Before Brian Davis and Grant Long, Oklahoma City’s first set of NBA broadcasters was a pair of 30-somethings that go by the name Dante and Galante. The two, employees of the Orlando Magic, set up a live stream of the Orlando Pro Summer League back in July and quickly became fan favorites during the weeklong summer league for their wit and overall disinterest in the games. But around here, fans took to them because of how much airtime they gave the then yet-to-be-named franchise in Oklahoma City.
Galante, whose first name is George, is the Magic’s director of communications and will be inside the Ford Center on Wednesday when the Thunder welcome Dwight Howard and the Magic.
George was gracious enough to take a few minutes to reflect on all things OKC during its first ever NBA summer league.
Q: How did the summer league broadcast get started?
A: That was our third summer league this past summer. The summer league broadcast came about three years ago when we decided that we were going to video stream the games. And after the first day fans were kind of complaining. It’s a coaches cam. It’s essentially just meant to be for the coaches to look at scouting and that type of thing. So it’s a one camera operation upstairs. And the internet was just patching into that feed so they could give some fans some insight since it’s closed to the public. But they couldn’t recognize any of the guys. So we went up there the second day three years ago and kind of planned on doing it straight, trying to call the games as you would call the games. But the action in summer league is so bad, it’s borderline unwatchable so we decided to just start having some fun with it. We started taking e-mails, and the next thing you know we were barely even talking about the basketball game and everybody seemed to like that better than an actual broadcast.
Q: Who is Dante, your partner on the broadcasts?
A: Dante Marchitelli. He’s our radio manager. But then he also does our sideline reporting for home games on the radio. And he’s actually had a couple of games on T.V. as a sideline reporter as well for Magic T.V.
Q: Did you and Dante know each other long before starting? You two seemed to have good chemistry on the broadcasts.
A: We’re friends at the office. Dante’s been with the Magic for, I think this is his ninth or 10th season. And I’ve been with the team since ’95. So we’ve known each other for awhile, and we both have pretty similar personalities and we get along really well. So it just happened to be that we had pretty good chemistry on the air.
Q: How did Oklahoma City’s unknown name at the time become such a big talking point?
A: Since (summer league) was right when the move was announced, Dante and I had decided that we were just going to play around. We had a list of nicknames at the time that we had just made up. And we were going to call them something different each time just because it was such a mystery about the name and this and that. So we were just going to have some fun with it and give them a different nickname each time. And one time we called them the Thundercats and that was the one that after a while we got a ton of e-mails in response to that one. And we just decided that that one was going to stick for the rest of the week and we went with that.
Q: Were you sold on Thundercats, and did you know that you had people thinking that was the real name?
A: We knew after a day or two because we started getting e-mails that people thought that that was what it really was. So then we just kind of fed it a little more. We knew that that wasn’t the name and we were just making it up and it was so ridiculous. But it was just fun to keep it going at least for a couple of days.
Q: What do you think of the name the ultimately chose, the Thunder?
A: Dante and I like to take credit for that. We were the original founders of the name even though it didn’t get carried out the whole way. But we like to think we had some part in picking the Thunder. Even though we know that’s not true, we’re going to stick to that until, well, hopefully they don’t move again. (Laughs.)
Q: You guys were getting thousands of e-mails during the broadcast. Is there one in particular about Oklahoma City that you remember most?
A: No. We decided that we were going to let the fans throw out nicknames. And some were suitable for air and some weren’t. We had so many. We had 13,000 e-mails over the five-day span. So there really isn’t one that sticks out. They were all funny in their own way.
Q: Russell Westbrook turned a lot of heads out there. What was the buzz around the league like on him at that time?
A: He really opened up a lot of eyes. Once he got going during the week, he really opened up a lot of eyes. Just had a lot of poise on the floor. Lightning quickness. Good decisions. Decent shooter. So I think he was definitely one of the top performers that week no question. But Kevin Durant playing in that one game was probably the highlight of the week when nobody knew he was going to play and then the next thing you know he was out on the floor.