According to TV industry sources, the Heat is focusing on a handful of candidates to replace Tony Fiorentino as its television analyst beginning in 2018-19. And former Heat players LaPhonso Ellis and Jim Jackson and Heat radio analyst John Crotty are among those who have done audition practice games with play-by-play man Eric Reid, the sources said.
At least one other unknown candidate is being considered.
Ellis is said to have impressed the Heat in his audition, and Crotty remains very much in the mix. Jackson cannot be ruled out but is not considered a front-runner.
The Heat also has given consideration to former Heat guard Steve Smith, who works for NBA TV.
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Ellis, who played for the Heat for two seasons (2001-2003), has worked as a college basketball analyst for ESPN, and Heat executives are fond of him.
Crotty was the Heat’s backup point guard for most of the 1996-97 season and is entering his 12th season as a Heat broadcaster. He’s the team’s radio analyst for home games, alongside Mike Inglis, on 790 The Ticket and also appears with Jason Jackson on Fox Sports Sun’s studio programming.
Jim Jackson, who played for the Heat in 2001-02, works as a college basketball analyst for Fox.
Heat executive vice president Michael McCullough declined to identify candidates but said “there’s been a ton of interest” in the job.
“We’re very happy with the candidates and hopefully we’ll have a decision shortly,” he said. “We don't have to search. Once people know there's going to be an opening, that's your search. These jobs are very rare, so yes, there’s been a ton of interest.”
This will be Fiorentino’s 14th and final season on the Heat’s broadcast crew. We’re told management wanted to make a change with the TV analyst position.
But McCullough said “we made available to Tony an opportunity to have a great farewell season,” which he accepted.
Fiorentino will remain with the organization beyond this season, running basketball camps and handling other potential assignments.
“Tony is a Heat lifer,” McCullough said. “He's always going to be part of the Heat organization. He's always going to have a place here.”
Reid will remain the team’s TV voice beyond this season.
McCullough said the organization has been proactive with the search for Fiorentino’s replacement, even though his successor won’t start in the job for another year, because “the offseasons are very short. The longer you go in the playoffs, the shorter the offseason. Hopefully we have a nice playoff run this week which means your offseason gets a lot shorter.
“You don't want to be faced with a time crunch of trying to hustle up to try to do something in a short period of time. Knowing we have Tony the entire year gives us the fiexiblity and the cushion to do things early so we don't have to worry about what happens in the offseason.”
Fiorentino begins his final season alongside Reid on Fox Sports Sun’s coverage of the Heat’s preseason opener against Atlanta at 6 p.m. Sunday.
Fox Sports Sun will carry the first five preseason games; the sixth and final preseason game on Oct. 13 against Philadelphia in Kansas City will be the only Heat game not televised this season.