Last year, we saw WBZ-FM take the first delicate step in replacing a broadcasting legend. Over the last several years it had become increasingly clear that the beloved Gino Cappelletti was no longer what he once was in terms of an analyst. He had difficulty identifying players and marshaling his thoughts at times.
The Patriots radio network made a move prior to last season that had both short and long-term benefits. By placing Scott Zolak in the role of sideline reporter, he was eased into the broadcasts, and provided a third voice and set of eyes to add to the broadcast. It allowed the audience to get more familiar with him, and to pave the way for Zolak to step into Cappelletti's role when the latter retired following last season.
Is CSNNE in the process of also planning for the retirement of a legend? On Thursday afternoon this week, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports tweeted the following:
Brian Scalabrine has turned down coaching job with Bulls and will call games for Comcast Sports New England this season, he tells Y! Sports.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) September 6, 2012
Scalabrine will do color analysis on 11 games for the Celtics, as well as some studio work. "A trial run for both of us," Scalabrine told Y!— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) September 6, 2012
As of this writing, CSNNE has yet to officially announce the hiring of Scalabrine, but the move is intriguing on several levels. Gino Cappelletti and Tommy Heinsohn were born only five months apart in 1934, making them each 78 years old. Unlike Cappelletti, Heinsohn has shown very few signs of slowing down in recent years, about the only concession to his age has been a reduced travel schedule. While Heinsohn remains ebullient, the grim fact remains that at some point, he will need to take a step back, and the day will come when he is no longer a regular part of the broadcasts.
Heinsohn is something of a lightning rod, some find his overt homerism to be distasteful, while the majority embrace it as something you don't see in sports that much anymore, particularly in Boston, where for some reason, showing any favoritism towards the home team is deemed a disfellowshipping offense from the media sports lodge, resulting in permanent excommunication and shunning.
Many fans enjoy when Heinsohn gets worked up at the officials, feeling like he's expressing their own frustration. There would be very few analysts out there who could make that sort of connection with Boston fans.
Enter Brian Scalabrine.
The former bench warmer for the Celtics became a fan favorite during this final years in green, and this past season, following the playoff exit of his Chicago Bulls team, did some work for CSNNE, which was praised.
Scal has shown in the past that he's not afraid to take on the media.
His legend grew during morning appearances on the Toucher and Rich show on 98.5 the Sports Hub, where he was not only amusing, but candid and insightful as to what was happening with the team at that moment.
The tweets show that initially Scalabrine will be working 11 games as analayst, it can be assumed that most of those will be road games in which Heinsohn will remain home. A three-man booth is possible, perhaps for big games, as they used to do with Bob Cousy at the tail-end of his broadcasting career. Studio work was also mentioned, and it makes you wonder if Ray Allen's personal caddy Donny Marshall might be seeing a reduced role. Marshall had been making some national appearances with the NBC Sports Network, even doing some analysis during the Olympics. It could just be that his workload is increasing there.
However it works out, adding Scalabrine to their on-air Celtics broadcasts is a very smart move by CSNNE. If they're planning for a future without Tommy Heinsohn, it's probably the best move they can make.
Bruce Allen is a Media Columnist for SB Nation Boston. Follow him @BruceAllen on Twitter.