- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 17, 2019

In an interview on 106.7 The Fan with Grant Paulsen and Pete Medhurst Wednesday, former Washington Wizards play-by-play announcer Steve Buckhantz implied that Wizards ownership OK’d replacing him in his role at NBC Sports Washington.

Buckhantz was the team’s play-by-play voice for 22 years. Reports broke Tuesday night that the company will hire Fox Sports announcer Justin Kutcher to fill the role starting next season. NBC Sports Washington is partially owned by Ted Leonsis’ firm, Monumental Sports and Entertainment, that also owns the Wizards.

“I heard officially from my boss at NBC Sports Washington last night that they were in fact, to use his words, going in a different direction,” Buckhantz said. “I like to say going in the same direction with a different person, but yeah, that seems to be the phrase when somebody is let go, that they’re going in a different direction.”

When radio host Grant Paulsen said mid-question that the team presumably had “some say” in the personnel move, Buckhantz jumped in and emphasized, “Team has all say in this.”

“If somebody from our company had gone up to Ted and Zach (Leonsis) and said, ‘Listen, we’re thinking about changing the hockey announcers, because I’m just not sure about them,’ you don’t think he would have looked them right in the face and said ‘that’s not happening’?” Buckhantz went on to say. 

“”Well, that didn’t happen here, so that’s unfortunate, and that’s the most hurtful thing. And I have not heard from Ted or Zach at all since this has happened, or since the whole process even began, and that’s also hurtful.”

Buckhantz originally had a third-year option in his contract, but found out back in March that the company did not pick up that option. Some speculated he could still be brought back as part of a new announcing team, as color analyst Kara Lawson left the company in June to accept an assistant coaching job with the Boston Celtics.

NBC Sports Washington general manager Damon Phillips gave a statement to the radio station to refute what Buckhantz was claiming.

“Anyone with knowledge of this process and how we operate our business, knows that talent decisions are made by the TV network, not the team,” Phillips said. “That may not be the case in other NBA markets, but that’s how it works here.”

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