For Mike Breen, it was a love of Spero Dedes from first listen.
From the kitchen of his home one Saturday afternoon in December 2000, Breen tuned into the Fordham University student radio station, WFUV-FM, to see how the Rams were doing in a game at Madison Square Garden against rival St. John's. As a Fordham grad (Class of '83), Breen, now the radio voice of the New York Knicks, hadan understandable rooting interest.
As the second half began, Fordham was actually close to St.John's - which was somewhat unusual, considering the success rate of both teams at the time.
"So I started listening, and I realized that the kid doing the call of the game was doing a pretty good job ... actually, it was scary how good he was," Breen said. "I didn't think there was any way I was going to listen to the entire second half, but I couldn't turn it off."
As good as the game got down the stretch, the broadcast was even better.
"Fordham has always had good student broadcasters, but this was different," Breen said. "When you're working at the student station, as I was at one time, there's no question who you're rooting for, but on this game, the kid was doing such a professional job maintaining his composure, giving everything - score, court location. You couldn't have had a 25-year basketball veteran calling this any better. And then when you factor the emotions, I was blown away."
After listening to Fordham hang on for a 68-67 upset, Breen had to call someone at the station to find who was on the call.
It was Dedes.
"I had heard a lot of good ones over the years," Breen said. "But I could tell this kid was special and he was going to be a big-time announcer. To do a game that early in his young career was just magnificent."
Flash forward to Staples Center this week. There's Breen, in his second year as the lead play-by-play man on the NBA for ABC (Ch.7), courtside calling the Lakers-Celtics series. And up behind him, Dedes is in his third year doing radio play-by-play for the Lakers on KLAC (570AM).
These days, the 29-year-old Dedes refers to the 47-year-old Breen as not just his confidant and chief constructive critic, but "my broadcasting hero."
Dedes, who grew up in NewJersey and listened to Breen do Knicks games, said getting the complimentary call from Breen "was like an aspiring business student all of a sudden hearing from Bill Gates."
Since then, Breen has been Dedes' sounding board as he launches his professional broadcasting career, counseling him on anything from finding an agent to tips on preparation.
"He's not been just a mentor, but someone I pattern myself around," Dedes said about Breen. "Everything from his voice, to his cadence to his mechanics just appealed to me. If he's doing a game, I'd want to hear it.
"There was maybe a three-year period when I didn't miss a Knicks game on the radio, because I was constantly listening and absorbing as much as I could."
Breen helped steer Dedes to take the Lakers' radio job when it opened after the 2005 season, even if it meant pulling up his East Coast roots. That isn't such an easy thing for a sportscasting graduate of Fordham, the private New York City Jesuit school that has turned out such sports broadcasters as the Dodgers' Hall of Famer Vin Scully as well as Michael Kay (New York Yankees' TV and radio), Bob Papa (New York Giants radio) and Chris Carrino (New Jersey Nets radio).
"I thought it was a job he had to take, because of the stature of it," Breen said of Dedes (Fordham Class of '01) landing the Lakers' gig. "I remember myself at that age, wanting to advance, and do this and do that, but I've told him, just concentrate on being the voice of the Lakers and don't worry about any other job. Just knock 'em dead and you'll get noticed.
"I see him as someone who can pretty much do anything he wants in this business. Technically, he's so good, but more importantly, he's got his head straight. He's got the whole package. He just needs to enjoy every stop of the way and not put the cart before the horse."
Dedes said he still finds it amazing to sometimes wake up and realize where he's at career-wise.
"I can't believe I'm here. It probably sounds corny, but maybe this is just a once-in-a-lifetime situation to see me and Mike calling an NBA Finals at the same time. It's already been a wild, crazy ride and hopefully it's the first of many."