With the Orlando Magic about to have their Media Day we are doing something different & speaking to someone who will be there. Today we take some time to chat with & say hello Dante Marchitelli. I’m sure very few of you who follow the Magic or Orlando Magic U.K. are unaware of Dante; but just in case please allow me to briefly introduce him.
WHO IS DANTE?
Dante is the court sideline reporter for Fox Sports Florida & host of Magic Drive Time & the Orlando Magic Pod Squad podcast. Dante is present at all Magic games, home or away, along with David Steele & Jeff Turner who complete the commentary team. Dante is married having just celebrated their 9th anniversary, he is father of two absolutely adorable girls & he hails from Woburn, Massachusetts but now resides in Orlando. Dante is an avid fan of the NFL powerhouse team; the New England Patriots.
As our Orlando Magic rapidly approach the new season it is not long until Dante is back on our screens. We are looking forward to seeing David, Jeff & Dante again as they bring us commentary & interviews. In my opinion they are the best in the business. So to the conversation Dante & I had:
OMUK – Hi Dante & thanks for taking the time to chat with me, it is genuinely appreciated. I know you are well aware of the avid following that the Orlando Magic have in the U.K. & how most of us watch David, Jeff & yourself every game through the NBA League Pass. I thought it would be good for us to get some insight into your journey to the NBA, what the season involves for you & your thoughts on the team.
DM – First of all, it’s an honour to chat with you and I couldn’t be more proud of our fan base in the UK. You all are tremendous, passionate, knowledgeable fans and you make this job so much fun!!
OMUK – As a Bay Stater what were your sports teams as a kid? Did you play sports?
DM – I grew up a fan of the Boston Red Sox, New England Patriots, Boston Bruins and the Boston Celtics. It would have been impossible to find a bigger Larry Bird fan than myself, when I was growing up. He’s still my favourite basketball player of all time, but my allegiance to the C’s stopped when I came on board with the Magic. But they’ll always have a place in my heart. However, I’m still a die-hard fan of the other 3 teams and it’s been absolutely incredible to witness what Tom Brady and David Ortiz have done for the city of Boston. I played basketball my entire life, right up until I graduated. Basketball has always been my first love, and I played it for 20 years recreationally after college as well. I had to stop though, I can’t risk a serious injury at this point, ha.
OMUK – How did you come to live & work in Orlando?
DM – When I was about to graduate from Liberty University in Virginia in 1998, I needed an internship. I had worked for 2 years at the campus radio station, and saw a radio internship available with the Orlando Magic. I visited Orlando on spring break in March of 1998 and to this day I’m thankful for Kati Reik (then Ennis) for taking a chance on me. I eventually worked my way into a full-time position, then worked my way on the air for our radio entities. 12 years ago I was asked by FOX Sports Florida to join the telecast in addition to my Magic duties, and I jumped at the chance. It’s a dream working for both the Magic and FOX Sports Florida.
OMUK – Since being involved with the Magic what have been your personal highlights?
DM – Working the 2009 NBA Finals was absolutely the highlight. I’ll never forget walking onto the Staples Center floor for that 1st game, and the feeling when we won Game 3 at home in the old Amway Arena. Being in Boston when we eliminated the Celtics to reach the ’09 Finals was incredible also. Hosting my own radio show was something I never thought I”d have the chance to do and I love that opportunity. And of course, I’ll always remember summer league fondly with my buddy Galante. For 4 straight summers George Galante and I “called” summer league games, and that was the start of Dante and Galante!
OMUK – Which NBA players do you most look forward to seeing on other teams?
DM – It’s always special to see LeBron James…he’s the best player on the planet and he has been for over a decade. That never gets old. Russell Westbrook is tremendous to watch as well…to see someone play as hard and fast as he does, and never tire is a thing of beauty. Always love when the Warriors are in town….there is something mesmerising about Steph Curry, and you can’t ever look away when he has the ball.
THE NEW SEASON
OMUK – So to turn to the new season; I’d like to ask you about the team potential after the decisions made by our front office to run it back this year & bring in Aminu. How are you feeling about the upcoming season? Do you see us making a return trip to the playoffs?
DM – I love what Jeff Weltman and John Hammond have done with this roster….They hit their stride the final 31 games of last year, as they had the NBA’s best defense the last 3rd of the season. Bringing everyone back sustains that continuity and now they’ll look to improve on it. I get excited thinking about the fact that this entire group knows Coach Clifford’s system, they understand what it takes to play for him on the defensive end and how he wants the ball to move on offense. Aminu is one of the best teammates and defenders in the NBA. He started for the West Conference Finals team in Portland, so he’s got a wealth of experience. Add Fultz in to the mix, also Bamba and a full season of MCW and Birch….I think this team is absolutely a playoff team and they’ll be battling to host a 1st round series if they pick up where they left off.
OMUK – With the schedule release did you feel it impacted on those chances?
DM – No…we have a few difficult trips, 2 to the West Coast before January which is rare. But that’s life in the NBA and they’ll be ready.
OMUK – You know I’m a fan of DJ as our point guard, I feel he is underrated & doesn’t get the credit he deserves. With the potential Markelle Fultz holds the back court is going to be interesting. What are your thoughts on our much criticised point guard position?
DM – I agree with you…I think it’s incredibly unfair. DJ is one of, if not THE biggest reasons the Magic had the turnaround season they did. The fact he played 80 games, protected the basketball, shot a team best 3% and led off the court as well, shows how valuable he is. He spreads the floor, he gets the ball to the right guy at the right time, he competes defensively, he finishes in traffic, hits FTs and loves taking the big shot….like Game 1 vs Toronto…what is not to love about DJ Augustin?
OMUK – As a follow on to this; how soon do you see Markelle becoming part of the coach’s rotation?
