As the NBA D-League becomes more and more prevalent, there are continued call-ups across the board: coaches, players, executives, scouts, referees, public relations officials, and more. The minor league continues to be, not only a place where employees of all kinds can further hone their respective crafts, but also a proving ground for them all to strut their stuff and current abilities.
It's so easy to notice players who dunk, drain three-point field goals, crash the boards, make savvy passes, play physical defense, etc. All of these aforementioned skills can result in some impressive moves, but for viewers, the excitement surrounding it all is built up by those calling the action: the broadcasters.
The D-League is a great place to hone in on who may represent the NBA in the near future. Needless to say, as the overall talent pool continues to deepen, there quite a few up and coming broadcasters who continue to further their careers by shedding some well deserved light on those who may otherwise fly under the radar --- themselves included. With that in mind, Kevin Danna (Santa Cruz Warriors), Meghan McPeak (Raptors 905), and David Resnick (Westchester Knicks) undoubtedly highlight the cream of the crop.
There's no denying that what they all do is quite unique. This not only has to do with their high talent level and respective professionalism, but also because they continue to educate fans. Those who listen to and watch D-League broadcasts aren't tuning in to watch Stephen Curry, DeMar DeRozan, and/or Carmelo Anthony. Instead, hoping to get a sneak peek at a potential diamond in the rough of two proves to be a learning experience, and these broadcasters are the ever prepared, knowledgeable, passionate, and colorful teachers.
"People have asked me in the past, how much harder is doing the D-League than high school stuff," Resnick, who also covers high school sports for MSG Varsity, told RidiculousUpside.com. "I almost contend that it's easier. The game is at a high level and is much faster, but the resources are much bigger. There are always multiple papers and/or sites that have covered these players. You can get a basis of where to trace the breadcrumbs with the regard to their history. You're dealing with quality public relations and communications staffs that create game-notes. There are many things that help you paint the picture of who these players are. You're able to build your own packet of clips for most of these players."
"Like Rick James in the Dave Chappelle skit says, 'Cocaine is a hell of a drug,' well RealGM, Eurobasket, and others are each a hell of a website! I live on those websites when it comes to researching players and necessary stats," Danna said about his preparation for games. "But there's another part of that too. I'll google players and look up things and find out that Aaron Craft can do a Rubik's Cube in 55 seconds. That won't be on a RealGM profile, but I take a lot of pride in researching those things that won't show up in game notes.
"It took me a few broadcasts into my student radio days to realize I needed a system. I have so many charts now. I make a checklist. It's more than just knowing names and numbers," he added. There's no doubt a similar mentality is applied when covering the D-League. Just like her broadcasting contemporaries, McPeak also has her own unique way of diving in.
"Much like a coach would prep for upcoming opponents, I do it the same way. I want to be prepped for the players. When the coaches have locker room availability, I'm talking to them about their plan and players to look for," she said. "I could go into it thinking I know who to look for, but a coach could certainly point out a dark horse and tell me to keep an eye out."
The 905 play-by-play commentator added that she continues to research, watch film, and confers with assistant coaches about game day strategy. "I watch teams that are coming up for the Raptors 905 when the team is on the road. If they have a home and home matchup, I'm able to watch them play on the road on a Saturday, and then eventually call our game at home on Sunday," McPeak explained. "The way that the schedule is makes the research and learning curve a bit easier. You're seeing the same teams a lot, whereas in the NBA you play all thirty teams."
Such a job opportunity is surely unique, but perhaps also more pressure-filled than some realize, given the preparation that goes into performing at a high level. And though the D-League boasts a smaller stage than that of the NBA or the other three remaining major sports, the value in being involved is undeniable.
"Taking my learning and my development to the next level. I started off doing college ball, and then I did two seasons [broadcasting] with the NBLC. I was given the opportunity to go to the 905, and I felt it was a positive step for me," McPeak said. "It's another chance for me to get better and kind of figure out what I need to do to improve as a professional, within the confines of the NBA. I enjoy being a part of the NBA and D-League family."
"It was, by far, my favorite part of the gig. I loved traveling. It gave me a real feel for the D-League. It's much different than just doing the 24 or so games at home and attending a few practices. You see how these guys are when they're waiting for a flight, getting delayed two or three hours, and eating with them," he pointed out. "You see the hotels, where they stay, and it gives you an idea of how they [act]. It's not horrible traveling, but when I was Manager at Stanford, we were staying at high quality places and getting the red-carpet rolled out by comparison. But I definitely loved traveling."
