Randy Smith: Doris Burke Still Making History

  • Monday, June 10, 2024
  • Randy Smith
Randy Smith
Randy Smith
Last week, when the NBA finals kicked off in Boston, history was made when veteran commentator Doris Burke became the first woman to ever broadcast a professional men's championship sporting event. Burke teamed with Mike Breen and J.J. Riddick in game one on Thursday night. However, making history is nothing new for Doris Burke. Years ago she became the first woman to ever be part of the broadcast team for New York Knicks' games and in 2020, she became the first woman to be part of the NBA radio broadcast crew in the NBA conference finals and championship finals.

Burke was a two time all-Big East selection for the Providence women's basketball team in 1986-87.
She became friends with Coach Billy Donovan and slowly started to rise up the ladder of sports broadcasting. In 1994, I drew the assignment for handling play-by-play of the Sun Belt Tournament Championship game between Louisiana Tech and Western Kentucky. The game was broadcast on ESPN2 which was in its infant stages at the time. After accepting the assignment, I asked who the analyst was for the game. My producers told me a young lady who at the time was 29 years old and was not that experienced in doing television. I had a reputation of being laid back and was apparently easy to work with, so they paired Doris Burke with me.

I could tell she was a bit nervous but I did my best to make her feel at ease. We stayed up late the night before the game, going over lineups. And while we did a lot of work on the game, we also discussed our families. I realized right away just how much she loved her children and I hope she realized how much I loved mine. We worked beautifully together and had a great broadcast. I could tell right away she knew basketball very well, and after a few more games would be as good as anyone as an analyst. After bidding each other goodbye following the game we never worked together again and never stayed in touch. I did follow her career however and was always pleased to see her as a sideline reporter for games, especially NBA contests. I've always taken pride in being one of the first play-by-play guys she ever worked with and always hoped she remembered me fondly.

I have had the privilege of working with some of the very best analysts in the business. Larry Conley, Mike Pratt and Gerry Valencourt, are among some of the many folks I worked with. Conley and I worked a lot of basketball games and baseball games through the years and I always enjoyed working with him. But the one commentator that climbed the ladder higher than anyone is a lady that I only did one game with. Keep up the good work, Doris Burke, and continue to make history. You're one of the best ever.

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Randy Smith can be reached at rsmithsports@epbfi.com
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