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  • Tim Kiely
    Senior Producer,
    Inside the NBA
    Tim Kiely, senior producer of TNT's wildly popular Inside the NBA, played high school football with Dan Marino at Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh. ("He was good, I wasn't.") Kiely then went to Columbia University in New York, where he also played football. ("We were really bad.") From Columbia, Kiely headed back to Pittsburgh where he worked at WTAE-TV on news and sports from 1982-89. After working for the soon-to-be defunct "Sports News Network" from 1990-91, he moved to ESPN where, for three years, he produced the network's SportsCenter and NFL Sunday shows. From Bristol, he went to Atlanta and joined Turner Sports in 1995, where he has been ever since.

    Inside Inside the NBA
    With 40 Games in 40 Nights, TNT "Inside the NBA" senior producer Tim Kiely is a busy man. caught up with TK and asked him what the atmosphere is like on TNT's "Inside the NBA" set during the playoffs.

    Check out the latest "Inside the NBA" highlights at the "Inside the NBA page"

    What's the craziest or funniest thing that has happened on Inside the NBA recently?

    Craziest or funniest? Kenny and Charles got into an argument over the words "your" and "you are." It was prompted by a woman holding a sign last week. It was very funny.

    A woman held up a sign for Charles and the sign read: "Your among friends." And it was, y-o-u-r. It was obviously misspelled and we circled it and put on there as "Recent Auburn Graduate."

    Charles got all fired up. He sat there and literally couldn't figure out what was wrong with the spelling. So, Kenny went into this lecture, trying to explain to him contractions and "you are." Kenny ended up spelling it "yo're." So, it was unbelievable. We kind of replayed that whole exchange later. Kenny was saying to him: 'Now, Chuck, that is your -- y-o-u-r -- coat. But "yo're" an idiot -- "yo're."

    That was pretty good. And then Shaq called Kenny a girl the other night. We rolled a bite, and Shaq was on a roll. He was just hilarious. And at one point, Kenny, the night before, had said he could go to the CBA right now and score 20 points.

    And Shaq is always killing Kenny. So after we told him Kenny had said this, Shaq goes: "Who's that?"

    "Kenny Smith."

    And Shaq goes: "Who's that?"

    "The guy on the studio show."

    And Shaq says: "Oh, I didn't know she could play. I think she's full of this, full of that."

    Shaq still kills Kenny. He was the originator of "Kenny the Bum". Shaq still kills him about how Kenny stole Shaq's championship when Kenny was in Houston and Shaq was in Orlando.

    So, those have been two of the better ones recently.

    How has the schedule changed for you guys.

    It goes from very fast-paced to a grind when you hit the middle part. I worked at ESPN, so I was used to five, six shows a week. Not that I would recommend that for your sanity, but I did that for a few years. I'm used to a lot of shows. But when you go through the season where you're basically doing one show a week most weeks, then all of a sudden you're doing five, six, sometimes seven shows a week. It's a lot faster.

    We're at the point now where the games have really ramped up and they're exchanging some haymakers now. Our guys are really into it. And I don't think you're hearing Charles complain about the games like he did in the regular season. He hasn't uttered a peep. That's something he's famous for. Plus, with Magic on the set, Charles doesn't do that. He really respects Magic, so he stays in line.

    Speaking of Magic -- and Kenny -- they never seem to wear the same suit twice. How many suits does Charles have and does he pocket the stipend he gets for clothing?

    I couldn't tell you about the clothing stipend. I would suspect he uses it as part of his Vegas funding. But he's very critical of everybody's else clothes, but here's a guy who can't tie a tie. He's killin' people's ties the last couple of nights and he can't even tie one.

    He claims that he's outfitted by star tailors, but he comes in wearing the same t-shirt. He has nice suits and everything, but he shouldn't be going there with those guys.

    Where do you guys get the "Gone Fishin'" photos and how do you get the just perfect Kenny expression?

    The credit goes to a guy who we've shouted out a lot on air. He's our PaintBox guy -- PaintBox being a graphics machine for TV, everyone uses it. His name is Alex Houveras. He's a genius. He does a lot of it on his own. He goes off and I let him go. Occasionally I suggest stuff to him. He just yells in my ear when he has something.

