Oh Brother: Sean McDonough Shares Thoughts on Brother Ryan
As an older brother, I have a theory. Let’s call it the “Brotherly Love” theory. It’s simply that the best, most unique and most entertaining source of information is a another man's brother.
The theory came simply from the fact that I’ve learned I’m an accurate source of information on my younger brother over the years. Well, I’m at least an humorous source. It's a byproduct of growing up around a person and inadvertently knowing all their deep dark secrets. With that in mind, I figured there was no better way to get to know new Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough than through his brother, ESPN Monday Night Baseball announcer Sean McDonough.
Sean and I exchanged e-mails to discuss his brother’s new gig, Ryan’s talents, what it was like growing up with a father who was a legendary Boston columnist and embarrassing stories from childhood.
Let’s just say, the brotherly love theory didn’t disappoint.
Espo: First off, how excited are you that your brother gets an opportunity to become an NBA general manager at the age of 33?
Sean McDonough: I am ecstatic that Ryan has the opportunity to become an NBA general manager, particularly with a franchise with a proud history like the Phoenix Suns. I know recent seasons have been a disappointment for Suns fans, but I have no doubt that Ryan is the right man to help return the Suns to the upper echelon of the NBA. I could not be happier for him because Ryan is as fine a human being as I know, which is a wonderful thing to be able to say about your brother. He is, above all else, a thoroughly decent person. He has earned this opportunity with his intelligence, experience and work ethic. There are a lot of reasons why he has been considered a rising star among NBA executives. I am completely biased, but I think the Suns have made the best choice they could have made.
Espo: When you worked for the Boston Red Sox you got the opportunity to see another young general manager in Theo Epstein. Do you think his youth can be an advantage for Ryan the way it seemed to be for Theo?
Sean: I am not sure age really matters anymore when it comes to sports executives. Ryan is young relative to most other NBA GMs, just as Theo, Sam Presti and other successful young GMs were relative to their peers when they moved into their positions, but he has a great deal of experience in many facets of professional basketball management. I think Ryan’s youth can be an advantage in many ways. And as our father used to say, there is no substitute for intelligence. Ryan is exceptionally bright. He has great energy, is well known as a tireless worker, and is a creative thinker. He has great instincts. He is very well versed in the “analytics” that are increasingly a factor in pro sports decision making. The biggest advantage Theo had was that he inherited a lot of very talented players and he did a nice job of supplementing that talent with his personnel moves. Ryan’s job is more difficult because the Suns are not as competitive now as the Red Sox were when Theo took over.
Espo: From a young age, could you tell that Ryan was going to work in sports and accomplish big things?
Sean: When Ryan was young, I thought he was going to follow my father and me into the sports media business. He did some public address announcing for his high school teams. He worked in the sports information office at North Carolina. He spent some time broadcasting minor league baseball. Ryan is the rare McDonough who doesn’t talk a lot, so it wasn’t always obvious to ascertain what he was thinking or feeling. But he got a great opportunity with the Celtics right out of college and made the most of it and then some. I believe the Lord leads us to where we should be and that has certainly happened with Ryan. Ryan’s mind, demeanor, and communication skills are perfect for what he is doing right now. And I am glad he did not become a sports broadcaster because I am sure he would be better than I am.
Espo: You and both your brothers wound up in the sports world, how much impact did your father Will have on your decisions to work in the sports world?
Sean: Our dad was a huge influence on all three of us boys and on our two sisters, for that matter. Erin and Cara are really the achievers among my siblings and me. Erin is vice president of Brigham and Women’s Hospital here in Boston and is an amazing person. Cara graduated from Harvard and Harvard Business School, and has a great job at Under Armour. Our sisters certainly got all the good looks in the family (laughs). Ryan, Terry and I grew up idolizing our father. When I first heard yesterday that Ryan had been hired by the Suns, I got very choked up thinking how proud my father must be up in Heaven. My dad would be much more proud of the kind of man Ryan is rather than what he has achieved professionally. My dad cared about character. He didn’t care much about titles. We grew up going to games with Dad and watching countless games on TV with him. We all got our analytical minds from him because you wouldn’t just sit there and watch the game with him. He would engage us in conversation about the players, coaching, officiating, announcing or whatever else was on his mind. More than anything, he taught us to think, work hard, be honest, and to not be afraid to express an opinion.
Espo: What’s the most embarrassing story you have of your brother growing up?
Sean: I wish I had an embarrassing story about Ryan but I don’t. He is so “normal” that it is almost painful. He might be the least likely person to embarrass himself that I know. I will say that he is a remarkably slow eater. There is no such thing as catching a “quick meal” with Ryan. He might be the slowest eater in the history of mankind. When we were at Thanksgiving dinner, the rest of the family would be eating pumpkin pie for dessert when Ryan was about halfway through his salad. I guess he is just meticulous about everything.
Espo: And finally, is there anything Suns fans should know about your brother and his work ethic?
Sean: Suns fans should know they are getting an incredibly talented, hardworking, smart, and passionate person as their GM. Their GM is also a man of immense character and integrity. I have never heard anyone speak an unkind word about Ryan. Ryan will work as hard as humanly possible to make the Suns the best team in the NBA. We talked for a couple of hours last night about his plans and ideas and I am excited to watch him get to work. He wants desperately to bring an NBA Championship to the Valley of the Sun. I look forward to attending the parade!