This past weekend, a number of local basketball athletes, including Spurs’ forward (and Long Island native) Danny Green, and a trio of St. John’s Red Storm players, Justin Burrell, Paris Horne, and Malik Boothe, participated in the Malone Mulhall Benefit Game. The exhibition, which took place at St. John’s Carnesecca Arena, was organized to honor Jamie Malone, Paige Malone, and Michael Mulhall, all of whom died in a fatal car crash while on their way to work at Camp ANCHOR, a camp for kids with special needs. The money raised goes towards the Jamie and Paige Malone Foundation, as well as a scholarship established in Michael Mulhall’s name.
All of the players who came out for the great cause certainly gave it their all. The participants were separated into two teams, led by coaches ESPN/ABC commentator and MSG’s lead play by play man Mike Breen, as well as Nets Radio commentator Tim Capstraw.
Though Breen’s team, led by Green, took an early lead with with a barrage of three-pointers by both Green and former Providence guard Jeff Xavier (who earlier won the Benefit’s three point contest), the ESP shared by Red Storm teammates Burrell and Boothe, who connected on a number of electrifying alley-oops, was simply too much down the stretch as Capstraw’s team came out victorious.
Though the players all had different basketball backgrounds, ranging from experience in the NBA, the D-League, overseas, and college ball, it’s clear their talent level was high, as demonstrated by the freakish athleticism by Burrell and the sharpshooting Xavier.
Nevertheless, perhaps no one had greater celebrity than Breen, who recently called the NBA Finals for ABC. I caught up with the longtime Knicks play by play man following the game. Wonder what “Coach Breen” was telling his team on the sidelines? Read on to find out what the voice of the NBA had to say about the Knicks’ progress, what’s next for the team, his experiences as a commentator, and more.
Q: Despite the loss, I have to say, you seemed to keep your team enthusiastic and motivated throughout the whole game, and were talking to them quite a bit the bench. What did “Coach Breen” tell his team today? Furthermore, how did you get involved in today’s great cause?
A: Well, first and foremost, I wanted them to have some fun. But then no one was playing defense! We had to tell them not to be so friendly out there. Those were the keys–just to play some defense and have some fun. It was a good competitive game. Today was obviously about these guys just being able to go out and give the fans a bit of a show.
My daughter actually went to Sacred Heart Academy. The Sacred Heart community is pretty amazing in terms of coming together during difficult times, so that’s how things came together and I was able to get involved.
Q: Let’s talk about the Knicks. What kinds of things did you see that you liked from the team this past season?
A: You just know that there’s hope again for the fans. Not only does the team now have star players, but also have a chance to beat just about anybody on any given night. Obviously when you put two guys like Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire together on a team, you have a chance to be really good. The Knicks took a really important first step by expecting to win every night. The expectation is there, so now it’s about that next step.
Q: In your eyes, what does that next step have to be?
A: That next step is forming some cohesiveness. The team was thrown together, and even though they did pretty well in the limited time they had, anybody who watches the NBA knows that it takes time to form the necessary cohesiveness and chemistry a team needs to be successful. That’s what the Knicks need to do next.
Q: Obviously being a commentator for as many games as you are, you have a chance to see some of the better teams in the league play. What makes certain teams so much better, and what are the Knicks lacking to become one of those teams?
A: The number one thing is that the Knicks have to become a better defensive team. They obviously have the offensive stars in place. Now they need to be able to dedicate and commit themselves to playing defense every night, not just on the nights that they play one of the league’s elite teams. They need to go out and be consistent on defense, that way, the team can rely upon that when the offense isn’t clicking.
Q: Before you go, tell me your favorite thing about being a part of MSG and ESPN/ABC broadcasts.
A: Well I was a crazy basketball fan growing up as a kid. Certainly a lifelong Knicks fan. Just being able to sit and watch the best basketball players in the world up close night in and night out is a thrill for me.