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Vitale on Sportscasters Hall of Fame

Best award

ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale turns 74 today and will get a heck of a birthday present Monday.

Vitale is being inducted into the National Sportscasters Hall of Fame in Salisbury, N.C.

"It's an honor that blows me away," Vitale said. "When I look back at my career, I pinch myself. … It's just beyond belief. To be selected by your peers is quite a thrill, and I'm just honored beyond belief."

Vitale will be inducted by ESPN executive chairman and former president George Bodenheimer.

Vitale has been with ESPN for 34 years and has no plans on slowing down.

"I have the energy of a teenager," he said. "And I hope I always do."

Most interesting hire

The big news out of TBS last week was that it had signed former ESPN and MSNBC personality Keith Olbermann (right) to host the network's baseball postseason studio show. But there was an under-the-radar move that might, ultimately, have a bigger impact on baseball coverage.

TBS also extended the contract of game analyst Ron Darling. What makes that interesting is Darling was considered by many to be the leading candidate to replace Tim McCarver, who is retiring after this season at Fox. Darling told the New York Daily News that he never had any discussions with Fox but admitted he was intrigued by the job because of the respect he had for McCarver.

So who are the top candidates now to replace McCarver? Well, TBS has a couple of solid analysts in John Smoltz and Dennis Eckersley. Eric Karros is already at Fox and might have the inside track. Or, perhaps, Fox will just wait and see who might become available in the offseason, such as a recently retired player or recently fired manager.

My choice? With Darling locked up and the lack of national talent out there, I'd try to talk McCarver into coming back for another year.

Best cameos

The passing of NFL legend Deacon Jones (right) last week reminded me of a couple of cameo TV appearances he made when he played in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

There was the time he made a guest spot on The Brady Bunch, encouraging Bobby to stick with the glee club despite taunts of being a "songbird" and a "canary" by this teammates. Then there was the classic Odd Couple when he played himself starring in a commercial with Oscar as the co-star and Felix as the director.

The Brady Bunch often had sports stars appearing as themselves, including the Dodgers' Don Drysdale and Wes Parker, and NFL great Joe Namath.

Most abrasive

I've written before how the Spurs' Gregg Popovich (right) might be the best coach in the NBA but is a total pill when it comes to doing in-game courtside interviews. I'm not alone in my opinion.

ABC's Doris Burke, one of the best sideline reporters in the business and who knows her stuff and always asks good questions, told the shermanreport.com that there is "no coach in the league … where I feel more angst" than Popovich when it comes to in-game interviews. Burke said it's "blatantly obvious how much he objects to it."

However, Burke, who is working the sideline for the NBA Finals, points out that the interviews are not optional, for either him or her. She said she tries not to take Popovich's abrupt answers personally, but it isn't easy.

To his credit, Popovich actually treated Burke with the respect she deserves during Thursday's Game 1 interview. He wasn't suddenly Jimmy Fallon, but he was decent. Let's see how it goes tonight in Game 2.

Newest partner

Former Bucs defensive back Ronde Barber (gee, it still feels weird to call him "former") announced last week that he was joining Fox's NFL coverage and is expected to be paired with play-by-play veteran Dick Stockton. For the past two seasons, Stockton had been the on-air partner of another former Bucs defensive back, John Lynch. So with Barber joining Stockton, who will be Lynch's new partner? Reportedly, it will be Kevin Burkhardt, who also works as a reporter and occasional announcer on Mets games for SportsNet New York.

It shows how far Lynch has come and how much Fox trusts him to pair him with a newcomer to the network.

Funniest line

"I've seen A-Rod play and he should be getting his money back from the steroid people."

David Letterman, CBS late-night host, talking about Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez's name being linked to the latest performance-enhancing drug scandal

Least surprising

Maybe we shouldn't be all that surprised that George Karl is out as coach of the Nuggets despite being named NBA coach of the year. Karl was headed into the final year of his contract and wanted an extension, probably for way more money than Denver was willing to pay. I wouldn't even be surprised if Karl purposefully priced himself out of Denver in order to start over somewhere else.

I like Karl. He seems like a good guy, and his story about overcoming cancer is an inspiring one. But Karl's biggest flaw as a coach has been his lack of playoff success.

He has coached 25 NBA seasons and has made the playoffs 22 times. That's great. But he has been to the NBA Finals just once, with Seattle in 1995-96 when the Sonics lost to the Bulls. His teams have been knocked out in the first round 14 times, including eight of the past nine times they have made the postseason. Karl's all-time postseason record is 80-105, including 23-42 since 2003.

Three things that popped into my head

1. It's annoying when anyone talks about this year's NBA Finals and says that the series is in "South Beach." No, it's not. It's in Miami. Those are different places.

2. Isn't it interesting that the 12 finalists fans could vote for on profootballtalk.com's Mount Rushmore for the Bucs did not include one quarterback?

3. The Mount Rushmore list did not include first-ever coach John McKay, who deserved consideration.

tom jones' two cents

Vitale on Sportscasters Hall of Fame 06/08/13 [Last modified: Saturday, June 8, 2013 9:26pm]

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