    He listens to the show, which is unusual for someone in his position, because people who work the PaintBox are waiting to be told what to do. He's not that way.

    He told me that he goes to a fishing web site -- I don't know which one. It's just a web site where people send in goofy fishing pictures and he goes in and paints out the faces of the people and sticks our guys' faces in there.

    With Kenny, PaintBox has the ability to capture TV. He's just recording the show and when Kenny makes a stupid face, he just freezes it, cuts it out, puts it in the machine and he's got it.

    You turn around those Gone Fishin' pictures pretty quickly. Who makes the suggestions for them?

    It's collaborative. We've reached a point where the guys behind the scenes have worked together long enough that there's a rhythm and we're able to anticipate a little bit. When you see something pop up almost immediately, that's due to that rhythm. Sometimes, we might need a commercial break to put something together because they said it late in the segment. So, by the time we come out of the last commercial, we have something.

    I would say it's 50-50. There are times that I say to them at four o'clock in the afternoon, for example, I say: "Steve Francis is coming in. Let's think about this. Or let's think about this." That's really all the direction I give them. I would say 50 percent is pre-planned and the rest is reacting. And that's the beauty of it. You have to have a collaborative effort because one person couldn't pay attention to everything.

    I have great trust in people and not one of us could do the show without the others. That's what makes it fun.

    Which has been your favorite "Gone Fishin'" or slate making fun of the guys?

    I couldn't name a Gone Fishin'. They stuck me in one, so I have to mention that. They were busting me all night and Chuck kept on calling me "The Fat, Obnoxious Producer" -- that's my name now -- after that goofy FOX show.

    All of them kill me. I think Alex does a great job, as you say, of capturing that stupid expression that Kenny has. But my favorite one of all time is Kenny the Bum. It's just funny. Kenny the Bum, and we had Mark Wahlberg in last year.

    Alex had a photo of the movie "Boogie Nights" that he put Ernie, Chuck and Kenny into. And Wahlberg was in there. And most of the actors who come in there, a lot of them are scared, they're scared of Charles because they're not used to ad libs because that's why they have scripts.

    Wahlberg peed his pants laughing so hard because he couldn't believe he came up with it. And the thing had a perfect Chuck face. Where Alex is great is that he catches Kenny in a perfect expression. But any photo of Chuck's "Milk Dud" head is hilarious. When you cut it out and paste it on something, whether there's a funny expression or not, he just has a "Milk Dud" head.

    Can you compare the time Ernie spends on the set compared to Charles?

    Ernie's actually working. Charles, he barely makes it to the set on time and when the show's over -- he gone. He spends as much time on the set as you see on television plus commercials.

    I'm making a joke about it, but we don't want him to be there any more than he needs to be.

    OK, TK, you have a soapbox moment. Charles calls you his "Big, Fat Obnoxious Boss, TK" This is your open forum.

    I have nothing to refute. I could lose 30 pounds and it would help me out. I'd vote for him in a second if he ran for something and I can't thank my lucky stars enough that he fell into our lap.

    So, that tells you all you need to know about how I feel about him.
    Posted by Tim Kiely - May 13 2004 4:18PM

    The Inimitable Chuckster
    Describing him is difficult; so here are some snapshots
    When I first met him, he was retired a couple of months, but he looked more like Marlon Brando (the current version) than an NBA great.

    We were having dinner, trying to get a feel for each other. Within minutes, he was calling me "fat." Now, let me first say in the spirit of full disclosure, that I could miss a few meals and it wouldn't hurt me any. But to be called "fat" by someone who had gained 70 pounds faster than anyone in recorded history, wellllllll, I never...

    (Side note: At one point during this dinner, he piled up a mountain of mashed potatoes and gravy, and then asked me to pass the salt. He unscrewed the top off of the shaker, and just dumped the salt onto the potatoes. To quote Chuck: "The surgeon general be rolling over in his grave!")

