Born and raised in New Jersey, Spero Dedes has had a very productive broadcasting career despite his youth. Spero has been the radio voice of the Los Angeles Lakers, a member of CBS Sports, and a member of NBC’s Olympic Coverage team. Spero currently serves as the radio voice of the Knicks and frequently fills in for Mike Breen as the play-by-play man on TV. Recently, I was fortunate enough to conduct an online interview with Spero that gave me a look inside his life as a Knicks broadcaster.
Tommy: Hi, Mr. Dedes. Thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview! What do you consider your responsibility to be when you are doing the play-by-play, especially on TV? Everyone watching TV can see the action; what do YOU try to do to enhance the experience with your voice?
Spero: My responsibility obviously changes depending on whether I’m calling the game on radio or TV. Since my primary job with the Knicks is radio (98.7 FM), it’s my responsibility to be the “eyes & ears” of the listener. Whether he/she is listening in the car or in front of a computer, I try to be as descriptive as possible as to what’s happening in the game. When I do TV, I basically become a traffic cop, identifying the ball-handler, filling in the blanks as to what’s happening and trying to provide some good conversation with Clyde.
Tommy: How do you prepare for a game? Do you look up some stats? Do you try to find some interesting facts about the players before game time? Or do you just “wing it” completely?
Spero: I usually spend 2-3 hours preparing for each game. I’ll start my day reading the NY papers and filling out my player/team charts using a piece of software called Broadcasters Edge. I’ll customize my boards for each game with all the statistical and team information I think we need during the broadcast. I’ll repeat the process for the opposing team. For example, if the Knicks are playing the Celtics I’ll read all the Boston newspapers online and work from there. When I’m finished I’ll print out my charts for each team, hop on the subway & head to the Garden.
Tommy: Obviously, a team’s play-by-play guy is supposed to be a little bit partial towards the team. What steps do you take in order to fulfill this “expectation” while still remaining a fair balance as an announcer?
Spero: I’ve always guarded against being a “homer.” I grew up listening to Marv and Mike Breen and it always struck me how unbiased they remained on air. That’s how I wanted to sound. In certain cities being a homer is expected, but in NY the fans are too knowledgeable for that. There’s no reason to sugarcoat things in this town.
Tommy: What is it like to work with NBA Legend Walt “Clyde” Frazier?
Spero: Surreal. I pinch myself some nights. You realize you’re sitting next to NY royalty. And the best part about Clyde is that he’s an absolute sweetheart. Here he is, arguably the greatest Knick ever — the guy walks on water in NY — and he really couldn’t be more humble or nicer. Calling a game with Clyde is one of the most exciting parts about this gig.
Tommy: How long did it take for you to establish a give-and-take with Clyde once you started working with the Knicks?
Spero: It happened naturally. Like with any broadcast partner it takes a certain number of games to get comfortable with each other’s pace, cadence. Sometimes in the beginning we’d step on each other once or twice during a game, but now it’s very natural. Luckily for me I’ll sit next to him on the team plane after a game and that gives us a chance to talk in a more casual setting. That’s helped a lot too.
Tommy: Can you tell us about a couple guys we may not have heard of, but who actually play a big role working behind the scenes on MSG Network during the game?
Spero: I’m biased but we have the best TV production crew in broadcast sports at MSG Network. Our producer/director tandem of Spencer Julien and Howie Singer are second to none. Spencer is one of the youngest producers in the NBA, yet could put his resume & ability against anyone else in his position in the league. And Howie, who was the producer for more than 2 decades before sliding into the director’s chair is basically a legend in the business at this point. These guys are the true creative genius that puts it all together on your TV every night. Jim Ghallager and Kevin McHale are our Associate Directors and they are phenomenal. Jim’s knowledge of the Knicks is probably better than any of our on-air talent and Kevin is a beast. Any piece of information we need during a telecast, Kevin is all over it, not to mention his main responsibilities during the course of a game. I’m lucky to work with these guys.
Tommy: What advice would you give to somebody who has a dream of becoming an NBA broadcaster?
Spero: I’d say dream hard and work even harder. I’m amazed at how the industry continues to grow each year. I’m approached by a lot of kids who say they want to pursue this, but only the ones who are truly determined to work at it and persevere can make it. If you have that determination, anything is possible. They’ll tell you it’s a cut-throat business — and it is — but somewhere someplace there’s a job for you if you’re willing to put the work in.
Tommy: What is your favorite “Clyde-ism”, and what is your favorite Clyde outfit?
Spero: Favorite outfit: the easy answer would be the cow print. But I’m going to say it’s one of his purple numbers. One night early this season he rocked a purple pinstripe jacket, black vest and gray pants. It was actually a little toned down by Clyde’s standards but it was tight. Favorite Clyde-ism: He’s never actually said this when I’ve done a game with him but when I was younger and listening to him call a game on the radio, Oakley grabbed 3-4 rebounds in one sequence and Clyde goes, ‘Oak with an orgy of rebounds!’” I almost fell out of my chair. It was awesome. Wish he’d bring that one out of mothballs.
Tommy: Thanks for your time, Mr. Dedes. Enjoy the rest of the season.