierce’s and Garnett’s return to Boston?
Starting in the 6 p.m. SportsCenter, we’re going to have some elements, whether it’s a Pierce interview or perhaps shots of Pierce and Garnett earlier in the day greeting former teammates, trainers, Celtics personnel or fans. On the game telecast, we’re going to take it a little bit before 6:30, and we’ll have the player introductions live.

The first time Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are introduced in Boston (as Brooklyn Nets) should be a good moment. We’re also prepared with a video tribute for Garnett in the first quarter and also a video tribute to Pierce. I think the entire night will be moments and memories for what these guys did for the Boston community and how these guys helped raise a banner. But, will the game be secondary that night? No. You have Rondo back. You have the Nets finally playing well again.

What do you want fans to take away from a game you produce?
That’s a great question. Anything I produce, I want fans to feel like they have great stories they’ve learned and that the story has been properly documented. The goal is to take care of the fan and to serve the fan.

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