    I cannot begin to describe him, so I will just leave you with some random snapshots of life with the Chuckster:

    Chuck is a neat freak
    As a kid, his mom and grandmom put him in charge of clean up, and he has never outgrown it. He is always cleaning up after himself and others. Kenny and I have been know to squash fruit and leave crumbs all around his desk in the viewing room just to watch him scurry around.

    During one of his many attempts at "dieting" he was extolling the weight loss virtues of his new mixed drink: ginger ale and merlot.

    Respect for authority
    One time a very high ranking executive from Time Warner wanted to bring his family in to meet Charles. I called Charles that day and told him to be ready and on his best behavior for this guy. When the executive and family arrived, the first things Charles said was "How do you still have a job after all the money Time Warner has lost?"

    The executive (no longer with the company) chuckled nervously.

    Chuck in public
    One year, we were in San Antonio, covering the Western Conference Finals between the Lakers and the Spurs. The Lakers had won, and a bunch of us were going out to San Antonio's famed Riverwalk for a beer and something to eat.

    Charles was leading the charge as we walked down the street. A long limo cruised by slowly. As it passed us, someone in the car started yelling nasty stuff at Charles. I remember thinking "uh oh, here we go."

    I swung around to see what was coming our way. Let me put it this way, if you really want to know what it was like when dinosaurs roamed the earth, this sight was a close facsimile. Shaquille O'Neal roared out of the back seat of the car, and chased Charles all around the parking lot, finally jumping on his back. The two monsters wrassled playfully for a couple of minutes, and Shaq left.

    The asphalt in the parking lot took a beating.

    Chuck and the underdog
    Chuck is a great defender of the underdog -- the poor, the discriminated. One time, he was talking very seriously about gay rights. He then said that, "We at Turner Sports have a great hiring record. We hire a diverse group, including gays, like our stage manager Jimmy Hadder."

    (Jimmy of course, is not gay, but that didn't stop the Chuckster from "outing" Jimmy on national TV.)

    Chuck and education
    One time an intern was studying very earnestly for an exam she was about to take. Chuck took one look and said "Whatcha doing?"

    The reply came, "I'm studying for a big math exam."

    To which Chuck said, "Only two numbers ya gotta worry about baby -- 20 and 10 -- 20 points and 10 rebounds. That's what got me through college."

    Chuck and TV
    Charles watches everything on television, everything from the trashiest reality show to serious current events debates on PBS. Invariably, when he watching the news, he hears about an individual in need. He will then pick up the phone and make contact to see how he can help.


    That's all you need to know about Charles.

    Posted by Tim Kiely - Mar 16 2004 10:47AM

    EJ and The Jet

    When I arrived at Turner in 1995, I didn't know much about Ernie. Back in those days, EJ had a bit of a temper. The first show I did with him, I pushed the crew hard to get the latest possible highlights and stuff to Ernie.

    No one was used to it, so there were mistakes all around. Ernie, God bless him, was given plenty of incorrect info which aired.

    After the show, I knew he was upset, so I followed him off the set to see if we could talk things out. He walked off rather quickly, carrying a coffee cup with him. I chased after him but he motored right into the bathroom. As I was deciding whether I should follow him in there, I heard a loud "CRASH" as he shattered the coffee cup against the wall.

    I thought better about things, did a 180 and headed home.

    The next day I brought him a new coffee cup that said "GO POSTAL" on it. He still has the cup.

    I have worked with some very talented on-air folks, but no one has ever combined quick wit, listening skills and accuracy like Ernie. He is the best.

    I cannot describe how difficult his job is and how many times he saves us all with his clutch steering of the show. I throw more curveballs at him than Barry Zito, but he hits them all.

    My favorite EJ moment was when we unearthed some old footage of he and Craig Sager participating in a "celebrity" dunk contest at a Hawks game some 20 years ago. EJ was wearing his "welder" glasses (bigger than Harry Caray's) and some indecently tight shorts.

    When we aired it, he was stupefied, mortified and for once, speechless. He spent the rest of the night calling his wife Cheryl repeatedly: "How could I have done that?" "What was I thinking wearing that stuff? In front of cameras, in public?"

