As everyone knows by now, Bob Ortegel is off the Dallas Mavericks' television broadcast, ending a 23-year relationship with the club that includes a long and successful pairing with play-by-play man Mark Followill.
Mavs owner Mark Cuban made the call on this one, wanting to "freshen things up." He dropped Ortegel from the broadcast and offered him the radio gig where Brad Davis has long added input to Chuck Cooperstein's call. Ortegel declined -- this time.
This is not the first time a discontented Cuban has tried to freshen things up with the broadcast. He moved Ortegel to the radio side before, bringing Davis -- who is more suited for radio -- over to TV, only to swap them again. The season after the disappointing 2008 first-round ouster, TV ratings and fan interest drooped. Around Christmas, Cuban decided to take action. In mid-season he added ESPN 103.3's Jeff "Skin" Wade to the telecast as a second analyst, forming a rare three-man booth.
In an email then to the Mavs' head of broadcasting, Cuban made it clear that he wanted Ortegel's role reduced (I chronicled this situation at the time while working for a different media outlet).
At the time, Ortegel and Followill were both unsure of where Cuban would take the broadcast at that time. While most organizations typically follow industry standard and sign talent to three-year contracts, Cuban follows his own standard and keeps his broadcasters on year-to-year deals, so naturally both felt some uneasiness heading into the offseason.
Cuban obviously stuck with Ortegel, and starting last season, Skin took on a more versatile sideline reporter/analyst role that allows him to showcase his personality and basketball chops while allowing Followill and Ortegel to maintain a more traditional two-man booth operation.
It is certainly Cuban's prerogative to make changes as he sees fit. It's just a shame that the owner couldn't allow Ortegel -- who, after two decades, has a large and adoring following as a broadcast fixture -- to finish out the season with dignity.
Ortegel's sudden disappearance from the television broadcast came with no explanation and left Mavs fans to wonder if Ortegel, 70, had become ill. It also put Followill and Skin in an awkward position, left only to tell hordes of curious and concerned emailers and followers on Twitter that Ortegel was taking time off for "personal reasons," which wasn't exactly the whole truth.
As Skin detailed Wednesday morning on the "Ben & Skin Show," some speculated that Ortegel's departure had something to do with a poor relationship between the two, which left Skin, and then Ortegel, who called into the show, to set the record straight on the air about their relationship that spans 10 years.
Bob will be missed and the broadcasts will go on. It's just too bad that 23 years of service couldn't be rewarded with a more gracious sign-off.