By ANDREW MARCHAND
August 20, 2004 -- ESPN is on the verge of signing former "NBA on NBC'' game analyst Steve (Snapper) Jones, according to sources.
At NBC, Jones was best known for balancing out his co-analyst Bill Walton's outrageousness. While a return engagement as Walton's partner doesn't seem out of the question, Jones is expected to start with Jim Durham, who will move over from radio to TV. Durham's spot opened when Brad Nessler returned to college hoops full-time.
"We have yet to finalize our NBA commentators," an ESPN spokesman said.
From St. John's via Baldwin, L.I., Howie Schwab never aspired to have his own show. But after 17 years as an ESPN researcher, Schwab not only has his own program, his name is in the title - Stump the Schwab - and his Air Jordan-like silhouette logo is plastered all over the set.
"I never said, 'Hey, I have to get on TV,'" the 43-year-old Schwab said. "I don't exactly have a face for TV. I certainly don't have a body for TV.''
The trivia-based program owns an appealing fast pace. This type of innovative sports programming is a positive aspect of head honcho Mark Shapiro's ESPN.
As for Schwab, there has been some new territory to cover. Prior to the show, he had a two-hour photo shoot. ("Tyra Banks, I'm not," he said.) He has a hair and makeup consultant. He wears various old-school uniforms. ("If I had my way I'd wear all New York uniforms," he said.) And he is asked for autographs. The final Stump The Schwab is Friday at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN.
Fox Sports Net is interested in swiping Pardon the Interruption's Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon from ESPN, sources said.
"I have no comment," Fox Sports Net executive vice president George Greenberg said this week.
Kornheiser's and Wilbon's contracts are up soon, though ESPN won't confirm it. Shapiro said FSN's interest is "news to me.''
If anything, Fox Sports Net gives Kornheiser and Wilbon some leverage with ESPN. If that doesn't work, then pulling out tapes of PTI with Skip Bayless should do the trick. (
With ESPN2's morning show, Cold Pizza, needing to spice it up, co-host Thea Andrews added some red pepper while talking about the Olympic TV coverage Monday. After TV Guide's Eric Feil said, "Bob Costas had the highest degree of difficulty during the Opening Ceremonies," Andrews asked, "Why, because he had to work with Katie Couric?" Ouch!
Cold Pizza is being revamped with the addition of Around The Horn's Woody Paige. ESPN execs probably would be wise to slice the show in half to one-hour.