Cutting A New Path

John Crotty Heads Into His First Year In The Booth Alongside Eric Reid
by Couper Moorhead
HEAT.com

As he prepares for his first season as color analyst on HEAT broadcasts alongside Eric Reid, John Crotty sat down with HEAT.com to discuss his approach to the role.

When your career was winding down, at what point did broadcasting become an option and something you wanted to do?

Every summer, I try to improve my game. That was my individual time to better myself in some aspect of my game, and it was also a time of self reflection. I would try to say, ‘When it does end, what am I going to do?’

I would try to spend at least two weeks focusing on something non-basketball related. And I really utilized the NBA Internship program to my advantage. One of those internships I did was a broadcasting internship with the Miami HEAT. I did it with Ted Ballard, and Eric Reid was kind enough to come in. We sat down, we called it the fake broadcast, looked at older games and we did the voiceover. We put together resume tapes, which Ted was very helpful putting together, and Eric gave his time to allow me to do that in a real life situation.

When you started to get into it, was it what you expected?

The thing that was really interesting to me was, radio, TV, doing interviews, everything is a little bit different. There are subtleties to it that you don’t [see] until you actually start doing it. It’s hard to simulate. How do you practice calling the game unless you’re doing it?

Starting with radio and Mike Inglis, you develop that chemistry. In radio what’s very unique is [Mike] is the one painting the picture and I have to jump in very quickly and get my piece in, in a concise manner, basically from when the ball goes in the basket until it goes over halfcourt so I can get it back to him because the action is paramount. And nobody can see it. That gave me a good understanding of how to be succinct and tight in my messaging. TV is a different animal.

Each medium to me is kind of cool because you have to change your thought process. I always try to make it as interesting as possible. I go off and make it technical too much sometimes, but I love those little idiosyncrasies in the game and I hope people that listen do to.

With this era being more and more dominated by social media, where you communicate with fans more often, it seems the die-hard fans are both more educated and open to that sort of diversion. Where they really want to dig in to what exactly is happening versus being a little more generic. Have you experienced that?

Yes and no. Sometimes there are more technical questions about why things are happening. I think it tends to be people asking about players and who is better than the other guy versus why is this happening. I think people always get lost in the amazing play, meaning they see the dunk, but what always intrigued me as a player was, while I appreciate the dunk, how did he get open to get the dunk? I find that to be the cool thing. I love seeing the crossover or the hesitation or the change of pace that freed the guy up to do that. That’s what I try to bring on the call, is why that amazing play happened.

Having that amazing play live in front of you now, with replay available to break it down, is that going to be a fun challenge?

Yeah, it is. I think I have to be even quicker than I have been when I’m in the studio and radio because of the descriptive nature of seeing it on TV. I’m going to have to be more articulate, but I do love that. That to me is the exciting part of being an analyst, you do get to utilize the replay and that’s when you can really see things in a slower fashion. It’s your time to shine as an analyst.

You spoke about how Eric Reid was kind enough to lend you his time years ago. As far as your on-air relationship and that back and forth, can you expect to completely hit the ground running or is that something you’ll have to build up?

It is totally about chemistry and like any relationship, it takes time. From a player perspective, it’s like a guy getting hurt and it’s next man up. You have to adapt and change. This is kind of the next evolution for me from the standpoint of now I’m working with Eric. He’s my teammate. He’s my colleague. I want to make the broadcast as excellent as I can with him. He’s the older veteran and I’m the young guy, but I’m going to work hard, try to learn from him and bring my unique twist to it. I think we have such a great mutual respect for each other already it will make it easier as opposed to if I was coming in cold from another place. I’ve been with the HEAT now for 12 years, so it’s not like I’m coming in as an unknown entity.

As the play-by-play guy, how is Eric going to be able to set you up for success?

The excellent play-by-play guy is somebody that does a great job of setting you up. He’s almost the point guard in a lot of ways. He’s the traffic controller, steering where the broadcast is going. I’m trying to answer why things are happening, strategy and rules, so during the breaks in the game that’s when I can ask him to come back to me with some of those ideas I can hopefully share and get across. That give and take, being able to complement each other, over time we’ll continue to get better.

You mentioned the player perspective before. What do you think that adds to your commentary?

I always respect the guys who are putting themselves on the line. I’m always sensitive to how hard the game is. While I’ll say things, if a player makes a mistake or the wrong decision, I may point that out, but I will never slam a guy who’s playing hard and makes a mistake. I know how hard that is. One day you can be struggling and the next you’re on top of the world. That’s sports. 

I always feel like I give the players the benefit of the doubt. You’re going to get kicked in the teeth. To me, the amazing thing about sports is the journey to watch how people respond when times are tough. Do they fold, do they get back up and excel? That’s what makes it exciting to me.

It’s a common things for fans to comment on what local broadcast teams are more homers than others. If you could explain to the fans, what is your philosophy as far as leaning too far toward the home team?

It’s honestly one of the hardest things to articulate and talk about. I’m a huge fan of this organization. I saw some very dysfunctional franchises [while I was playing] but this team, from top to bottom, does things so incredibly well. First of all just trying to make it humanistic and classy, but also translating it to wins.

I have a ton of respect for them, and they’re paying me, right, so I’m thankful. But I also feel like you have to call it like it is. Honestly, I’m still working out how I’m going to do that. I get emotional sometimes and that’s when I maybe go a little too far as far as pulling for the HEAT or for a call, but I will tell you more often than not I tell it like it is. If there’s a mistake on the floor I just try to do it again in a way where I’m not slamming a coach or a player. Those things are happening in a split second. It’s so easy for us to look back and make the call. But when you’re out there under the bright lights having to make a decision, it’s not an easy one.

The broadcast aspect to all of this is obviously major and it’s the central part of the role, but you’re also officially a front and center voice of the HEAT. You’ve been living in Miami a long time, what is your connection to the community?

I’ve had a home in Miami for 17 years and I’ve been full-time down here for 15 years. I love Miami. I love the diversity. I love the action. I love the weather. If you don’t feel alive in Miami, man, you belong on a different planet. There’s so much to do and I really embrace that. I love the influences of the different cultures. It really makes it a fun place to live.

From the community standpoint, I feel like I am an ambassador already. Not a day goes by that I’m not talking about the HEAT at least five or ten times. It’s fun. What makes it easy for me is I genuinely believe in the decision makers the team has. I know ownership is always going to do the right thing. That makes it a lot easier and makes it true for me too. I’m not talking out of both sides of my mouth. I believe in what they’re doing. As a player, I feel like they’re fair. More often than not players respect that as long as you’re upfront with them.

I’m sure there’s some things you do expect, plenty you don’t know what to expect, a year from now after you look back what do you think is going to make this a good first year for you?

I feel so blessed right now to get the commitment from the team. For me, it will be seeing an improvement in myself. Like anything when you start, you won’t be as good as you will be at the end of the year. I believe I will be better. The beauty of if it I’ll get 82 reps plus preseason and hopefully another postseason. Getting better, having people appreciate what I’m saying, having people come up to me and say, ‘Hey, man, I like the way you’re talking about this. I understand what you’re saying. You’re fair. You make the game interesting to listen to.’ Then I’ll know that I’m doing the right thing and hopefully it works out that way.