The Portland Trail Blazers’ broadcast crew is undergoing a major overhaul and several faces who were synonymous with the organization will no longer be there.
The team announced Wednesday that television duo of Mike Rice and Mike Barrett, as well as radio analyst Antonio Harvey, will not be with the team next season.
A national search to replace Barrett and Rice has already begun.
Radio voice Brian Wheeler will be back for his 19th season, doing a solo broadcast on the radio. They will not fill Harvey’s position.
“After reviewing our entire broadcast operation over the past couple of seasons, I felt it was a good time for us to transition into a new direction,” Blazers President and CEO Chris McGowan said in a press release. “I would like to thank our broadcasters for their years of dedicated service to our organization and wish them nothing but success in their future endeavors. Going forward, we will focus our efforts on a national search to fill our open TV broadcast positions, with the number one goal of bringing in top-notch talent that our fans will be excited to watch during Trail Blazers broadcasts.”
Rice had been with the organization since 1991.
Rice and Barrett, a native of Albany, Ore., were the broadcast team for the Blazers for the past 11 seasons.
Antonio Harvey played for the Blazers for two seasons as part of a 10-year professional career. He joined the team as a broadcaster in 2005.
The Blazers’ 10-year deal with Comcast Sportsnet Northwest is up after next season and both sides have been in negotiations since the new year. The Blazers and Comcast have butted heads in the past over who would get revenue from streaming games, which has caused Blazers fans to continue living with no streaming option the past two seasons.
The Oregonian reported that the Blazers have until July 1 to pick a new broadcast partner.
DirecTV-owned ROOT Sports broadcasts the Portland Timbers and the Seattle Mariners.
Carriage across multiple providers has been a major sticking point between the Blazers and Comcast.
The Blazers often feel the internal pressure to live up to their “Trail Blazers” image as pioneers. A streaming broadcast option could set a precedent in the league.
“It’s super important,” McGowan told The Columbian back in February with regards to carriage rights. “Unfortunately we don’t control it, which is a tough thing. There’s only a few companies that carry regional sports networks. You have to create a deal and a partnership with those companies. It’s definitely a factor. It’s on our mind. It’s our end goal. It’s one of those things that we understand our fans want our games as widely distributed as possible.”
Comcast Sportsnet Northwest’s positioning is also precarious with regards to the Blazers.
According to sources, the network’s future could be in jeopardy if the Blazers don’t renew their contract with them.
McGowan told 1080 The Fan’s Dirt And Sprague on Wednesday that he thought notifying the affected employees was the “most compassionate way.” All of them have one year before their contracts are up, meaning they will still be compensated,
McGowan also told Dirt and Sprague that he hopes to have a replacement for the television crew done within a month.
Rice tweeted that he hopes he and Barrett can work together on a talk show in the future.