Hornets.com 1-on-1: Radio broadcaster Sean Kelley

By: Preston Petri, Hornets.com

New Orleans radio play-by-play broadcaster Sean Kelley is in his eighth season as the voice of the Hornets, after previously serving as the team’s in-studio radio host for two seasons.
From 2002-2005 Kelley (far right, pictured with Hornets play-by-play broadcaster Joel Meyers) served as the basketball, football and baseball broadcaster for Tulane University, just down the road in uptown New Orleans. The avid baseball and St. Louis Cardinals fan sat down recently to catch up with Hornets.com about the current Hornets team, Anthony Davis, some of his favorite memories and more:

Hornets.com: How is your working relationship and chemistry with first-year radio analyst, John DeShazier? Has his transition into radio been a smooth one, and what does he offer to the broadcast?
Kelley: It’s been great. John was a pro at what he did before he came to us, and it’s only carried over to his new role as a radio analyst. He’s taken those good habits that he carried from the written journalism side to now the broadcast journalism side. Not to mention he’s so much fun to be around, and is really dedicated to the game and making our broadcast as good as he can. I couldn’t ask for anything more along those lines.

Hornets.com: As a broadcaster, is it hard to find a way to continue to entertain your listeners, even when the team is playing poorly?
Kelley: No, I think it’s always easier when they’re playing well, but even when they’re not, it’s still about coming prepared each night to tell the story. I think as a broadcaster you have to remember that you’re not the story, but the game itself is. The team has its own personality and its own story, so even when things aren’t going well for the team that you particularly work for, it’s still an event that nobody knows the outcome. So, in that sense there’s still the unpredictability that goes along with something like that.

Hornets.com: How do you rank and compare Hornets forward Anthony Davis with the other rookies that you have covered or worked with in your career?
Kelley: Well I had the privilege of covering Chris Paul’s rookie year, so my comparison with Anthony is always kind of to Chris. Even though they don’t play the same position, there are things that remind me of Chris or what Chris went through. I think that at the start of the season, Anthony was more prepared for the NBA level than Chris was. The difference, however, is that Chris had veterans around him, and was a quick study. Anthony has had less veterans around him, and then he had injury problems, so his growth has been stunted a bit by that, but if I were to take both of them they would have to be put in a class by themselves of the ones I’ve been around, because they are so superior to the other rookies I’ve seen.

Hornets.com: This comparison tends to be overused, but do you see any similarities, or maybe even some blatant differences with what the Hornets are trying to do on the court, and what teams like the Spurs and Thunder have done so successfully in recent seasons?
Kelley: They’re similar in that the foundation that you build around is on the draft, so you have to make smart draft choices and you have to get lucky with the draft a little bit. But then the comparison stops on the styles that each of these general managers have gone about building pieces around them, because each has had their own unique thing. The (construction of the) Spurs was almost so long ago that it’s hard to compare that era when Duncan was drafted, to what we have in the NBA now. They’ve kept their core together and that’s been the basis for their success, while they’ve also found people deeper in the draft. On the Oklahoma City side, it’s a little more similar to the Hornets, and it’s only maybe because the time period is much shorter between the two occurrences. Everybody forgets that the Oklahoma City core has been together now for a long time, and so for us it’s almost easy to forget that (the Hornets’) core has barely been together. Will they take a similar path (to these other teams)? Probably, but then what they do around that is interesting. I think that one of the advantages that the Hornets have in their plan is that they’re going to have a tremendous amount of cap space come summer time to add on to the young core. And with Eric (Gordon) just coming back, I don’t know that we can fully evaluate what the whole starting point really is, and that will prove itself over the coming months.

Hornets.com: What is your favorite moment or memory as a broadcaster?
Kelley: The biggest one early on is when I was working at Tulane University, and their baseball team qualified to go to the College World Series in 2005. That was pretty special. That was a career goal of mine to work the College World Series and I got to do it. Then here in New Orleans, I really think that the playoff series win against the Dallas Mavericks in 2008 was pretty special, because it capped such a wild year. You had All-Star weekend here, you had that Hornets team win the division, and you had the situation where New Orleans fans came back to the Hornets. After the return from Hurricane Katrina and being in Oklahoma, the first part of that season was really slow around here and we had a really good team, so it was kind of hard to stomach, thinking “Why isn’t anyone coming to see this great team?" But then All-Star weekend happens and about that time there was a 10-game win streak (for the Hornets) and all of the sudden you couldn’t even get a ticket in the building. It was capped by the fact that we got the Mavericks and moved into the (Western Conference) semifinal round. So I guess those two would probably be my biggest memories.

Hornets.com: Is there a certain game in recent memory, in any sport, that you wish you could have been a part of or called?
Kelley: I wish I could have called Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. The Cardinals and Rangers, and David Freese. Not only is (St. Louis) my hometown and they’re (Cardinals) my hometown team, but it might be one of the greatest baseball games I’ve ever seen. So if I could pick one, that would probably be it.