DM – I think if he stays healthy and comes out of camp and preseason with enough reps, he has a chance to be a part of the rotation instantly. Will be up to Cliff how he utilises him and that’s the beauty of having MCW on the roster. But he said a few days ago he intends to participate in camp, hopefully he can play in the preseason and have an impact immediately! But they’ll err on the side of caution and he even said he’ll go day-by-day.
OMUK – Game day in the Amway, what does your schedule look like & what does the day entail?
DM – We arrive at Amway Center around 10am to watch shoot around. Then we’ll interview the Coach and players so we have sound bytes to air during our broadcast. We’ll have a TV Production meeting around 11:30 to discuss topics and show direction for the broadcast that night. Then I’ll go home, research and write my outline for the pregame show. I return to the Arena at 4:30 for a live TV hit with our local FOX affiliate FOX 35. We then interview Coach Clifford at 5:15, visiting coach at 5:30, grab a quick bite to eat and we’re at the desk by 6pm. I always try to visit both locker rooms somewhere in there to pick up any interesting tidbits I can use on air. We typically wrap up the telecast by 10:15 and it’s time to head home. It’s a long day, but it’s adrenaline filled, I love it and can’t imagine doing anything else. Nothing like it!!
HOME FOR CHRISTMAS?
OMUK – When the schedule hits what do you immediately look for?
DM – Where we are for my wife’s birthday, hahaha. Then I look at Christmas and Thanksgiving. It’s tough being on the road for holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. It’s a sacrifice, there’s no question about it. That’s why I thank God every day for my incredible family!!
OMUK – Which city do you most look forward to visiting & why?
DM – Selfishly I love going back to Boston! I can usually visit briefly with family and friends if we get there the night before the game. But Chicago, and NYC are a close 2nd and 3rd. All incredibly cities. San Francisco is tremendous, Portland is such an under rated city…maybe the best food city on the road. There’s something neat about Salt Lake City as well, really a ton of great cities on the road.
LIFE ON THE ROAD
OMUK – From conversations we’ve previously had you know I spent 30 years as a police officer. It is a job that entailed working a lot of unsocial hours, working on Christmas, New Year & national holidays or being absent from family celebrations & the like. You’ve already touched on this question but with 41 regular season road games between late October & April that must be amplified in your role & I’d guess is the worst part of an otherwise great job. How do you deal with that aspect of your profession?
DM – It’s extremely difficult as you can attest! Without the support of my incredible wife and daughters, it would be nearly impossible. Thankfully when we are not traveling, I can help take the girls to school, help around the house, do homework, housework, etc. Being able to FaceTime is huge as well, so I don’t have to go days without seeing them. Then, when I’m at the house and there’s no game….I’m home! They have my undivided attention, and that’s extremely important. I spend every available moment with my family and we cherish those times during a hectic NBA season.
CREATURES OF HABIT
OMUK – As part of my time with the police I had a role for a few years that involved travelling to football games (soccer) around England & Wales. It was always a lot of fun, so for you being part of a close-knit regular team for those road trips must be good. When visiting the 27 cities you go to do you get time to be a tourist? Do you, Jeff & David have regular places you choose to eat at or do you try to get recommendations from the local broadcasters?
DM – This is so great, because we pretty much eat at the exact same place every time. We’re creatures of habit and if there’s a good new restaurant, we’re happy to try it. The problem is, if any of us suggest a spot and it’s not good, we’ll get ripped apart by the others….so it’s not worth it, haha. Tye Eastham our TV Producer tends to be our dinner coordinator and he always finds us a great spot. When we have extra time off, David and Jeff love to walk the city, so we’ll head out and join them if we can. This is our family away from home, it truly is a 2nd family and the fact we all get along so well is truly a blessing. But I can tell you right now the places we will eat in every city, haha.
OMUK – Outside of NBA games in Manchester & London I’ve only seen the NBA in the Amway. Personally, I would love to get back to visit New York & I have to visit Boston at some point. Which arenas & cities would you recommend for U.K. fans to visit to see the Magic play?
DM – You have to start with Madison Square Garden! Even though they’ve struggled for a while, there is something magical about walking around in MSG. I would start there, just visit to say you’ve been. Boston is a tremendous option as well…again, I’m biased. I haven’t been to the new arena in San Francisco, but I’m going to say right now that Warrior fan base is wild. Watching a game at Oracle….and I hope it’s the same fanfare…is something special. Visiting the United Center where Jordan played is special and there’s always something happening at Staples. Terrific scenes in that arena!!
WHEN IN ORLANDO
OMUK – In similar vane, as a Orlando resident aside from the parks & obviously our Orlando Magic what would you recommend for us Brits to see or do as part of a visit to the City Beautiful?
DM – Always come to a Magic game, and stop by the desk and say hello. I welcome everyone to stop by and visit. We have terrific restaurants and breweries that are always a hit. Any chance you can get to paddle board or get on a boat on one of our many lakes, it’s a must. I’m not sure there’s a better place in the country for golf, so I certainly suggest that. The downtown scene and also International Drive, have everything you could want. I always tell people to visit Park Avenue and also Winter Garden! Two beautiful walking areas for families.
OMUK – And finally as a father of two girls & with the increased promotion, interest & growth in women’s professional sports teams do you think Orlando could see a WNBA team be a part of any future league expansion?
DM – We actually had the Orlando Miracle when I first got here from 1998-2002 and I enjoyed working those games. I’m friends with some of those players to this day, it was a terrific experience and I’d love for the WNBA to come back. My daughters are just getting old enough to appreciate basketball and they both want to play whenever they can, so it would be a lot of fun to have a team here in Central Florida.
OMUK – Dante, again thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule for us. You are an absolute star & a true gentleman. Keep doing the good work, we love what you bring us in everything you do.