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Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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ESPN’s Monica McNutt Is ‘Chasing The Moon’

  • Former college hoopster wants to call NBA games like Doris Burke.
  • She has hosted “Get Up” and debated Stephen A. Smith.
(Photo by Melina Pizano / ESPN Images)

NEW YORK — During Monday morning’s “Get Up,” analyst Monica McNutt succinctly analyzed the Boston Celtics’ inability to get a last-second shot off in time during their NBA Playoffs loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

“Just move faster. Be a professional basketball player. Understand time and score. Shoot the basketball — you got a perfect look. You can’t do it when the clock says zero.”

Mike Greenberg was impressed. McNutt summed up what he meant to say in a few seconds, noted the TV veteran. And did it better than he could. 

The sequence illustrated why the basketball analyst, host, and reporter is a rising star at ESPN. 

McNutt is confident, funny, fast on her feet.  

As team captain of the women’s basketball team at Georgetown, the Maryland native led the nationally ranked team to the Sweet 16 in 2011. 

Whether it is guest-hosting “Get Up,” debating Stephen A. Smith on “First Take” or appearing on “SportsCenter,” it’s clear McNutt knows hoops. 

Eventually, she would like to be another Doris Burke: a female analyst calling NBA games for ESPN.

“I definitely would like the opportunity to call NBA games. Doris Burke is someone I’ve looked up to forever in this space,” McNutt told Front Office Sports in an interview. 

“I remember when she was calling men’s and women’s college basketball, WNBA, and the NBA. Then she made the jump from college strictly to the NBA. I love what Doris does. I love her perspective. I’m very fortunate to call her a colleague — and a friend — at this point in my career.”

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McNutt attributes part of her success to her ability to speak up for herself. 

After graduation, she sat at an awards banquet with George Solomon, the legendary Washington Post sports editor, and LaVar Arrington, the ex-NFL player turned TV personality. 

McNutt spoke up: “I want to do what you do.” 

Solomon encouraged her to check out his graduate program at the University of Maryland. The rest was history.

She earned her master’s degree in journalism from UMD in 2013.  Solomon has been her “journalism fairy godfather” ever since.  

“I’ve had a lot of fortuitous bounces…It’s so important to open your mouth,” she said. “You have to let people know you’re available, interested, and capable. And if you’re not capable, you’re willing to learn.”

McNutt wasn’t an overnight success. She made her bones on local TV in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Florida. She was laid off a couple of times, working as a cycling instructor between jobs. 

Monica McNutt
Monica McNutt shows her versatility as an NBA and college basketball analyst.
Allen Kee / ESPN Images

But with every gig, she earned more reps. While still at ESPN, Jemele Hill and Maria Taylor shared her resume on Twitter, describing her as “definitely one to watch for.” McNutt was ready for her big break when she joined ESPN’s ACC Network in 2019. Since then, her portfolio has steadily grown:

  • In 2021, McNutt’s role expanded to include the network’s biggest studio shows, including “SportsCenter,” “First Take,” “Around the Horn” and “NBA Today.”
  • She served as a reporter during the 2022 NBA Finals on ESPN and ESPN Radio and on ABC’s coverage of the 2022 NBA Draft. 
  • McNutt also contributes to “Hoop Streams,” ESPN’s digital pregame show. 
  • Separately, she is a studio analyst for the New York Knicks and MSG Networks. 

Over recent weeks, she’s stood out on “Get Up.” She’s another example of Greenberg and producer Pete McConville’s ability to nurture up-and-coming sports TV stars like Marcus Spears, Dianna Russini, Ryan Clark, Dan Orlovsky and Dan Graziano.

TV viewers in the tri-state area frequently see the New York-based personality talking Knicks at night on MSG — then national hoops the next morning on “Get Up.”

“I’m having a blast. It’s a sports morning show. Not that we are loosey-goosey and fly by the seat of our pants. But we do get to have fun,” she said. “I think Greeny does a really good job of leaning into personalities and interesting points in the conversation.” 

It’s natural to see McNutt following the career path of Burke: a former women’s college basketball star at Providence College turned sports media star.

McNutt loves studio work. But she has her eyes set on eventually calling games. 

“The beauty of where I’m at right now. I don’t have children. I have a partner. He’s incredibly supportive. We’re both in sports. I’m chasing the moon,” she said.

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