    (Editor's note: You can go to the Inside the NBA site on to see Ernie dunking.)


    Kenny is all New York: Smart, slick and quick-witted. He's the perfect foil for Chuck. Ernie has often told me that Kenny is the key for him. He knows Charles is going to get outrageous, but that Kenny will always have a comeback waiting and that little bit of time allows EJ to listen to them and come up with his own next move.

    Way back when, before Charles, we were looking for someone new in the studio. Kenny had just retired and we had used him as a guest in the studio during the playoffs. He just brought life and an unscripted goofiness to the shows he was on. It was Kenny's style that got all of us into the spirit of winging things.

    Contrary to popular opinion, we were doing a loose, unscripted show before Charles came on board. Kenny was an excellent NBA player who had the added respect factor of being a two-time champion. He was honest and the players started to listen to what he was saying.

    I can't tell you how many time his cell phone would ring after show and it would be a current player wanting to talk to him. Even if they were mad at him, they didn't stay that way for long, because he had their respect..

    With Charles and Kenny, there cannot be a "favorite moment." There are too many. So, here is a "Kenny Top Five," in no particular order:

    1) Justin Timberlake busting a shot over Kenny and then talking trash to him in a celebrity game
    2) Steve Francis totally freezing Kenny with a crossover in a pickup game
    3) Shaq referring to him as "Kenny the Bum" about 10 times in the same interview
    4) Video of a 10-year-old "Ken Smith" participating in a basketball skills competition in Madison Square Garden
    5) Yao Ming's simple but effective birthday wish to Kenny (You have to see it to understand. Perhaps our friends at can post it. I promise to exert my vast influence!)

    (Editor's note: Tim, your wish is our command. You can go to the Inside the NBA site on to see it.)
    Posted by Tim Kiely - Mar 10 2004 11:48AM

    Those Magic moments
    I grew up rooting for the Celtics, so Magic was a nemesis. He was so good you had to respect him ... but you hated him if you liked the Celts.

    Since I am now all growed up and mature (my wife might dispute that), I am rarely "star-struck." But the first time I met Magic, it was like I was 12 again. I mean it's "MAGIC FREAKING JOHNSON!"

    When you meet him in person, you understand how he got the name "Magic." He is engaging and you quickly forget that he is a multi-millionaire businessman and Hall of Fame superstar. He tells stories about playing against Bird, Barkley and Jordan with a sense of awe. He acts as if he were just a bit player in those games. You have to pinch yourself and remember who it is you are listening to: One of the coolest people I have ever met.

    Of course, that didn't stop us from giving him the "Inside the NBA" treatment. The first show we did with him, we pulled out all the stops. We showed terrible clips from "The Magic Hour" (his failed talk show), his awful clips from a Michael Jackson video he was in and just generally made fun of his coaching attempts.

    As the clips rolled nobody, I mean nobody, was laughing harder than Magic. I think he has a good time on the show because we don't have long meetings and we don't get in his ear while he's trying to make his point.

    One thing we try to do is give our folks a chance to say what they want, but not in perfect "soundbite" talk. A conversation should be free-flowing. When you have someone with Magic's pedigree on the set, you want to hear what he has to say.

    The best Magic moment on "Inside" occurred a couple of years ago. His loyal assistant Angie had finally convinced Magic to get a cell phone. He had no idea how it worked. At one point during the evening, Magic's coaching career with the Lakers was brought up. He was talking about he used to fine players if their cell phone rang during team meetings. As he finished his comments, I kid you not, he cell phone went off.

    (I suspect someone called him as a prank ... but don't look at me!)

    Anyway, the boys on the set were merciless, prompting Magic to jump out of his seat and throw his cell phone against the wall, destroying it.

    Like I always say, when the show is working, Magic happens.

    (I'll introduce you to Kenny and Ernie Johnson (EJ) next week.)
    Posted by Tim Kiely - Mar 3 2004 11:17AM

    My All-Star Week Adventures, Part II
    (Welcome back. I made it through the first part of the week, barely.)

    Thursday: No show. If we had a show, Magic would have been on time, and Kenny and Charles would have been late...

