Via Daily Thunder:
That's right. After some investigative reporting by KOKH and the Lost Ogle, it's become apparent that Grant Long is in tremendous debt. The Thunder didn't immediately fire Long, but announced that he would not be returning on Monday.
The news is actually pretty disconcerting. Long has done Thunder color commentary since the team's inaugural season, and having a new voice on the broadcasts just won't be the same. I won't sit here and act like Long was some sort of basketball luminary, but he did bring a certain level of enthusiasm to the job that's going to be missed. I mean, what other announcer has the guts to shout, "Get on the ground!" every time there's a loose ball?
Long also brought a level of insider-access to the broadcasts that will certainly be missed. It was obvious that he had a good relationship with the coaches and staff, and that he spent a fair amount of time talking to them about the game. It was always cool to be able to hear about what Serge Ibaka was working on with Mark Bryant in practice, or what subbing pattern Scott Brooks was thinking of using.
Still, there's no one moment or catchphrase that defines Long's tenure with the Thunder. What really made the time special was the fact that we got to learn this team together. It's really cool to go back to the early seasons and see just how far this broadcast team had come.
Finding a Replacement
The search for a replacement for Grant Long won't be glorious. The Thunder are too young to have a lot of high-profile elder statesmen lurking around, and as a small-market team don't have a ton of money to spend.
Who comes to mind? Well, the Thunder have shuffled various voices around their studio show over the years. Nancy Lieberman currently occupies the studio analysis seat, but having her do play-by-play would involve her moving to Oklahoma City. (That's right, our studio show is shot in Dallas. Ugh, Dallas!) She does a bunch of work for the Texas Legends D-League team down there as well, so I don't see a move forthcoming.
Another possibility is Desmond Mason. He's the only former Thunder player with serious Oklahoma ties, and he's enjoyed a good relationship with the organization over the years. He pops up in the news from time to time, and is pretty darn smart and articulate. Still, Mason has a lot of interests outside basketball (including the local art scene) and no broadcast history to speak of.
Speaking of old Oklahoma basketball icons, there's plenty to choose from. Eddie Sutton and Billy Tubbs are a pair of college basketball coaching legends, but both of them are probably too old to start a new profession. The Price brothers (Mark and Brent) both have a long history with the NBA. Mark is currently an assistant coach with the Bobcats, but Brent is living in Bartlesville and probably available. I've never heard either of them speak, but they're undoubtedly very qualified. Former Oklahoma State star John Starks has remained involved with the NBA long after his retirement, but it's hard to say whether he'd move to the metro. Same goes for former OU star Mookie Blaylock, who now resides in Georgia. Bryant Reeves is another candidate, but something tells me that he'd be happier running his small-town Oklahoma ranch.
Looking at the local sports media scene, the only plausible choice would appear to be Al Eschbach. Al's obviously a very controversial hire, but he does hold the distinction of having covered sports in the metro for longer than anyone else. Al also did several years of radio color commentary for OU basketball, and regularly does segments with Thunder radio play-by-play man Matt Pinto. Still, it's hard to see Eschbach giving up working on OU football, especially at this point in his career. Speaking of OU broadcasts, John Brooks
Beyond these folks, every plausible candidate that I can think of already has a better job lined up. More than likely, the hire is going to be someone we didn't think of or someone that we don't know.
Who would you like to see commentating with BD next season? Let us know in the comments!