Matt Harpring's playing career appears to be over, but hopefully his broadcasting career has just begun...
It is tough to see Matt Harpring back at Jazz games, but not on the court. Harpring after announcing his quasi-retirement (he announced he will not return this season and indicated that he would be unlikely to return in the future, but he has not made his retirement official) has now come to Utah to join the Jazz broadcast.
Harpring sat in on the television broadcast with Ron Boone and Craig Bolerjack for the Jazz game against the Spurs. He also plans on being a part of either the radio or television broadcasts for the remainder of the week.
As I watched the television broadcast before the Spurs game, I commented with my wife about how Harpring still looks to be in great playing shape. It would appear that Harpring really did give everything he had to try and get back on the court for the Jazz this season.
That hard work and commitment to training is really what made Harpring such a likable Sloan style player. When Harpring came into the game you knew exactly the type of play he was going to bring to the court. He was going to knock players around, play physical, and do the little things which win basketball games.
These attributes of Harpring made him loved inside the Jazz organization; however, other teams aren’t exactly sad that they no longer have to face him on the court. Players knew when they were facing the Jazz that Harpring was going to really knock them around the entire game. Other teams won’t miss the bumps and bruises they would have received from Harpring’s aggressive style of play.
The other thing which I noticed about Harpring is how he was improving the Jazz broadcast. Matt’s insights into the game were really on the mark the entire night.
Before the game Harpring joined the pregame show to walk through different plays the Spurs like to run against the Jazz. While this segment was not new to the Jazz pre-game show, Harpring was able to give more clarity to the segment and insights.
He highlighted before the broadcast the ability of the Spurs’ Matt Bonner to be a Jazz killer. He walked through the play the Spurs liked to run to Bonner to get him open for three point looks against the Jazz, Harpring also explained why it was important for the Jazz to close out on Bonner and not allow him to set his feet when he shot the ball.
Throughout the broadcast the Spurs would run the exact play Harpring outlined before the broadcast, and he would point out with great accuracy when the play was beginning to develop. He was also spot-on about Bonner’s ability to shot the ball better when his feet were set, as opposed to taking a shot on the move.
Along with the insight Harpring would give, not only on Bonner but the strategies of the Jazz, he brought a real excitement to the broadcast. An excitement which can sometimes be lacking among sports broadcasters. Just by listening to Harpring one can tell he has a genuine love for the game of basketball, and that love of the game is passed forward through his commentary.
Matt Harpring has the knowledge and the passion for basketball to be a great broadcaster; however his most important attribute is his ability to be well spoken.
When you listen to Matt Harpring he is able to make an intelligent well thought out point, and he is able to make his point during the flow of a broadcast. This ability to be well spoken really separates the good commentators from the great commentators. What is even more impressive is Harpring is able to be well spoken about what is actually happening in the game, as opposed to other commentators who view broadcasts as an opportunity to shot the breeze, with a game happening to be going on in the background.
Too often players who are likeable or who are a good interviews do radio shows or broadcasting and really are quite terrible. Case-in-point—The Deron Williams Show versus The Ronnie Brewer Show. Deron Williams is well spoken in post game interviews, and seems to have an interesting personality. Yet, Williams’ short lived train wreck of a weekly radio show with David Locke proved some people don’t have the ability to have a long well spoken conversation (Although he was really at a disadvantage dealing with wind-bag David Locke to begin with). Ronnie Brewer on the other hand had a similar weekly radio show with Gordan Monson and Kevin Graham. Brewer’s show is very compelling radio—why? He is a good conversationalist. He is able to string words his words together to make interesting points.
Harpring has that same conversationalist ability and he brought that ability to the Jazz broadcast against the Spurs.
Was he perfect on the broadcast? No. He was looking into the wrong cameras from time to time, and he would talk over Bolerjack or Boone at different times. Those problems seemed to be more lack of experience as compared to lack of talent. Even with his miscues he was still the bright spot on the broadcast for the Jazz.
He still is under contract for the Jazz this season, and it would be a shame if the Jazz missed out on the opportunity to make Harpring a fixture on the Jazz’s broadcasts.
The Jazz would much rather have Matt Harpring on the court helping them to win games, but they should at least have him do what he can to help the Jazz broadcasts. If Harpring brings the same work ethic to the broadcasts he did to the court, then he should be quite a success.