Sportsnet and TSN will be airing the entire Toronto Raptors championship run, playing a game every single night until the Larry O’Brien Trophy is awarded on April 12. Full schedule details can be found here.
“Rack it up Danny G!”
If you’ve watched a Toronto Raptors television broadcast within the last decade you’ve almost certainly heard Jack Armstrong yell that out in only the exuberant way he can when he wants a good Raptors highlight replayed at least a few hundred times.
Despite hearing his name for all these years, there’s a good chance you don’t know who Danny G is.
The Raptors broadcast producer from 2009-2019 with a history in television around the Raptors that extends even longer before that, Dan Gladman has been there for many, many moments in Raptors history and helping bring them to you from the television broadcast truck.
Among these moments, of course, was last year’s epic championship run.
Sportsnet and TSN are re-airing the entire run every night right up until the Raptors raise the Larry O’Brien Trophy, and as someone who helped us all bear witness to these games we’re taking in again, we recently caught up with Gladman to reminisce about some of his favourite moments from the run and why he and the truck made some of the decisions they made in regards to certain shots.
With Toronto closing out the Magic in Game 5 Tuesday night, here’s what Gladman had to say about that game and the end of that Magic series in general.
Note: This interview has been edited for clarity.
Sportsnet: Heading into Game 5, what was the feeling like in the truck? Was it any different from the previous playoff games so far with it being an elimination game?
Dan Gladman: What I would say about Game 5 in Orlando is by the time we got to work that day it did feel like a foregone conclusion. The Raptors had lost Game 1, but they had got rid of that feeling quickly, and they won the two games in Orlando and were coming home 3-1. And I do think from the truck perspective, you saw it on the faces of the Orlando players, in my opinion, that Toronto is gonna win that Game 5.
But you go in there, the Raptors had won the first round in the playoffs the last three years, so it really wasn’t that big of a deal. I don’t think anybody behaved any differently in the truck, other than get the job done and be like, “Wow! We’re gonna an extra day off to prepare for the next round.”
SN: Given that confidence around the Raptors in Game 5, do you then go hunting for specific reaction to help better tell that story in the broadcast?
DG: I don’t think that there would be anything out of the ordinary there. I just think that during the game you’re just covering the game and you’re just getting whatever faces and reactions you’re getting naturally that you want to show.
You want to show them as much as possible, but you do go in knowing that the Raptors are gonna have this confident feel, the Orlando players are gonna look resigned and it’s like they’ve accepted defeat already, and when the game is over you’re gonna want to make sure to show the palpable sense of relief of the players, the coaches and also the home fans, who were like, “OK, we just won a series in five games and our team looks like a favourite to win it now.”
SN: If you don’t hunt for specific things, how do you convey all those feelings you mentioned to the audience in the broadcast?
DG: Well, as a producer, you get out of the way of the director. The producer and the director, I kind of consider it a partnership, and for me I worked with a very talented director named Chris Phillips.
But the director controls the camera operators, he has a meeting with them before every show, and he would be the one who would be like, ‘OK, win or lose or whatever the scenario is, here’s what we want to shoot.’ He would’ve said to them, ‘I want a lot of faces, a lot of emotion.’
You can’t predict what’s gonna happen, but you can tell the camera operators before the game, you can tell them in that moment, too. The game ends, and now you want to show the faces of key people and that does include fans. So the cameras are shooting Lowry congratulating D.J. Augustin, Drake smiling and waving to Nick Nurse, or whatever it is. You’re just kinda keeping your eye open.
You have your six dedicated camera operators and cameras, and you’re encouraging them to find really good shots that tell the story on the faces of the athletes, the coaches and the fans.
SN: It sounds like what you guys look for and how you execute it is innate. How did the Raptors broadcast truck get to that level?
DG: We do all 82 games of the Raptors. And it was the same group year after year after year.
While you know this about Matt Devlin, Leo Rautins and Jack Armstrong, the people in the truck live and breathe it as well. So we know the stories like the back of our hand as well. We know what we’re looking for.
We know Augustin played for the Raptors and wants to kill them, we know that Terrence Ross is streaky and that he turned the wrong way into the locker room one time when he came in. We just know these things, so you prepare everything. As a team broadcaster you get embedded with the team all year and you just kind of naturally and instinctively know the stories and what to look for.