ESPN names new MNF team; Breen to call NBA games

Monday Night Football will have a new broadcast team when it debuts on ESPN in 2006.

Mike Tirico, Joe Theismann and Tony Kornheiser will be part of a three-man booth calling the games on Monday nights next season and Suzy Kolber and Michelle Tafoya will be sideline reporters. Kolber and Tafoya both reported from the sidelines for ABC during Super Bowl XL.

"I'm just thrilled to be the next person to take the greatest franchise in television sports history forward," Tirico said on ESPN Radio Wednesday morning.

Al Michaels, who had been with ABC since 1976, is headed to NBC.

ESPN also announced that Mike Breen will be its new lead NBA play-by-play announcer, teaming with analyst Hubie Brown for ABC telecasts beginning Feb. 12 and including the NBA Finals.

"This Monday Night Football team enthusiastically embraces our vision for sports television's signature series. We will propel MNF into a 21st century, all-day, exclusive, multi-media event that will engage fans in entirely new ways. This team will develop great chemistry," ESPN Executive Vice President John Skipper said.

"Mike Breen is widely respected for his depth of NBA knowledge and his consummate play-by-play skill. We are very excited to provide such a spectacular forum as the NBA Finals to showcase his talents."

In addition, Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon will take Pardon The Interruption on the road on Mondays during the football season. The shows will air from the site of ESPN's Monday Night Football games.

"We look to the future with great enthusiasm and a strong commitment to enhance the presentation of the NFL and the NBA, two of our most important sports properties," ESPN and ABC Sports President George Bodenheimer said.

Michaels had been the play-by-play voice of Monday Night Football since 1986, when he replaced Frank Gifford.

"Al was not comfortable and let us know he was not comfortable
with our vision of where we are going," Skipper said after Wednesday's announcement.

NBC takes over Sunday night games next season from ESPN. John Madden, Michaels' broadcast partner for the last four seasons, agreed in June to a six-year contract with NBC.

ESPN plans to use its various television and radio networks and Web sites for daylong buildups to the Monday night games, which
will start at 8:40 p.m., about 25 minutes earlier than previously.
MNF has not had a three-man booth since Michaels was teamed with Dan Fouts and Dennis Miller in 2000-01.

Theismann was an NFL quarterback for 12 seasons and had worked on ESPN's Sunday night games since 1988. Kornheiser, who had auditioned for the MNF job Miller got, has written for the Post since 1979 and has co-hosted "Pardon the Interruption" on ESPN since September 2001.

"I've got about 27 gigs right now," Kornheiser said. "I've got radio, I've got television, I've got The Washington Post."

He thinks listeners do care about who broadcasts games, especially "if the telecast has a certain amount of sizzle."

"Roone Arledge and Howard Cosell, among others, sort of changed the viewing habits of America," he said.

He also must adjust his schedule.

"I live like a barn animal. I go to sleep at 9:30 and wake up at about 5," he said.

Tirico has been a "SportsCenter" host for ESPN and handled play-by-play of the last Orange Bowl. He has worked for ESPN and ABC since 1991.

"It's the best play-by-play chair in sports," Tirico said.
"To be the next person to sit in it is humbling."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.