HEAT Original: Tony Fiorentino
When good friend Ron Rothstein was hired as the first Head Coach of the Miami HEAT, I was thrilled for him. When he called to ask me if I wanted to come aboard to be an Assistant Coach, I almost fell off my chair! He and I became good friends in New York years before he ever became an Assistant Coach in the NBA. He was a high school coach, and I was a college student when we met. By the time he called me, he had already been in the league for five years—three in Atlanta, two in Detroit—and I thought he was going to pick all NBA guys to join him. I was a college coach when he called me and I said, “Are you kidding? Miami? The NBA? I’ll be there yesterday!” So I came aboard in July, 1988.
It was a great time to be in Miami. At first, fans were really excited about all the teams coming into town—at the time Larry Bird was big, Michael Jordan, too; you had Magic playing with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. All the while, fans were excited with the way the HEAT played hard and competed.
Throughout the years, I held different positions at the HEAT, from Assistant Coach to scouting coordinator, to a fill-in analyst for the HEAT and a HEAT insider on WAMI-TV. As an original Assistant Coach, I traveled often because we were in the Midwest Division that first year. That means we had to make five trips to the West Coast (now we only go there two, maybe three times). One time I was standing in the midst of a bunch of NBA guys and they said to me “Man, we feel bad for you with all the traveling you have to do!” and I said “Hey, I’ll go another 82 games—anything beats eighth period study hall at Mount Vernon High School (NY)!”
After 11 years as an Assistant Coach and three years as the lead Assistant Coach for the Miami SOL, I was given the opportunity to become the radio announcer and backup TV announcer to Mike Fratello during Dwyane Wade’s rookie year. It was pretty cool that I got to announce on TV his first game for the HEAT against Allen Iverson in Philadelphia. The following year, I became the full-time color analyst and have been ever since. Eric Reid (our play-by-play announcer and another HEAT original) and I are actually the only broadcasting team duo in the NBA that have been with their franchise since its inception. We take a lot of pride in it.
My favorite memory having been here 25 years is winning the first Championship in 2006. We won 15, 18, and 24 games respectively in the first three years—that’s where our team came from. When we beat Detroit at home to get into the first Finals, we were White Hot, and I remember the streamers coming down in the Arena—it reminded me of a snow globe. Then we beat Dallas for our first NBA Championship and we were at the apex of the basketball universe. Winning another Championship last year and getting to watch LeBron, D-Wade and Chris Bosh lead us was a joy to behold. They create more memories with each game they play. I love my job and appreciate all the loyal Miami HEAT fans!