Earlier this week, we told you about ESPN college basketball analyst Doug Gottlieb's move to CBS and their growing footprint in sports media. While Gottlieb's most glamorous position at his new home will be as a March Madness analyst, the crux of his hire was to be a building block to the new CBS Sports Radio Network, launching early next year. Yes, Gottlieb will likely also have a spot on the CBS Sports Network, but Jim Rome's move to the upstart channel has shown it's tough to gain traction on a network that just isn't in many homes.
The more intriguing question to me though is what happens to Gottlieb's old slot at ESPN Radio. For some reason, I've never sensed ESPN Radio to be the dominant force on the dial that ESPN is on television. Scott Van Pelt has established himself as a solid afternoon host, but the rest of ESPN's lineup has always struck me as mediocre. Readers of our site know that Mike & Mike have always been way too vanilla while Colin Cowherd's pontifications are unlistenable. Yet, every time ESPN has a vacancy to fill in their national lineup, they seem to take the easy way out by naming a random duo of whoever was walking down the hallway at the same time (cough, Hill/Schlereth, cough).
And with competition coming from Yahoo, CBS, and NBC, ESPN Radio is facing more entities eating into their market than ever before. With that being said, ESPN has several choices to pick from in replacing Gottlieb's late afternoon time slot. What follows are some potential off-the-radar choices for the WWL, but also potential targets for ESPN's competitors who could be ready to step out on a bigger stage nationally.
(1) Marc Silverman & Tom Waddle (ESPN 1000 Chicago)
-This may be my bias showing as someone who has listened regularly to this duo as a Chicago sports fan, but Waddle & Silvy as they're known have the right blend of humor, chemistry, and gravitas to succeed on a national level. Waddle, the former Bears receiver, has seen his profile expand nationally recently with gigs on the NFL Network and now the Big Ten Network. Silverman is a radio pro who has worked in the Chicago for many years, even surviving a partnership with Jay Mariotti. The pair has filled in for Mike & Mike on occasion and shown they can connect with a national audience by making news when they interview national figures like Charles Barkley among others. Most importantly though, the pair can talk sports in an entertaining way without taking themselves too seriously.
(2) Jonathan Coachman & Freddie Coleman (ESPN Weekends)
-Usually driving around weekends means a lot of dead air on the radio. But in recent months, I've usually found myself entertained by "The Coach and Coleman" show featuring ESPN Radio vet Freddie Coleman and former WWE personality Jonathan Coachman. The two have quickly established a dynamic where they are combative, yet complimentary. Coleman is familiar to most as the host of ESPN Radio's Sunday NFL coverage while Coachman has filled a myriad of roles since coming to the network. If given the chance to have a regular weekday show, the two could blossom and provide a different voice than the usual tired ground covered by the likes of ESPN Radio's morning programs.
(3) Tom Tolbert (KNBR San Francisco)
-Tom Tolbert was a major player on ESPN for a brief time in the early 2000s. The WWL had recently acquired the NBA rights package and Tolbert was brought over from NBC. But, all of a sudden, one day Tolbert was completely gone from ESPN's coverage. Some suggested Tolbert was kicked to the curb by a power even greater than ESPN. However, Tolbert has been doing just fine since leaving ESPN by hosting one of the top radio shows in the Bay Area for over a decade. And with longtime partner Ralph Barberi fired by his home station, now could be a perfect time for Tolbert to return to the national stage with his unique, entertaining style. Of course, there's no chance ESPN Radio would be so bold, but one could dream.
(4) Marcellus WIley (ESPN 750 Los Angeles)
-Of the entire cavalcade of NFL analysts ESPN can throw at their multitude of platforms, the one who has always stood out has been Marcellus Wiley. The man did go to Columbia, so he has the intellectual ability to carry on an enlightening conversation without resorting to tired cliches or dumb jock speak. Wiley also hasn't been out of the game long, so his perspective on the NFL and all sports has shown to be valuable. However, Wiley is currently stuck with Max Kellerman, who was basically Skip Bayless before Skip Bayless made being a loudmouth contrarian a viable career. Pair Wiley with any number of professionals already at ESPN Radio (John Kincade, John Stashower, Chuck Wilson, Dari Nowkhah, Marc Kestecher, etc.) and a successful partnership could be formed. One name in particular to watch is Adnan Virk, who has done a number of fill-in spots on ESPN Radio throughout the summer and done them very well.
