[This story was originally published September 8th.]
Michael Wilbon’s role on ESPN’s NBA Countdown will be diminished next season, and taking his spot on the set will most likely be former 76ers coach Doug Collins, multiple sources told The Big Lead.
The move is primarily so that Wilbon can return to focusing on the show that made him a star, Pardon the Interruption. In recent years, Wilbon has increasingly appeared on PTI via remote – from Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, Arizona, etc – diluting some of the outstanding chemistry he’s built up with longtime friend Tony Kornheiser.
Wilbon’s frequent travel has also led to PTI replacing him with Bob Ryan or J.A. Adande, and the end result of both of those factors is that ratings for the show have sagged in the last two years, sources say.
An ESPN spokesman told The Big Lead, “We’re still in the process of finalizing our commentator plans for this season.”
On the dip in PTI ratings, ESPN stressed the show is “a great performer with a loyal following.”
Wilbon will still appear on NBA Countdown occasionally, but his seat on the set will be filled by a former NBA coach, and Collins is currently the leader. Two other coaches are in the mix, but Collins has reached the negotiating stage, sources tell The Big Lead.
Collins has extensive TV experience, from NBA on NBC to NBA on TNT. One source says Collins still wants to be a game analyst, and will occasionally do that for ESPN. But his primary role will be on the set.
This will be the second straight year ESPN Countdown has juggled the cast. Last summer, the show added Simmons and Rose … and tried to add Stan Van Gundy before David Stern nixed it.