Newhouse alumnus Dave McMenamin ’05 was a student manager for the Syracuse men’s basketball team in 2003, the year famed player Carmelo Anthony led the Orange to the NCAA national championship.
The pair crossed paths again in September, when Anthony signed a one-year contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, which McMenamin covers for ESPN. “The fun part about this season so far for me is that I’m getting to know Carmelo as a man, not a kid,” McMenamin says.
We sat down with McMenamin to talk about the ’03 championship campaign, his journey to ESPN and the things he loves most about his profession.
How would you describe that historic 2003 season?
I was a sophomore, and I was one of the junior-level managers. The younger managers are involved in some of the menial stuff, like rebounding and setting up the Gatorade, the water, the towels and things like that. But part of being a rebounder means that you’re sticking around before and after practice, and Carmelo is one of the guys on that team who put in a lot of extra work. In that year when he was a freshman, we did get to know each other a bit. We shared sweat equity. As the season progressed, he would stay and work on his three-point range, which obviously was telling because back in 2003, you didn’t see many stretch fours [a power forward who has the ability to shoot from the perimeter] in college basketball or in the NBA. Certainly, that became such a big part of his game. It was incredible as it unfolded. Think of the history of Syracuse: There’s only been one national championship in basketball, and I got to be a part of it.
How did you end up at ESPN?
I spent several years with NBA Entertainment. Before the 2008-2009 season, they spun off to create a content partnership with Turner [NBA Digital]. There were several meetings with people coming up from Atlanta to the NBA.com offices in Secaucus, New Jersey, and we had many brainstorming sessions. In one of them, they asked me, “What do you think we could do to make the site better?” And I said, knowing [that] the Lakers have been one of the most popular teams and Kobe Bryant was the most popular player, “It’d be smart to have someone [in LA].” They come back up from Atlanta about a month later and they say, “Well Dave, that’s a good idea. We’re gonna have someone out in LA, and that person’s going to be you.” I had spent my entire life as an east coast guy. I’d only made one trip to California before this job opportunity came up.
I did a year with the Turner version of NBA.com in 2008-2009. The Lakers won the championship. That also coincided with the recession. It was a really rough time for the company, the country and the economy. There were layoffs; the one-man LA office that I had opened up was shut down. Fortunately for me, I had interviewed with ESPN back in 2008. I didn’t get that opening, but they became aware of who I was, and about three or so months after I was laid off from NBA Digital, they were starting to hire for ESPN Los Angeles. Because I [already knew] some folks at ESPN through that original interview process, I was able to get an interview for ESPN Los Angeles. I’ve been working with ESPN ever since.
What is your favorite part of your job?
[Using the platform] to connect with [the players] in a way that they trust me enough to open up some side of their life that they normally wouldn’t. There are people who will have dedicated their lives to basketball, and they have the same passion for the game that I do. I’ve been very fortunate to be covering two of the most passionate guys who have played the game in Kobe [Bryant] and LeBron [James]. Those guys recognize the job I did to a point where they would trust me with telling their story. That’s the part I love about the job.
Cole Weintraub is a first-year student in the broadcast and digital journalism program at the Newhouse School.