(5) Jay Bilas (ESPN college basketball)
-Admittedly this is the biggest reach on the list. Current ESPN personalities like Dan Le Batard and Tony Kornheiser were also considered, but they're already radio stars in Miami and Washington respectively. Also, with Kornheiser's previous stint in radio and the TV duties of each, a national radio show in late afternoon isn't likely. But, who would be better to talk for three hours a day about all of the big issues in sports than the smartest analyst at ESPN, Jay Bilas. Heck, he'd just be following the path set before him by Doug Gottlieb to pull double duty as a radio host and basketball analyst... and Bilas is 100 times the analyst Gottlieb was. If Bilas could be paired with someone to set up his analysis, the smartest three hours in sports radio could be born. But, since "smart" and "sports talk radio" are mutually exclusive, Bilas won't come close to his own show any time soon.
Who would you like to see given a national sports talk radio platform? Do you even care about sports talk radio? Let us know if we've missed anyone by leaving a comment below.
Silvy and Waddle is a very good choice. I would like to see Bilas gets a chance very bright guy who many opinions.
I expect ESPN to go with an NFL-centric show even though Schlereth co-hosts right afterward. WWL is all about Grantland and the NFL - I don't think they're ready to give Grantland a spot on national airwaves yet (I'm not a fan, but clearly BS is popular), so a host with an NFL background is most likely.
If it went to Dari Nowkha and Mel Kiper, Jr., who have been doing the Saturday mornings for more than a year now, I wouldn't be surprised.
Actually i don't mind Colin Cowerd, but than again that could be because he was the main sports reporter for NBC News and had his own radio show weekday afternoons here in Portland, Oregon because moving and doing a national show for ESPN Radio and when he 1st started working for ESPN Radio the 1st hour of his show was for Oregon only!
You forgot that Bob Valvano works College Basketball and is a host on ESPN Radio every Friday and Saturday night!
My vote would go to Coleman and Coachman. Freddie has been a great listen with his easy going style who can handle a tough interview if asked. Would be a good addition.
Good options Ryan. I like Coach & Coleman, also pleasantly surprised by Wiley's performance as well. Living in Atlanta I get way too much of Kincaid. Bigger need for ESPN Radio is to find a better 10AM-1PM option than "Blowhard". He is so full of himself he has become unlistenable.
blastofovercast is right. This is the slot where local stations have their local shows most often. However, simulcasts would not be a good idea as satellite radio (which already airs ESPN Radio) also has ESPN Xtra as well which simulcasts many ESPN shows such as SportsCenter, Mike & Mike (taped replay), First Take, College Football Live, Around the Horn, PTI, and ESPNEWS' Highlight Express. So with all that, the idea goes out the window.
I would consider maybe Dari Nowkah to do a college sports-centric show. Now, Dari wouldn't bring anything out of the ordinary, but he's not a disaster either. He'd be solid (plus I've met him before - his is a nice guy and he REALLY is THAT short).
I really don't have much faith in ESPN in being able to fill this slot. Gottlieb was a breath of fresh air, even though I know some people don't like him. He was always interesting, thoughtful and provocative. But there have been some real clunkers in the afternoon time period. Anyone remember Orestes Destrade and John Seibel? They did a baseball-centric show that was painful, a real snoozefest.
There are some really scary options out there for ESPN. I find Freddie Coleman to be pretty bland, but he and Coachman would at least be better than, say, Amy Lawrence. And please don't just simulcast something from the TV side. Ugh.
Bear in mind, a lot of major markets will be covering up this show with their own local show, so it makes the most sense to fill it with something already on the TV side, if not an outright simulcast.