Danna added, "I liked being able to make connections with other staffs. I text with people like former Sioux Falls PR director Brett Hansen and Rebecca Sweat of the RGV Vipers, and we can rely on each other for just random stuff. I liked building relationships. Getting soundbites for interviews is cool, but I liked that I was able to get my face in front of the coaches; more hands to shake."
Danna is quick to give credit and gush about those around him, but his talent can't be denied.
"Kevin is a Stanford and Northwestern guy and has this superb educational background, coupled with the aptitude, talent, and humility to relate to everyone in our organization. It's a lethal combination. Once people get to know him, it's very evident how talented he is. He's proven time and time again how trustworthy he is and how good he is at what he does. He brings so much to the organization, and his role and visibility has been increased year after year. We'll give him any opportunity he asks for within reason," Gina Antoniello, Santa Cruz's Director of Public and Community Relations, said of Danna's credibility and continued opportunities. Despite not traveling with the team this season, Danna has his own podcast featured on the team's website. Antoniello also praised his storytelling ability.
"They took me under their wing. They didn't know who I was. I had maybe talked to a guy like Casey Hill (then a Santa Cruz assistant, now head coach) for maybe thirty seconds before my first season even started, and then there I was, on the road," Danna said of his early days with the Warriors and their continued embrace. "But Casey was really cool to me. Everyone was. It's been great, and that helped me realize I wanted to be here for a long time."
It's safe to say that many people in the D-League is hungry for opportunity, want to be seen, and and as such, are relatively open, warm, and accommodating to the media. This makes them all much easier to cover, but it won't always be that way as these broadcasters make their way up to the NBA.
"Yes and no. Sometimes it's good to have a challenge," McPeak said when asked if she enjoys the accommodating style. "Everyone knows Coach Popovich is not the most fun interview. I'd enjoy the challenge of getting him to actually have a conversation! But it does make it easier in the sense that guys are willing to be open and talk to you."
That said, she knows what a goal of hers needs to be in her continued growth as she continues to further her career.
"Everyone who I talk to on or about the NBA level says the same thing. It's all about trust. You want to get the most information from players and coaches to be the best at your job," McPeak conveyed. "But as long as you don't come across as that snake-like reporter, they'll be more willing to talk to you. Those in the NBA can be tight-lipped. In the D-League, the eye isn't always on them. They like talking to you and want to get their name out there."
McPeak's style comes off as warm, friendly, well researched, and she knows how to keep the pace of a given content --- how to amp it up, or keep things even-keel. Currently in her first season with Toronto's affiliate, she's been quick to garner a lot of praise across the league for her immediate professional approach. She's a rising star.
Speaking of fellow rising stars, Resnick's passionate approach comes as he basks in everything he continues to learn from being around those in Westchester. He's able to take what he learns, work it into his broadcasts, and also does sideline interviews as well. His continued progress has led to him appearing on NBATV as one of the D-League's play-by-play staffers during the Showcase in each of the last two seasons. He's certainly proven himself worthy of such a chance, because he understands what it's all about.
"It's certainly an honor, when considering the pool of talent available, not only from D-League broadcasters, but from the NBATV side as well. It's an honor to go out there and be asked to represent the D-League in front of a national audience. I get to spread the message and educate the basketball fan about how the league works, the value of the league, and tell the stories of so many of these players," he said. "There are guys who people have fond memories of from watching them play college ball or earlier in the NBA. And when you look at a guy like Alex Stepheson, there's a chance that following his unconventional path, fans first found out about him at the Showcase."
Currently in his fourth season in Santa Cruz, Danna found himself on ESPN last season during the Warriors' playoff and eventual title run. He's already done televised broadcasts this season as well, both on ESPN again, and NBATV for the first time during the Showcase. A veteran amongst D-League broadcasters now, Danna is obviously strong in background info, but also calls games with a necessary heightened level of crescendo and an ever colorful vocabulary that helps endear himself even further to viewers.
There are plenty of talented individuals in the D-League, but perhaps the increased popularity is, partially in part due, to the beautiful pictures the likes of Danna, McPeak, and Resnick paint with their words. As they do so, they only continue to prove they too are deserving of consideration for further advancement opportunities. They're each on the cusp of something special.