Mike Breen Was Shocked ESPN Fired ‘Dream Partners’ Jeff Van Gundy And Mark Jackson

Earlier this summer, ESPN went through a second round of layoffs, this time targeting some of its highest priced on-air talent. Included in those layoffs were a number of longtime employees like Suzy Kolber as well as two pillars of the network’s NBA coverage in Jalen Rose and Jeff Van Gundy.

With the news that Van Gundy was being let go, many wondered if Mark Jackson’s future with the network was in question, particularly with rumblings Doc Rivers and Doris Burke would be taking the seats alongside Mike Breen in the lead broadcast booth. Sure enough on Monday, Jackson confirmed he had likewise been let go by ESPN, ending a tenure of more than a decade with the network. While NBA fans have long been split on Van Gundy and Jackson as a pair, it’s a massive shift for ESPN and those who worked with them for so long, most notably Breen.

On Tuesday, Andrew Marchand of the New York Post spoke with Breen, who noted his surprise and sadness at having his longtime broadcast team broken up so suddenly, while calling them “dream partners” and lifelong friends.

“They were the dream partners,” Breen said. “All the accomplishments were because of what we did together. I really do feel personally any success I had was because I had those two guys next to me. They just provided everything you would want in analysts. They’re smart. They’re funny. They’re knowledgeable about their sport. They’re opinionated. They love their sport, but are not afraid to criticize. They just had a little bit of everything.

“And we came off a Finals that we were so proud of. It was another Finals together and it was really a great story of Denver winning for the first time and we were on a high after it was all done so to come to grips with that was our final telecast is hard.

Breen declined to speak about the reported pair of Burke and Rivers joining him next year, understandably not wanting to heap any praise on new partners while the focus is on his two friends who have been ousted by the network. It is the difficult part of the business, and Breen notes in the interview that he knows how rare it is to have had that partnership with Van Gundy and Jackson for as long as they did. Still, it doesn’t change the shock of a decision Breen certainly didn’t foresee coming, and next year’s NBA on ESPN broadcasts will sound significantly different.