Nets Radio Voice Tim Capstraw Has Utica Pride
Tim Capstraw has game.
At the start of the NBA's eight-day mid-season break this past Thursday, most players and front office staff are taking advantage of mandated downtime. Tonight's all-star game held at State Farm Arena in Atlanta is a marquee event. It also allows for those not participating to separate themselves from work; to reenergize themselves for the second half's sprint to the post-season.
Capstraw, basketball's "junkie of junkies", chooses to squeeze in a little work, before officially separating himself from the game.
Born and raised in Utica, New York, Capstraw is enjoying his 19th season as the Brooklyn Nets' radio color analyst. Keeping him away from the Nets' home court at Barclays Center on Atlantic Avenue in the City's most populous borough is a battle not to be won.
This past Thursday, the Nets are playing their final game before the break on the road in Houston against the Rockets. While the team is 1,600 miles southwest of Barclays Center, Capstraw and his play-by-play partner Chris Carrino aren't.
Due to the pandemic, the radio duo are working from their usual perch of about 20 rows up from courtside. 19,000 empty seats, with less than a half dozen Center employees visible, the game is called on WFAN Sports Radio 101.9 FM and 66 AM - a New York City-based 50,000-watt clear channel.
They aren't traveling with the team this season.
Road games for Capstraw means he takes the same approach going to work as if Barclays was filled for a home game.
The Utica Free Academy graduate begins his commute from his New Jersey home, from about 18 miles to Barclays Center.
"If I went at the wrong time, it could be a little over an hour to get in," Capstraw said earlier this week during a telephone conversation. "Usually, it's 40 minutes to get here (Brooklyn).
I go through the Holland Tunnel, then crosstown to the Brooklyn Bridge, and into Barclay's. It's like going from North Utica to New Hartford."
But, basketball downtime means just a change of what press box Capstraw is working from, while the NBA's regular season is on pause.
On Saturday, Capstraw is on the go to Smithfield, Rhode Island. This road trip take's the Nets' radio voice, who has an incredible 1,565 consecutive games-worked streak in progress, 187 miles northeast of New Jersey.
Bryant University's men's basketball is hosting Sacred Heart in NCAA Division I Northeast Conference play. Capstraw needs to be at the Chace Athletic Center .
There's a basketball game being played.
Bryant's Bulldogs win easily over the visiting Pioneers 85-55. Having just one more game to carry him through until next Thursday, when Brooklyn begins their second-half at home against the Boston Celtics, allows Capstraw to exhale.
Capstraw is unchallenged for his love of the game. He is the undisputed basketball junkie of the universe. The Nets are playing at a high level this season. With Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden driving the team, it's good to be Capstraw, and go to work with positive expectations.
At the break Brooklyn is second in Eastern Conference standings. They are a half game behind first-place Philadelphia, with a 24-13 record.
Capstraw has been around the Nets when winning wasn't as frequent as it is this season. There were many lean seasons. However, Capstraw, ever the optimist, never has lost focus of what he is doing for a living. Win or lose.
"I still can't believe that I do this for a job. Are you kidding me?" Capstraw asks. "I used to be a college guy. I've grown to love the NBA. It's hard to find both NBA and college people. You get to go to a basketball game for your job. I am so lucky," said John.
During Capstraw's first season on the job (2002-2003), he isn't shy in telling that it took the better part of the first half to "figure it out". What a rookie season behind the microphone it was.
The Nets, then calling New Jersey their home state and the Izod Center their home court, went to the NBA Finals for a second consecutive season.
"That was wild. We (working alongside Carrino) were broadcasting huge games. You had to be on your toes," explains Capstraw.
Not having missed a game in 19 seasons, Capstraw is adapting seemingly effortlessly to how he goes about his work this season - pandemic be damned.
There's more to the atmosphere at Barclays Center, along with the 19,000 empty seats, and "like 5 people" that broadcasters can see, when it's jump ball time.
Carrino and Capstraw have a monitor in front of them, as they watch the TV feed of the Nets-Rockets game from the Toyota Center. Looking up to Barclays Center rafters is a massive screen which is also projecting what TV viewers are watching.
