College days gave Doris Burke great insight on some of these Celtics

ESPN announcer Doris Burke said she tested positive for coronavirus on Friday.
Doris Burke is in her first season as a full-time NBA analyst. –Ethan Miller/Getty Images

As a sideline reporter or in her new role as a regular color analyst, ESPN/ABC’s Doris Burke is an established and respected NBA voice.

Perhaps lesser celebrated are her significant gigs as a college basketball broadcaster, which include working dozens of Big East and, in recent years, Atlantic Coast Conference games for ESPN.

She is no longer working college games this year because of her expanded NBA role and schedule. But Burke, who will be the analyst for the Wizards-Celtics Christmas matchup on ABC, gained firsthand knowledge from her college broadcasting experiences that gives her advantageous insight on young players who enter the NBA.


That includes Celtics phenom Jayson Tatum, with whom Burke became familiar as a Duke Blue Devil before he wore Celtics green.

“I had seen him on many occasions a season ago, so I knew his ability,’’ she said. “You could look at his frame just a season ago and say, yes, he’s lean, and it’s probably going to take a couple of years to get some physical maturation. But the reality was he had length, the ability to score, and the switchability that seems to be a necessity in today’s NBA.’’

What has surprised her is the consistency with which Tatum, the most exciting Celtics rookie in years, has made perimeter shots. He’s second in the NBA in 3-point shooting (50.5 percent). During his lone season at Duke he shot 34.2 percent from 3-point territory.

“I did a lot of Duke games early on, and if I recall, his first game out of the gate was not great. And Coach K [Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski] said to me, ‘He’s a better shooter than he’s shown.’ That was the early analysis, and I do think he got better as the year went on. I think what has helped him is that he doesn’t play around, he does not project an air of someone who is 19. There’s a maturity that belies his age. That’s consistent with how he carried himself at Duke.


“It’s really exciting to think about what he’s going to be. That’s something Brad [Stevens] has passed along to us when we meet with the coaches. He’s already a reliable option in crunch time. Think forward two or three years when he’s gotten stronger and has more experience to draw on.’’

Burke’s familiarity with the current Celtics isn’t just limited to the players. She first met Stevens before he became the head coach at the school where he made his reputation.

“First time I met Brad he was an assistant coach on the Butler staff,’’ she said. “My routine in those days when I was the sideline reporter on Dick Vitale’s team [a job she began in 2003] was to go to an assistant coach responsible for scouting the opponent. Brad was that guy, and of course he was insightful. This is the kind of person he is. He still remembers that. The first time I covered him in the NBA, he brought that up. It was incredible that someone who had so much going on and had progressed so much in his career would remember that. There’s an incredible humility and steadiness about him.’’

Burke has progressed so much in her career. She said she’s finding great satisfaction in her role as a regular color analyst, the first woman to hold that distinction on national NBA broadcasts.

“It’s going incredibly well,’’ she said. “If I’m not on the road I’m watching two games a night. I’ve always loved the NBA, and now that I can devote all of my time to it, this is right way to do the job.’’


Russillo leaving ESPN

Ryen Russillo, a Martha’s Vineyard native, revealed Wednesday that his popular ESPN Radio program and simulcast will conclude this week and he will depart the network next year. He will do a weekly podcast in for the network through next summer.

Russillo said on his program Wednesday that ESPN had offered him a new contract, but with more obligations at the same pay, and it would have interfered with his quest for better balance with work and his personal life.

“In the grand scheme, in the way the world works, it’s a lot of money, and I get that, but my days were going to be different,’’ he said. “I was going to be here on NBA hits for ‘SportsCenter.’ I was going to be here like 10 hours a day.

“I don’t have a lot of a life now. I don’t really have any balance. I’d be lying if I told you I’d been super happy lately. I know people who know me really well here, I don’t think they’re entirely surprised by this.’’

Deal completed

Beasley Broadcast Group officially became the parent company of 98.5 The Sports Hub Wednesday when it announced that the asset exchange with Entercom Communications had been completed. Entercom, which sold off The Sports Hub after its merger with CBS Radio, received WMJX (106.7) and $12 million for The Sports Hub. Now the mystery really begins regarding any cosmetic and/or significant changes the new owner plans to make to one of the market’s two highly successful sports stations. Stay tuned.