    Friday: The Rookie Game. We have a shoot planned with Kenny, Steve Kerr, and Craig Kilborn. Last year, we had Kenny and Danny Ainge shoot out a 3-point contest to decide the "TNT 3-point championship." Kenny won easily, disappointing many of us, who are constantly on the lookout for ways to embarrass Kenny.

    Anyway, Ainge has now headed off to Boston, and Steve Kerr is the logical choice to try and unseat Kenny. We brought Craig Kilborn into referee, just to add a Hollywood touch. Craig is a huge hoops fan, former college player, and an old friend from my ESPN days.

    Everyone is excited with many bets going around. I wager heavily on Kerr, just out of spite.

    It's Friday afternoon and the appointed hour arrives. Kerr is ready. Kilborn is ready. But where is Kenny? He calls me late (What else?) and says he hurt his knee that morning and he couldn't shoot.


    Kilborn bravely decides to shoot it out with Kerr. Kerr wins, but only by a narrow margin. All bets are off.

    All-Star Saturday: A long day with six hours of programming. I am producing the first three and Jay Hoover is producing All-Star Saturday Night. Our shows go fine (You know the drill -- Magic is on time, Kenny and Charles are late...)

    After the third hour, I release the boys to go work All-Star Saturday night (they have various roles in the skills competition, the 3-point shootout, and the dunk...)

    Some quickie notes: Chuck spends an inordinate amount of time crushing Craig Sager's outfit ... During the 3-point competition, Sam Cassell is seen in the stands (Chuck likes to kid Sam about looking like Gollum in "Lord of the Rings"...). So, Chuck wants to see Sam on camera again. He starts yelling, "Hey T.K., roll back that shot of Sam Cassell. T.K. roll it back!" Which comes as news to producer Jay Hoover. I am not in the truck. Chuck has no idea how TV works.

    Kenny is lights out on the dunk contest. He was born to do this event. He brings excitement without over-hyping it. Brilliant. Meanwhile, Charles keeps asking Steve Kerr: "Have you ever seen so much silicone in your life in one place? Milk does a body good!"

    All-Star Sunday: The big day arrives. We open the show with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Very cool. He says "Ka-lee-forn-nya" multiple times. He also mentions that Chuck has to drop some weight if he wants to be governor of Alabama.

    (Side note: I am very hopeful that Charles will see the light and run for governor. He has promised me a high level job, entertaining soft money lobbyists on the golf course. I told my wife that the job will only be good for a couple of months before the Feds move in, but I will always have those months to look back on as I sit in my jail cell with the ex-governor.)

    In the first half, Cheryl Miller interviews Serena Williams. One of our production assistants, Drew Watkins, has a thing for Serena. It borders on stalking. Everyone is kidding Drew about it as she is on camera. Ernie knows Serena from his Wimbledon days. Being the guy he is, he offers to introduce Drew to Serena in a timeout. They go out to the court, and EJ introduces them. Drew, bless his heart, has the nerve to slip Serena his cell phone number. Serena smiles and says, "You never know."

    With this bold stroke, Drew's stock has now risen through the roof. Rumors are rampant that he is being considered as a candidate for the Time Warner boardroom.

    Rumble, young man rumble!

    Magic is on time, as are Chuck and Kenny, especially for halftime and Beyonce's performance. Chuck is so smitten, that he does a ridiculous Beyonce dance impersonation.

    Thank God we didn't have a postgame show.
    Posted by Tim Kiely - Feb 19 2004 2:14PM

    My All-Star Week Adventures, Part I
    When Monday Night Football was at its zenith, Don Meredith called it "Mother Love's Traveling Circus" As the producer of "Inside the NBA", I can't think of a better description for our show. There is a controlled chaos to the show, and when it's working, it's the best...

    All-star Weekend was a good place to illustrate this. Here are some notes from the week...

    Our crew arrived in L.A. on Saturday, Feb 7 to look over our first two locations -- Universal Studios, Hollywood on Monday and Magic Johnson's theatre on Tuesday. The folks at both locations were very excited because "EJ, Kenny, Charles and Magic are coming!"