Capstraw is calling tonight's game in a unique way.
"It's the most convenient place for the effect," believes Capstraw of the crowd noise, and other regular necessities experienced when fans and media alike are present at an NBA game.
Even with changing how he and so many others go about their work this NBA season, there's no dampening his sincerity of the game. Capstraw gets his fix at every stop of his job. He is even excited to talk about the prep that he puts into each game.
"I'm still excited about going to work. It's beautiful (basketball). I couldn't be happier. I'm smart enough to know that I'm really lucky to be doing what I'm doing. Lets be honest. I'm going to NBA games. Everybody lighten up," reminds Capstraw .
Given his respect for the NBA, and work schedule, Capstraw still does his best to squeeze in as many college side jobs as he can. Four or five games are what he shoots for.
When at his regular job with Brooklyn, since day one, Carrino has been the straight man to Capstraw's analyst (and sometimes being silly) role.
The more you learn of Capstraw's relationship with Carrino, and genuine love that he has for the man, it's difficult not to get emotional. They are a work team that could rival any the New York market has had in sports broadcasting. Any.
On Wednesday's broadcast, which along with being heard on WFAN, basketball lovers listen to Carrino and Capstraw through SiriusXM Radio, and all types of electronic devices, The Honeymooners are worked in the conversation.
The 1950's TV sitcom , staring Jackie Gleason still shown on late nights in New York City, is right up Capstraw's alley. Somehow, while describing Nets' Joe Harris' three-point shot early in first quarter of play on Thursday, and including an old TV character that drives a bus for a living in Brooklyn, comes together.
This is typical Capstraw.
Basketball means fun. It comes easy for him (or at least it appears to be so). Capstraw played and coached at Wagner College in New York's Staten Island. He served as an assistant basketball coach at Siena College. Capstraw has been earning his basketball stripes since the 1980's, after learning to love the game on the courts and in gyms in Utica.
When it comes to Carrino, there's fun, basketball, and life lessons for Capstraw.
Carrino has a form of muscular dystrophy - Facioscapulumeral. Capstraw is proud of his association with his broadcast partner for continuing on as much as normal can be for him. There's no sympathy just incredible admiration.
Listening to a Nets broadcast, there's isn't a hint to the challenge's that Carrino faces. Facial muscles are affected by the daily battle Carrino faces. For a broadcaster calling a game that is constantly on the move, Carrino's efforts are nothing less than monumental.
"I've been with Chris for 19 years. There's no question who the star is of the show," declares Capstraw. We're looser than you think. I see myself as his caddy. When we go around the country, sometimes he (Carrino) needs a little help. He's fallen, and I've helped him up."
Capstraw continues on about his best friend by explaining how effortlessly Carrino goes about calling games. He remains in awe how talented Carrino conveys what's going on between the baskets.
There isn't a hint of discontent, jealousy , or burnout detected in his voice, when speaking about working in the NBA. He hasn't gone "Hollywood." He can't. Capstraw is from Utica.
There is one on-going needling story Capstraw perpetuates while at work involving the Golden State Warriors.
Tim Roye, the Warriors' radio play-by-play radio voice since the 1995 season, is a graduate of Utica College, and from 1978-'86 was the sports director at WIBX. Capstraw was a regular listener to Roye's nightly Sports Watch talk show that offered a take on the day's sports news.
"I talk to him all the time. He's a friend," Capstraw says of Roye. "When we are together, and there are a few people around us, I tell Tim that when I was a kid, you were our (Utica) sportscaster. It crushes him."
Everything about Capstraw includes more than a few laughs. He's having fun, and just hopes nobody figures out that he probably would have been doing what he does for free. Capstraw is the quintessential enigma in the NBA. Given the long journey he's driven, there's no disrupting his spirits.
Tim Capstraw is a basketball junkie, and rehab isn't necessary.
Don Laible is a freelance sportswriter living in the Mohawk Valley. He has reported on professional baseball and hockey for print, radio, and on the web since the 1980's. His columns are featured weekly at WIBX950.com. Don can be contacted via email at Don@icechipsdiamonddust.com.