Home SHOWS Noah Eagle, Ian Eagle talk family dynamics on the job, styles on the mic

Noah Eagle, Ian Eagle talk family dynamics on the job, styles on the mic

by Ohio Digital News

Two generations of New York City sports broadcasting, father and son Ian and Noah Eagle, make the call to do some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.

Q: How often do people mistake you for Noah Eagle?

IAN: (Laugh). Uh, zero. I’ve been mistaken zero times. I’m too old to pass for Noah. But one of the highlights … maybe of my life … was a year ago when a team broadcaster came up to me and said, “Hey, I saw your brother the other night.”

NOAH: (Laugh)

IAN: I’ve got this forever and ever! He then corrected himself and said: “Oh I meant your son.” But he said brother first.

Q: How do you feel about being called his brother?

NOAH: I’m cool with that. There’s nothing wrong with having the cool older brother, because that’s what he is. He’d be the cool older brother, imparting his wisdom and making sure that I don’t make the same mistakes he does. I’m OK with that. It feels like a weird straight-to-Netflix sitcom that we’d have together, but with us standing kind of back-to-back.

IAN: Well, or me giving you a noogie …

Q: How often do people mistake you for Ian?

NOAH: I think that there’s two jurisdictions or there are two interpretations of it. There are the people that literally think that I’m him, which happens from time to time.

IAN (Laughing).

NOAH: Yeah, every now and then, I’d say it’s a little more rare. And then there are other people who don’t know my name and just call me Ian just off of their own stuff, right?

IAN: Sorry.

NOAH: Yeah (chuckle), just force of habit, right? Or, that’s what they think. So, I would say there’s more of that where maybe I’m talking to somebody who’s been in the industry or somebody who I don’t know very well yet. And then every now and then I get an EEan. That one hurts. That’s a double whammy there.

Now entering his 30th year broadcasting Nets basketball, Ian Eagle will turn over the mic to his son, Noah for a handful of games this season. NBAE via Getty Images

Q: How does Noah remind you of the young you?

IAN: Very similar mannerisms, similar sense of humor and similar approach to the job. Very comfortable doing this job. I always try to view it through the prism of being really conversational and relatable. That’s how I thought the job should be. And I think Noah, whether it was by osmosis or a conscious effort, has taken on a very similar philosophy of: Be yourself. Just because the red light in the camera goes on doesn’t mean all of a sudden you’ve gotta change into something else. Be authentic, and most people can connect with that, more so than the robot coverage.

Q: Describe the pressure of living up to what your father has achieved.

NOAH: I think it’s there, I think it’s true of any profession if you follow a parent — if you’re in the limelight, if you’re not in the limelight — there are people that are going to be around you within that profession more than anything else that are going to look at you and say, “Well you better be successful,” or, “You better do it this way, you better do it that way.” My philosophy has always been I’m going to put in 100 percent effort, maybe even in my thought process, 150 percent, whatever that looks like, maximum effort into my preparation, maximum effort into my relationships that I build, and then just focus on what I can do — which is go out there and perform at a high level, go out there, as he said, make it fun, make it relatable, and if I’m enjoying myself that means that the audience is generally enjoying themselves. And I try not to focus on anything else outside of that. I know it sounds cliché, but to me if you can control what you can control, and that is doing the job at your highest level, whatever that is, then you’ll live up to your own expectations.

Q: Do the people who throw out the word nepotism bother you?

NOAH: No, because, listen: I understand that there is still something that comes with having a father who’s done this at the level that he’s done this. And even just having a father in the industry’s one thing, but one with such notoriety comes with anything, and I accept that, right? If I was offended by it and if I knew I was going to be offended by it, I wouldn’t have gone into the business, just plain and simple. So knowing that I enjoy the job, knowing that I wake up excited to do the job, that drives me more than anything, and I understand where people are coming from, from that side of it, because yeah, there were doors that probably were opened, but then it was up to me to kick the door down, and that’s how I’ve always looked at it.

Q: Does it tick you off?

IAN: Dentistry is still an option.

NOAH: (Chuckling) Yeah, it’s still there. I love teeth.

IAN: If you don’t want to do any of this, you can just shift to a new career. … No, I go into it fully understanding the business, and the world we live in. Ultimately, you know the truth about situations, and while others can make suppositions and speculate on how things work and how they happen, you know the real deal. And I know Noah has chosen this career because he’s passionate about it, and I would give the same advice to any person that asked me, if you’re passionate about something you have to follow it, don’t worry about how others may view it. You can control what’s within your control.

Q: Noah told me off the record that you pushed him into this.

NOAH: (Laughing)

IAN: You’re breaking a huge story here, Steve (laugh). There was a sweatshop situation in New Jersey (chuckling), that I would come back from work, and he was in a corner with a headset on — “Again! Again! Again!” ­­­­

Q: How do you think your style is different from your father’s style?

NOAH: I do think it’s definitely similar in a lot or ways. I would say where it maybe differs is just in how I view everything, and that’s just natural to every person, right? For me, it’s just being authentic to who I am and making sure I make the references that I want to make and making sure that I find the things that I want to find and I frame things the way I want to frame it, and I think it’s all still a work in progress in terms of what my style’s going to look like.

Q: How does his style differ from yours?

IAN: I think we’re all still a work in progress (laugh). I’m not a finished product by any stretch, no matter how many games I’ve done, no matter how many charts I’ve made and how many statistics I’ve thrown out there. I would say Noah is a more modern version of what I do, and he’s taken elements of how I approach the game, but he’s put his own spin on it — whether it be by references, whether it be a certain attitude, energy. … There are similarities. There’s certain voice qualities and cadence that is just natural. But if you watch over the course of an entire game, you’ll hear the subtle differences that we’re not the same exact person, and we don’t do it the same exact way.

