NBA Has 'Inmates Running The Asylum,' Says Cavs Broadcaster Joe Tait

Tom DelamaterAnalyst IAugust 13, 2010

Joe Tait on the night of his 3,000th Cavs broadcast. (Getty Images)
Joe Tait on the night of his 3,000th Cavs broadcast. (Getty Images)

In an interview published on Thursday—the same day he was in Springfield, Massachusetts to receive the Curt Gowdy Media Award from the Basketball Hall of Fame—longtime Cleveland Cavaliers broadcaster Joe Tait offered a blunt assessment of the NBA in the wake of LeBron James’ recent decision to join Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.

“For the past 10 years, you’ve had the inmates running the asylum,” he told Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal. “Now it appears some of them have decided to burn down the building.

“Unless the league gets a grip on what's going on, they're headed for monster trouble unless you enjoy a three- or four-team league.”

Tait spoke, as always, with the quiet authority of a man who is comfortable in his own skin—and who has been an eyewitness to 40 years of NBA history.

Apart from his play-by-play broadcasts—he’s always worked alone in the booth—Tait rarely speaks about the game, and certainly doesn’t go looking for publicity.

When asked, however, he is straightforward with his answers. He pulled no punches talking to Lloyd.

Clearly, he was concerned about the way James, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade went about the free agency process, and offered a solution.

“You do what the NFL did and name franchise players and legislate that they can't go ahead and have their own little cliques,” Tait said. “This stuff goes back to AAU ball, and it has to be stopped. If it's not stopped, you're going to destroy the league.”

It’s not sour grapes with Tait. He’s retiring after the 2010-2011 season and plans to put the NBA behind him. (“When it’s no longer my job, it won’t interest me,” he said recently.)

It’s simply Joe Tait being Joe Tait. Honest, even blunt at times—but always a gentleman.

Tait began his NBA career the same year the Cavaliers joined the league, 1970. For a decade, he was not only the voice of the Cavs, but their face, their soul, and their conscience.

Fans fell in love with his broadcasts. Games were rarely televised in those days, so Tait was the connection between them and the team.

In 1980, Ted Stepien, a Cleveland advertising man, bought the Cavs. Three years of chaos and controversy ensued—the last two of which Tait missed. Stepien yanked the team’s broadcasts from longtime flagship station WWWE (now WTAM) in 1981, and Tait was without a job.

He spent a year doing radio for the New Jersey Nets, and then a year doing television for the Chicago Bulls, before George and Gordon Gund purchased the Cavaliers in 1983 and offered Tait his old job.

He’d never gone far, however, as he also did Cleveland Indians play-by-play for 15 years beginning in 1973—first on radio, then on television.

It was all part of a distinguished radio career in Northeast Ohio that also saw him broadcast minor league hockey, WNBA basketball, and college and high school sports. He was enshrined in the Radio/Television Broadcasters Hall of Fame of Ohio in 1992.

The 2010-2011 season will be Tait’s 41st in the NBA, with 39 of those having been spent in Cleveland. He has broadcast more than 3,000 Cavaliers games over the years.

The Cavs’ trip to the NBA Finals in 2007 was the closest he’s been to the NBA mountaintop. He hints, however, that the Cavaliers of the LeBron James era could have accomplished more.

Of James’ recent departure, Tait said he was “disappointed that he really didn't want the mantle of leadership. I thought he'd grow into it, but he never did.”

He also said it appeared James quit in the playoffs last spring, and played like a guy who “figured he was gone after the season.”

In an interview with Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Tait offered some advice for NBA Commissioner David Stern in the wake of the Wade-Bosh-James teaming in Miami.

“I’d tell him that he has rules against collusion for owners, but now the players are doing it. Only it’s worse,” he said.

“If you let the players run the league, they’ll ruin the league. They have to do something to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”