- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 6, 2017

The same laugh that is heard through television speakers can be heard in the media work room or in the halls of Verizon Center when the cameras are off.

Phil Chenier has a distinct, deep laugh. For 33 years, it has been heard on Washington Wizards games. Chenier, first a player for the Wizards, became their full-time analyst in 1984, beginning a run that has entrenched his name and commentary with the franchise and fans.

This will be his last season in the role of primary analyst. Comcast Mid-Atlantic has decided to change Chenier’s responsibilities with the network, saying Thursday that the 66-year-old will work pregame and postgame shows in the future, plus contribute “feature content” and at times be a second analyst for select games.

Chenier is the only full-time analyst in Wizards history. The move has predictably produced a large amount of grumbling across social media and surprise among those who have been around the team. The players have often spoke highly of Chenier, and they respect his opinion since he was a skilled NBA player himself, not to mention perpetually pleasant to be around.

Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall tweeted “Not the legend!” when seeing the news on social media.

Fans have enjoyed his synchronicity with play-by-play announcer Steve Buckhantz. The two shared a rare quality between broadcasting duos: they did not step on each other and instead sounded as if they were having a conversation while watching a game.

CSN said it has identified candidates to replace Chenier and will hold auditions and make the pick during the offseason. The company did not specify names, but it’s logical to assume former players like Antawn Jamison, Drew Gooden or Tony Massenburg, the latter of which already works at CSN, could be part of the auditions.

Chenier was drafted by the Baltimore Bullets out of Cal in the 1971 hardship draft. He is in the franchise’s all-time top 10 in points, games, minutes, field goals, free throws, assists and steals.

Phil epitomizes professionalism and class as an analyst, colleague, mentor and advocate for the Wizards and the sport of basketball in this region,” CSN Mid-Atlantic President Rebecca Schulte said in a statement. “His impact over more than three decades with the network and forty-plus years with the team is unmatched and we look forward to his contributions in new roles with CSN, Monumental Sports Network and the Wizards.”

“We have been honored to have Phil represent us with the utmost class as an ambassador on the court, over the airwaves and in the community for 42 years,” Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said in a statement. “We thank him for his unparalleled contributions to our team and his unique ability to maintain relevance and be in tune with multiple generations of our fans over his career as a player and a broadcaster. I look forward to working with him for many years to come as he continues that connection in expanded roles with the Bullets/Wizards Alumni Association and Monumental Sports Network in addition to remaining a key piece of Wizards coverage on CSN.”

It should be noted Leonsis’ Monumental Network has an ownership stake in CSN Mid-Atlantic.

The Wizards were on the road in New York on Thursday. Their last regular-season home game this season is Saturday night. Washington has won 47 times, the most since the 1979 team, which Chenier was a part of.

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