Van Gundy, Breen set to do Christmas doubleheader
NEW YORK (AP) - Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Breen knew they had to be in Dallas for Christmas, though they were just as interested in a game in California.
Old colleague Mark Jackson had waited years to coach in the NBA, and they didn't want to miss his debut.
So when ESPN gave them the chance to call both, they jumped at the opportunity to announce a rare doubleheader.
The duo will follow the NBA finals rematch between the Mavericks and Heat by taking a charter flight to Oakland for the Warriors' opener against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Warriors Hall of Famer Chris Mullin, a teammate of Jackson's in college and the pros, will join them at the table for the nightcap.
Van Gundy - though clearly concerned about the level of play he'll see that day - said it will be a "great thrill'' to see Jackson's first game.
"The time frame I didn't know because I don't know the exact flight times and everything, but it's certainly something that we wanted to do,'' he said.
The game in Dallas is scheduled for a 2:30 p.m. EST tip, eight hours before the late game.
The trio worked its last game after four years together as ABC's top team during the NBA finals. Jackson had long coveted a coaching job and finally got one with the rebuilding Warriors.
"It will be a lot of fun when you're talking about guys I've known for a long time, love, respect and count them as friends,'' Jackson said Monday.
"It's going to be great to see them and it says a lot about ESPN to have those guys fly in and do our game. It's going to be an emotional time, because that's a group I've spent a lot of time with and truly love and appreciate.''
Jackson's debut was originally scheduled for Oct. 28 and was an ESPN game, but Breen assumed he and Van Gundy wouldn't get to work it because they would be assigned the Heat-Knicks game that was earlier that night in New York.
But the lockout gave them a mulligan, and senior vice president of production Mark Gross came up with the idea to try both games.
Breen's response when senior coordinating producer Tim Corrigan told him of the proposal, he said, was: "Tell me you're telling the truth. Tell me this is a possibility.''
And, he joked, one he'll use as an opportunity to bring his old partner back.
"I have a different agenda than everybody else,'' Breen said. "I don't think it's too late for him to go into the front office and tell them that he made a grave mistake and he wants to go back into broadcasting. And I just think he did it for his career and his family, as opposed to doing what was best for Jeff and me, and I think that's very selfish of him.''
Breen called a doubleheader just last year, but that was much easier. Both games were at Staples Center, an afternoon Lakers game for ABC followed by a Knicks-Clippers game for MSG Network - best remembered for Blake Griffin's nasty dunks on Timofey Mozgov's head.
This one is more challenging, so contingency plans are lined up in case they are delayed. Terry Gannon would call the game with Mullin until Breen and Van Gundy arrive. Breen is excited about the chance to work with Mullin, who played with Jackson at St. John's in the mid-1980s.
"It gives us an extra person to take shots at Mark and that really is basically the most important thing,'' Breen said.
ABC and ESPN will televise four of the five Christmas games after TNT does the Celtics-Knicks season opener. Van Gundy, who coached the Knicks to the finals in 1999 following the last lockout, believes teams won't be ready that day after such a brief preseason, so don't plan on seeing pretty play.
"The basketball is going to be so atrocious early because of the rushed nature of free agency coinciding with the start of training camp. People don't have their full rosters yet,'' he said. "It's really sort of sad in many ways, the product that's going to be out there on Christmas Day. It's usually very high-level basketball. I just can't imagine it being such.''
AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley in Oakland, Calif., contributed to this story.