Courtesy of Tom D’Angelo
Q: We’ll start with your attendance record. Why have you missed three games in 29 years?
ER: The very first one was for family reasons. The second one was in Orlando, It was within the last 10 years, I developed laryngitis and I was just convinced my voice would come back. I prepared to do the game and didn’t realize I wasn’t going to until two hours before. I remember sitting under the basket that night watching the game understanding how truly blessed I am to have the job I have.
The third game was three years ago. My mother-in-law died at 1 o’clock in the afternoon on a game day. Everybody in my family encouraged me to go to work that night, including more importantly my wife, my oldest daughter and my sister-in-law. As I was driving to the game, I was 10 minutes down I-95, a voice inside my head said to me, ‘You’ve made this mistake 1,000 times in your life. Don’t make it again tonight.’ The Heat understood and I turned my car around and when I got back to Boca Regional Hospital and the look on my family’s face when I walked in made me understand it was the best adult decision I ever made and it taught me a life-long lesson.
I always prided myself on never missing a game and it wasn’t until that moment I realized the true badge of honor there is understanding when to miss the game. I’ve missed so many big life events to do games at every level, it felt good to make that adult decision for my family and it was a very meaningful missed game for me.
Q: You’re a Heat original, along with broadcasters Jose Paneda and Tony Fiorentino, who started as an assistant coach. …
ER: We’re three of about eight left and we’re still traveling as broadcast brothers. The friendship and bond all the orignals have and the three of us everywhere we go we’re definitely Heat historians, Heat goodwill ambassadors.
Q: What is your favorite memory from the first year?
ER: It was all so new and it was all so special. I felt like everybody with the Heat that year we were like basketball pioneers blazing a new trail. Everything felt great and special. The losing started right out of the gate and grew so big, so quickly, starting 0-18. I think it was when we were 0-15 we lost at Chicago Stadium to Michael Jordan’s Bulls and (after the game) I see (coach) Ron Rothstein engulfed by the national media. I was like, ‘Wow, it’s gotten to this.’ The night of that first win in Los Angeles (against the Clippers) I always say, a great wait ended and an even greater weight was lifted.
Q: How did three years as an analyst prepare you for play-by-play?
ER: I was prepared coming here to do play-by-play because that’s what I did. But I wouldn’t have had the courage to take the Heat job if it was just that. For Sports Channel Florida I was doing play-by-play for University of Miami football and a college basketball package so I felt like I wasn’t totally leaving play-by-play.
Doing the color, the experience of being a broadcaster in the league and learning the league on a first row, first hand basis and the extraordinary access Ron Rothstein gave me to the product, I was there at almost every practice, I sat in on film sessions, I was at every shoot-around, I was very close to the staff and the team and it fast-tracked my learning curve to the nuances of the NBA.
Q: That’s access nobody gets nowadays, right?
ER: It was a lot smaller organization then and it was the trust and bond Ron Rothstein and I had. I privately have thanked him for this and I always try to publicly do it, too. I don’t know if I would have succeeded at whatever level I did those first three years as a color analyst who didn’t play or coach.
Q: How did ‘kaboom’ originate?
ER: That started in the backseat of a cab with Dr. Jack Ramsay. Jack was one of the most engaging men I’ve ever been around and he with sincerity engaged every cab driver we encountered. This one particular guy, Jack found out he was a big Bulls fan, never went to a game and he said he absolutely loved listening to the Chicago Bulls on radio. Neil Funk was the radio guy back then. As soon as he said that my interest got piqued. I’m like, ‘Why do you like listening on the radio so much?’ And his answer was, ‘Because the announcer says kaboom.’ I was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding. When does he do that?’ ‘On threes, on big shots.’ So I jokingly looked at Jack and said, of all the things we take pride in saying and informing and educating, this is what a fan was responding to.’
So that night in the United Center I used my first Kaboom. I’ve been Kabooming ever since. A number of years ago I told Neil Funk not only had I stolen his line but that it was working for me and he met that with mixed reaction.
Q: Why have you and your current broadcast partner, Tony Fiorentino, meshed so well?
ER: We’ve been really close friends for 29 years. He was on the original coaching staff. Tony and I were both from the Northeast. We knew a lot of the same people from high school and college basketball. And to have both land in Miami with an expansion team. … 29 years of brotherhood, of friendship, of being proud and loyal and humble Heat employees. He’s like the older brother I don’t have that I now do have. It’s been a pleasure to share the time on and off the air with Tony.
Q: You were the play-by-play man for Providence College’s run to the Final Four in 1987. With the tournament a week away, how special a time is this, especially working for a team that goes to the Final Four?
ER: It is special, it’s extraordinary, a once in a life-time for me. I did 11 years in college basketball that was my 10th of the 11 years and the fifth out of six years at Providence. It was so unexpected. Providence was truly a Cinderella team. Billy Donovan was the only pro off that team. One of the great coaching staffs ever assembled, Rick Pitino’s (staff) and nobody saw it coming.
One thing I remember about it was how much bigger and better everything gets for teams that advance to the Final Four. With each win the stakes are higher, the attention bigger, the swarm around you bigger. When Providence played Georgetown (for the right to go to the Final Four) at Freedom Hall in Louisville it was the most nervous I was for any broadcast I’ve ever done. Not only were the Friars a win away from the Final Four but I felt I was a win away from broadcasting a Final Four. My father was in the later stages of battling cancer, he died a month after, so this was the last thing I shared with him. Providence beat Georgetown and lost to Syracuse (in the Final Four), Syracuse went on to lose to Indiana on Keith Smart’s shot. It was a memory that has endured.