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Recently fired Pistons coach Doug Collins signed a deal with NBC Sports, and will join the network's No. 1 broadcast team of Bob Costas and Isiah Thomas beginning March 29, according to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. NBC Sports President Dick Ebersol "denied" that Collins' deal, which is worth "about" $750,000 a year and runs through 2002, "was a way to compensate for Thomas's lack of experience." Collins will also work basketball for NBC at the 2000 Olympics (N.Y. TIMES, 3/18). Collins will work four regular-season games and the playoffs for NBC (Rudy Martzke, USA TODAY, 3/18). Collins said that he asked his agent to contact Ebersol after his negotiations to return to TNT "hit a snag." He had worked as a TNT analyst for six years (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/18). Bill Walton, who has joined the No.1 team for the NBA Finals in recent years, "will instead work" on "NBA Showtime" during the Finals (L.A. TIMES, 3/18). NAME GAME: WNBC-TV "officially confirmed" that WFAN- AM's Mike Francesa will team with Dave Jennings to host "GameDay New York," an NFL pregame show to air Sunday mornings next season (N.Y. POST, 3/18)....Lesley Visser is replacing Lynn Swann as sideline reporter on ABC's "Monday Night Football" (USA TODAY, 3/18)....49ers LB Gary Plummer will retire from the team and become the color analyst on KGO-AM broadcasts of 49ers games (S.J. MERCURY-NEWS, 3/18).
TV: ESPN Star Sports has signed an agreement with the Augusta National Country Club to broadcast the '98 Masters Tournament in Asia. The deal gives ESPN Star Sports exclusive cable and satellite rights across the region for the tournament (AD AGE DAILY, 3/18)....Kobe Bryant will make his "acting debut" on an episode of UPN's "Moesha," airing later this month. Bryant plays a high school basketball star "who's worried about taking his SAT" (Phil Rosenthal, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 3/18)....In Houston, a news conference has been scheduled for this afternoon, "apparently to announce" that KNWS-51 has acquired the rights to broadcast 66 Astros road games this season (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 3/18). PUBLISHING: In N.Y., Michael Shain reports that Mike Tyson is "quietly looking for a publisher for his tell-all biography," and is seeking a "big-money" deal. One editor: "[T]hey made it pretty clear that they're looking for seven figures" (N.Y. POST, 3/18). ...Ballantine Publishing released John Feinstein's new book, "The First Coming -- Tiger Woods: Master or Martyr?" The book explores Woods' first year on the PGA Tour (THE DAILY). WEB NOTES: NHL Interactive CyberEnterprises (ICE), a joint venture between the NHL and IBM, launched nhl4kids.com, a new Web site designed and created for kids. The site combines interactive and educational games with hockey features, contests and giveaways and access to the nhl.com store (NHL ICE)...CBS Cable's country.com generated 2.3 million hits on February 22 for its coverage of the Goodwrench Service Plus 400 Winston Cup race (CABLE WORLD, 3/9 issue)....echl.com has launched the Bud Ice/Kelly Cup Challenge. The contest, which allows fans to win prizes for choosing the winner of the ECHL championship, will run through the second game of the Kelly Cup finals (ECHL).
Among the top eight management positions at ESPN Magazine "there are no minorities," according to John Smallwood of the PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS. In addition, of 11 senior and associate editors, only one is African- American. Smallwood writes that the magazine's "lack of minorities is probably no worse than most" national publications, "but that doesn't make it OK." More Smallwood: "ESPN Magazine might take a new-age approach to sports coverage, but it still adheres to the same plantation mentality that has been the backbone of all sports-related industry: It's OK for minorities to make news, but when it comes to disseminating that information, it's back to the old-boys network" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 3/18). GENERATION NEXT? With nine hours of "SportsCenter," ESPN's "most notable identity," shown daily, the show is "nearly impossible to avoid," according to Charles Pierce of ESQUIRE. "SportsCenter" will air its 20,000th original broadcast in May, and Pierce writes that with the departure of personalities like Keith Olbermann, and the arrival of younger anchors such as Kenny Mayne and Stuart Scott, for the first time, ESPN is "hiring people who grew up on the network." The challenge now is to "maintain [its] position in the field without sacrificing the renegade charm that made [it] popular in the first place." Pierce notes that Scott is the first "SportsCenter" anchor "to use a distinctly African-American idiom," and as a result has been the target of "some criticism ... both within ESPN and without." Scott, on his use of African-American slang: "I'm doing it purposefully to prove that you can be diverse and do this job." Pierce: "If SportsCenter is to survive its own success, it cannot ossify itself the way the networks did. It must survive its own children, and that means the sensibilities of Dave Letterman and of P-Funk must coexist" (Charles Pierce, ESQUIRE, 4/98 issue).
The Red Sox have "killed" GM Dan Duquette's new TV show on WBZ, "Boston Red Sox with Dan Duquette," which was supposed to begin airing in April on Sundays with WBZ sports anchor Bob Lobel as host, according to Joan Vennochi of the BOSTON GLOBE. Duquette's publicist John Flynn had negotiated a three-year deal with WBZ that would have paid Duquette "a six-figure salary," but on Friday, Sox Exec VP John Buckley told WBZ GM Ed Goldman the deal was off. Vennochi calls this "an intriguing turn of events," as the Sox "continue to display an odd resistance to even the most overtly friendly media contact." Buckley could not be reached for comment, but Flynn and Goldman said he told them that the team was "concerned" about its contractual arrangement with Sox broadcast carrier WABU. Flynn said Duquette was "very upset" and described the breakdown of talks with WBZ as a "control issue" with the team. Flynn: "They get very paranoid. It's ridiculous. Their marketing and sales mentality is from somewhere in the 1940s." Flynn said the team wants to pitch a Duquette show to WABU, but Duquette "doesn't want to do a show" on WABU. Fallout from the nixed show "reveals a larger problem: a potential rift between Duquette ... and the top Sox brass, in the last season of Duquette's contract" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/18).