Brian Sieman living his dream as Clippers’ new TV play-by-play broadcaster

first_imgHe remembers that his second-grade teacher had her sports anchor boyfriend come to class to talk about his job, a presentation that blew young Sieman’s mind: “I was like, ‘Wait a minute! Can you talk about basketball the whole time? That’s what I want to do!’ And every decision I made … everything has led me to here.”Sieman’s wife, Amy, has known him since they were in elementary school, so she remembers Lakers pictures posted all over his walls, the trunk full of newspaper clippings, how wins and losses would make or ruin his day.The Sieman family — from left, Finnegan, Brian, Henry and Amy — are seen before a Clippers game last season at Staples Center. (Photo courtesy of Amy Sieman)She recalls, too, that he ceased playing basketball in high school to start broadcasting that team’s games, and how hard he worked to gain entry into the University of Kansas’ broadcasting program, which was headed by Tom Hedrick, the Simon Cowell of sports broadcast training for his blunt, honest analysis.That, along with reps, reps and more reps – Sieman used to go to Jawhawks football games and sit in the stands with a tape recorder, calling the action just for practice – helped him begin to develop his delivery, fact-fueled, fast-paced, honest and often funny.He kept grinding, handling play-by-play for the International Basketball Association’s Des Moines Dragons and Continental Basketball Association’s Quad City Thunder. He called Minnesota Lynx games from 2002 through 2007, spending his first few WNBA offseasons bartending and playing poker, waiting for a rare NBA opening.And he dealt with rejection along the way, including in 2005, when the Clippers passed on him for the radio position: “I said, ‘I’m done, I’m gonna go into financial planning. If I can’t do what I love, I just want to make a lot of money.’”But then the Minnesota Timberwolves called, and, in 2007, the Clippers invited him aboard to do radio play-by-play.“He got the job and I saw him for the first time at the broadcasters’ meetings in New York,” said Lawler, who was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame last month, his first offseason of retirement following 40 years as the beloved TV voice of the Clippers.“Brian came over and said, ‘Mr. Lawler, I’m so glad to get a chance to work with you.’ I said, ‘No.  1, forget the Mr. Lawler stuff, you’ll be calling me ‘bleep bleep’ in a week,’ and that loosened things up.“He was like a sponge, wanting advice and counsel and direction, until it got to the point – as it should – where he didn’t need that anymore.”“Ralph broke all the rules,” Sieman said. “Tom Hedrick at Kansas … he would always have his standard line: ‘The most popular announcer is the guy with the best team.’ And it makes total sense. But Ralph shattered those (expectations). There will never be another Ralph, no one will ever endure what he did. The league is too competitive these days for a team to be a bottom feeder for as long as they were, so it aids the process for me.“But listen, whenever you take over for somebody, whether they’re (in the job) four years or four decades, it’s a challenge because people are familiar with that personality.“To have a team that is, we all think, going to be successful helps … but that doesn’t mean I can just show up. I’ve still got to work hard and I’ve still got to earn the trust of the fans.”Corey Maggette – who will join a color commentary rotation this season that also includes Chauncy Billups and Mike Fratello – said he thinks Sieman will catch on because, like Lawler, he works too hard not to.“My first trip on the road (as a broadcaster) was a four-hour flight,” said Maggette, who played eight seasons for the Clippers. “Brian and Ralph pull out their computers, and I’m watching. So I’m doing it on my phone, and after about an hour, I’m like, ‘I’m gonna take a nap because we got another three hours of the flight.’ When I wake up having to use the restroom, Ralph is still on his computer. Brian is still on his computer. They were on their computers the entire time.”Related Articles Clippers hope they can play to their capabilities, quell Mavericks’ momentum PLAYA VISTA — Ralph Lawler wanted very much to hand off the mic to his friend Brian Sieman when he retired. Even so, Sieman, previously the Clippers’ radio play-by-play man, had to interview for the team’s TV position, a vetting process that culminated in a meeting with Steve Ballmer.In it, the Clippers’ bombastic, spirited owner asked Sieman for a self-critique.“I get too excited in the first quarter,” said Sieman, who, as an NBA player might, reviews film after every game, taking copious notes in an effort to ward off bad habits, such as, say, too-swift pacing.“I want that!,” Ballmer countered, Sieman recalls. “I want excitement! I want energy! I want buzz!” What the Clippers are saying the day after Luka Doncic’s game-winner tied series, 2-2 Sieman asked Ballmer to think back to the Clippers’ first-round playoff series in 2015: “Think of Chris Paul’s game-winner in Game 7 against San Antonio – and put that in the first quarter.”“‘OK,” Ballmer said, “but I want energy.”“That,” Sieman replied, “is not a problem.”No, because Sieman is living his dream. He’ll call his first regular-season game as the team’s TV play-by-play announcer on Fox Sports West/Prime Ticket on Saturday night when the 2-0 Clippers face the Phoenix Suns.“Since I was 8 years old, this is what I wanted to do,” said Sieman, who grew up a Lakers fan in Iowa. “I saw Magic Johnson play and it changed my DNA right on the spot.” Kristaps Porzingis ruled out as Clippers, Mavericks set for Game 5; Follow for game updates center_img Clippers vs. Mavericks Game 5 playoff updates from NBA beat reporters That time and every time, said Maggette, who learned last season that the veteran broadcasters spent hours boning up on stats, and more importantly, researching the people playing the game, hunting for fresh stories to share with viewers and listeners.“You want to be a better shooter? There’s countless hours you spend putting time in to get better at your craft,” Maggette said. “It’s the same thing.”That, Sieman said, is what he hopes his sons, 11-year-old Finnegan and 9-year-old Henry, take from what their dad does.Not everyone is fortunate enough to find a calling, nor is there always a realistic path for those who do – but working hard will always pay off, Sieman said.“I just really admire his sticking with it and believing in it,” Amy Sieman said. “He works really hard, he’s really humble … and somehow, he always knew, in the back of his mind, he could do this.”Brian Sieman is the new television voice of the Clippers, succeeding recently retired Hall of Famer Ralph Lawler in the play-by-play role. Their former radio play-by-play man, he will call his first game in his new role on Saturday night when the Clippers face the Phoenix Suns. 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