Former Heat forward Caron Butler has been receiving serious consideration for the Heat’s TV analyst job beginning next season, according to multiple sources.
As I reported on Sept. 30, former Heat players LaPhonso Ellis and John Crotty are also serious contenders for the job.
The Heat informed TV analyst Tony Fiorentino after last season that he would not be retained in that role but that he would be given a final farewell season behind the microphone (his 15th in that role) and would be given another job in the organization after this season.
That job is expected to include running the Heat’s summer basketball camp - as he has done for years - and community events.
TV play-by-play man Eric Reid will return next season.
Butler was drafted by Miami and played his first two seasons with the Heat - and was named to the first-team All Rookie team his first season - before being included in the Lakers trade that brought Shaquille O’Neal to the Heat. He played 14 seasons in the league, last appearing in 17 games for Sacramento in 2015-16.
Butler, who was hired by ESPN recently to be a college basketball game analyst, twice attended broadcasting boot camps at Syracuse University and has made many national network TV appearances as a guest in the past year. He reportedly has a studio in his Los Angeles home.
Though he never returned to the Heat after those first two seasons, he has maintained a good relationships with Heat coaches and executives over the years.
Butler has auditioned for the job. Meanwhile, Ellis and Crotty have auditioned twice.
Former Heat guard Jim Jackson, who is a college basketball analyst for Fox, auditioned once for the Heat but did not return for a second audition, according to a source.
The Heat also reached out to former Heat guard Steve Smith, who works for NBA TV and TNT, but it’s unclear if he remains in contention.
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.
Fiorentino’s looming departure was surprisingly broached by ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy during the network’s coverage of the Heat-Spurs game on Wednesday night.
Van Gundy said to partner Mike Breen: Mike, I've got to mention this. You told me coming in, and I'm still astounded by it, that they are breaking up the Miami Heat tandem of Eric Reid and Tony Fiorentino. They're moving on from that great two, duo, that's been with this franchise from the start? I can't believe it. Sometimes you try to change and you go backwards. I'm astounded that they're breaking these guys up."
Breen then said: “Eric Reid, the play-by-play man, Tony Fiorentino, the former coach, the analyst, they've been together for over 20 years doing the local broadcasts for the Heat and not only are they just fantastic on the air, but they're also, they're beloved here. And I agree with you, I was shocked."
"I love turning on a Heat game and knowing who you're listening to," Van Gundy then said. "They're legendary. That would be like the Spurs sending Tim Duncan out to pasture before he was ready."
Breen then said: "Tony Fiorentino, one of the most likeable guys in our business.”
Heat executive Michael McCullough told me exactly one month ago that he expected a decision “shortly” on Fiorentino’s successor and that the Heat wanted to be proactive with the search instead of waiting until next summer.
“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.”
Here’s my six-pack of UM notes from this afternoon, including a surprising development with Malik Rosier and some UM hoops talk.