Recently, Guilderland High School graduate Marc Kestecher received a gift from his employer, the Disney Company, for spending 15 years at ESPN Radio.
It was a statue of Mickey Mouse. It’s something the company gives its employees for 15 years of service.
Kestecher, best remembered as the play-by-play voice of the Albany Firebirds Arena Football League team, continues to enjoy his time with ESPN Radio. He has hosted ESPN Radio’s NBA Finals coverage for the last 11 years. In addition to that, he got to call the Eastern Conference final between the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat, the first time he got to do the play-by-play of a conference final.
“It’s been a blast,” Kestehcher said. “They’ve been giving me more play-by-play the last two years. I did four NFL games last fall. I did the Champions Classic [college basketball tournament]. I did Syracuse-Duke at the Carrier Dome, which was a career highlight, only to be topped by the Eastern Conference finals. It’s still fun, challenging and just trying to keep an upward career path.”
The man affectionately known as “Kesty” remembered his first NBA Finals hosting job in 2004, when the Detroit Pistons beat the Los Angeles Lakers. At the time, Brent Musburger was calling the NBA Finals for ESPN Radio.
“For me to hang out, in a small way, with Brent before we even got on the air was cool,” Kestecher said during an interview from Miami last week. “He took me to the Palazzo di Bocce [in the Detroit area]. It was an Italian restaurant and bocci [ball] place. I’m playing bocci with Brent and his brother Todd and his nephew. I went to a Tigers game with Brent on an off day. That’s really cool.
“Being on the air and being a part of the action, I can’t even imagine what that sounded like back then. I felt like I was ready for it. Now, I’m wondering what I sounded like 11 years ago. I’m sure it was somewhat embarrassing.”
Hosting on site is a little more stressful than when Kestecher is hosting the NBA on ESPN Radio during the regular season.
“When you’re used to being in studio, everything is right where you need it,” Kestecher said. “When we’re in the middle of a crowd, wherever our studio set is, it’s just a different animal. It’s almost more live radio than I’m used to. In studio, you know where everything is [and], it’s perfectly placed. You do it every day in the studio.
“Then you’re out [of the studio], and even though it’s highly produced and we know exactly where we’re going and what we’re doing, there is some kind of on-the-edge
element and just being with the crowd and feeling the energy. It’s a totally different feel.”
Early in the playoffs, Kestecher had to deal with Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. Popovich is notorious for being very gruff with the media, especially with sideline reporters.
But Kestecher didn’t have any problems with Popovich. A lot had to do with Dr. Jack Ramsay, the legendary NBA coach and ESPN Radio analyst who passed away earlier this year.
“I was nervous,” Kestecher said. “I did Game 7 of the first round between the Spurs and Mavericks. “I’ve interviewed ‘Pops’ at All-Star games, but there’s no pressure there. This was the first time I was going to be the guy doing the interviews. I remember being very nervous because you always see what he does to sideline people.
“Maybe because we’re ESPN Radio and Dr. Jack Ramsay was a part of our broadcast for so many years and ‘Pop’ was a huge fan, I remember right before the interview, he said, ‘Let’s do it at my desk. Bring your chair over and we’ll meet halfway.’ He pointed to the edge of the table, and he said, ‘This is where Dr. Jack and I used to do our pregame interviews for the last 16 years.’ It took the edge off, and he couldn’t be nicer.”