    This always baffles me. If they had any idea of what a bunch of chowderheads those guys are, they might feel differently. Show director Steve Fiorello and I were very upset ... no one asked us for autographs, despite the fact that we called everyone we met "Babe" and told them "to call our people and we'll do lunch."

    Monday: Show No. 1, Universal Theatres, Hollywood. We shoot a bit with EJ as he pitches his idea for a show to Universal studio execs.

    "OK, it's me and three black guys driving across country. I'm drive them in the car and they are driving me CRAZY! ... Hijinks and wackiness ensue. It's sort of a cross between the Three Stooges and Three's Company ... but without the chicks."

    Surprisingly, the show is rejected, but the bit runs anyway. We do what we can to make our folks look ridiculous.

    The show begins with a dramatic shot from a very expensive camera suspended on wires, which swoops dramatically over the universal set. The shot looks great in rehersals.

    We hit air with the shot live ... and the camera flips upside down. We see a very dramatic picture of the sky. We are 10 seconds into our first show and Fiorello's head is buried in his hands. Magic is on time, as always. Kenny and Charles are late, as always.

    Tuesday: Show No. 2, Magic's theatre in Baldwin Hills. (It's really "Straight Outta Compton" but who's quibbling?) Magic is thrilled that we brought the community together for a party outside his theatre and a free concert with OutKast. The shows go well. Magic is on time. Kenny, Charles and OutKast, are late.

    Tuesday evening: I stop by the bar in our hotel. The joint is jumping. I have a beer and start to head upstairs when the Chuckster walks in. The party is starting. He starts yelling at me "Hey, T.K. Joe Frazier wasn't nuthin'! Name me one big fight he won besides the first Ali fight?" I have no idea why he is yelling this at me. Anyway, a very drunk guy walks up to Chuck and wants him to dance with his drunker girlfriend. Chuck politely refuses. Moments later, the guy is back, asking again. Chuck politely demurs. The guy stares at Chuck. Then he looks at me. Then back at Chuck. (I know what he's thinking: Which one do I hit? Hmmm... one guy is 6-4, the other is 5-10...) Even in his state of alcoholic grace, the young man makes the right call. He turns to me and starts screaming obscenities.

    Thankfully, Chuck's redoubtable security man, Chico Robinson, steps in and rousts the guy before I had a chance to ask Chuck to beat him up for me.

    Time to go to bed.

    Wednesday morning: I wake up refreshed and ready. We have no show tonight, just some prep work at Staples. I get a call from Kenny. It seems there was a misunderstanding the night before at Magic's theatre. Steve Harvey was supposed to be a guest on our show, but there was a miscommunication. He thought he was to be on at halftime and introduce OutKast, but we needed him on postgame. He was not happy because he had to get up at 4 a.m. for his syndicated radio show. So he left Tuesday night in a huff. Meanwhile, Kenny was scheduled to be on Harvey's radio show Wednesday morning. Good ol' Kenny was just checking in with me to let me know how things went.

    KENNY: Hey man, don't go outside this morning. Hahaha!
    ME: Why not?
    KENNY: I blew you up this morning on Harvey's show.
    ME: (Sounding pleased) Oh really?!

    (You see, I was pleased because "blowing up" is a good thing. At least that's what the kids tell me, but not this time.)

    KENNY: Yeah, man. Harvey was dogging us about the problem last night. He kept pushing me for answers. "Who was responsible? I know it was a white guy, 'cause no brotha would do me like that."
    ME: (Blissfully ignorant) So what did you tell him?
    KENNY: I threw you under the bus, man. I told him that it was Tim Kiely's fault. So a lotta people are looking for you. A lotta brothas listen to that show. Have a nice day!

    I spend the rest of my day with my press badge turned around so no one can see my name. Oh well, I guess I'll just run that Kenny-Justin Timberlake footage again. I always do that when kenny ticks me off. Makes me feel better watching Justin drop a dime on Kenny.

    (Come back tomorrow for the rest of Tim Kiely's "Excellent Adventures at All-Star Week")
    Posted by Tim Kiely - Feb 18 2004 6:03PM