Today, Front Row continues its “Team Player” series where ESPN commentators honor some of the company’s terrific behind-the-scenes employees who make invaluable contributions to ESPN’s success each and every day.
ESPN play-by-play commentator Ryan Ruocco is a central part of the company’s NBA game telecasts, working alongside everyone from analysts Jeff Van Gundy to Hubie Brown to Doug Collins.
The versatile Ruocco has made quite the positive impression on ESPN’s viewers, and he knows he couldn’t do it without a terrific team of employees working tirelessly behind the scenes.
Ryan’s choice for “team player” is ESPN coordinating editor Larry Starks. Starks, a veteran journalist whose stints include being a Clippers beat writer for The National Sports Daily, served as sports editor for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch before joining ESPN 10 years ago.
What makes Larry successful in his role?
Larry is super dedicated and thorough in providing all of the NBA on ESPN with a comprehensive packet of relevant storylines to each game we do. No matter how many NBA games our network is carrying in a given week or how often a team is and has been on our air, Larry always updates this incredibly thorough research so that we have the very latest most pertinent storylines at our fingertips for every single game. He leaves no stone unturned in making sure every story he provides us with has the most in-depth and supportive sourcing so that we can be as prepared as possible. Larry also makes sure to provide us with stories that are as mainstream as “rest in the NBA” or as off-the-beaten path as “the Morris twins’ tattoos.” It gives us a wide range of knowledge and insight in a consolidated place as we prepare.
How does Larry help you do your job to the best of your ability?
The number one key to play-by-play (and many jobs) is preparation. When I get on air, I want to be able to just perform and react to the game, and the only way to do that is to be completely and totally prepared before that game tips off. Larry is instrumental in my preparation. He saves us countless hours hunting down information by researching, flushing out, and consolidating in one place. Larry makes sure that every storyline he researches and provides helps put us in the present moment with a given team while also having the proper context of their past.
Could you describe a specific instance when Larry went above and beyond to help you?
I feel like Larry always goes above and beyond – always updating and adding storylines morning of the game to make sure we are as prepared as possible. Here’s one specific circumstance – I was doing a New Orleans Pelicans game, and there was some question as to who the organization sent to oversee [guard] Jrue Holliday’s workouts while he was with his wife [former USWNT soccer star Lauren Holiday, who underwent brain surgery on a tumor weeks after the birth of their daughter] and away from the team. Larry – because he didn’t want any discrepancy on air from us – actually personally made sure to find out from the organization just hours before tip whether it was an assistant coach or trainer and who the specific person was so that we would be able to present only the best most accurate info on air. We could’ve easily told the Holliday story on air without the exact person’s name, but Larry is so thorough and insistent on being precise that he ensured we had the deepest clarity in our storytelling. That’s just one example of how much Larry aids our on-air product. I am so grateful for how much easier he makes it for me to do my job.