Q: Do you offer critiques still to him?

IAN: Sure. But not in the way that some would visualize. This is not a laundry list after every broadcast, there’s not s long text chain detailing where he needs to make adjustments. It’s more organic than that, and it comes over the course of conversation. Sometimes the conversations have nothing to do with broadcasting, and something may pop up in my head that I remember from three games ago that I think I can help plant a seed, make him aware of something. But it’s not after every broadcast, let’s get together and chat about it, that’s counterproductive. And also, it wouldn’t be helpful. In this business, you really have to trust your instincts. And if you are focused on a bunch of potential improvements with each game, then you’re taking your eye off the ball.

Q: Describe your first Nets broadcast.

IAN: It was a disaster. It was Nets at Houston, the Rockets had just won the title, and the engineer — it was a radio game — did not have equipment that made you confident in the evening’s activities. So older box, older headset, they’re going to do the trophy celebration, David Stern is in attendance, so I turn to the engineer and said, “Oh, we’re going to need the P.A. announcer to carry this.” And he said, “P.A.?” I said, “Yeah, yeah, P.A.” He goes, “Oh no, we don’t have P.A.” It’s just me now screaming over 18,000 Rockets fans trying to articulate what’s happening in the moment. And then, at halftime, the headsets were so old that the black portion of the earmuff cracked, and little bits of material embedded into my ear and under my … and I didn’t know this, Mike O’Koren, who I was working with, asked the person next to him, “Hey do I have anything there?” They went “No.” I didn’t know. I got to the plane, and I went to the bathroom and I looked in the mirror and I had black stuff — it’s my first game — all over my ears. We finally got to our next destination. It was all down my back. It was quite memorable. But really, excellent broadcast (smile).

Nets sideline reporters Ian Eagle and Sarah Kustok before the Brooklyn Nets played the Charlotte Hornets on March 22, 2016 at the Barclays Center. NBAE via Getty Images

Q: Noah, what were your emotions heading into your first Nets game on YES Saturday night.

NOAH: Well, I hope the equipment’s better, start there.

IAN: Check your headset ahead of time.

NOAH: Yeah, just considering the team that I grew up around and watching him basically every game that he did …

IAN: You were watching all those years? I had no idea.

NOAH: Yeah. I mean, I may have been forced by Mom to do it. “You watch your dad! See that he’s still there!”

IAN: I thought you were watching “The Bachelorette” this whole time.

NOAH: (Laugh). … No I’d say that just all the emotions that come with that of doing a team that you were a fan of as a child, and the history of what goes into that, it makes the job a lot easier certainly, but to actually have that full circle moment come to fruition is special, and not a lot of people get to do it. So it’ll be a pinch-myself-type-of-moment.

Q: Who has the better sense of humor?

NOAH: Oh, I’ll give it to him. And I say this to everybody that he always says his dad was the funniest person that he knew and he never felt like he could reach that sense of humor. … I feel the same way with him, which means if I have a son, I’m concerned.

IAN: (Laugh)

NOAH: It’s hard to be in the same room because I know I’ll lose the battle every time.

IAN: (Laugh)

NOAH: When I’m outside and I’m on my own, I feel pretty good about myself.

IAN: I think Noah has a fantastic sense of humor. It’s in the lineage. My father [Jack] was truly the funniest person that I’ve ever known, standup comedian and entertainer, and I could see him on stage take over a room or walk into any room and take over, with one person, two people, three people, 12 people, it didn’t matter. I think back and I wonder what he would think to see Noah doing what he’s doing. He would be blown away. Because I know how proud he was of me, and he passed away when Noah was … 11?

NOAH: Yeah.

IAN: He would be … beside himself, with joy.

Breanna Stewart, then with the Seattle Storm, talks with Fox reporter Noah Eagle at the game between the U.S. Central Girls and the U.S. West Girls during Pool Play of the Jr. NBA Global Championship on August 7, 2019. NBAE via Getty Images

Q: What is your funniest father-son memory growing up?

NOAH: I think a lot of what makes him so good and what makes his sense of humor so renowned by many is timing and quick wit. And so a lot of the memories that I can come up with are those where there was a moment that he’s making my mom and sister laugh so hard that noises aren’t coming out of them. You can see the belly moving but you can’t hear anything audible. And then I start laughing because I’m watching them and that they are so inarticulate with anything that they’re trying to get out. … I do remember us watching a lot of shows and movies together where we were crying laughing. Where both of us had to take glasses off because there were tears streaming down.

IAN: I think we went to Disney four times, and on the fourth time we decided no more Disney. They told my wife that she could not bring her bag into Disney, so we had to think quick, because there was a lot of stuff in her bag that we required; family stuff. So we took everything from the bag and stuffed them into Noah’s cargo shorts: And I told Noah, “Look, you’re going to go through the turnstile, just do everything normal, just be normal.” And he started walking, and we’re watching him from behind walking through, and subconsciously, I don’t know what happened, he started pointing towards his pockets as he’s walking through.

NOAH: It looked like I had two of the largest bee stings of all time.

IAN: His thighs did not look human, and my wife and I and our daughter were watching this, and lost it, completely lost it. The person let him through because I think they thought he was deformed in some manner. Felt badly for him. And we got to the other side and he goes, “I did well, right?” I said, “Yeah, you did well, other than the pointing to … ” And the crazy part, this was six months ago.

NOAH: (Laugh).

Q: Describe this current Nets team.

IAN: Fun. Great chemistry. I think surprising people. They play really hard. They’ve got a certain resolve about them. They’re not intimidated by the opponent, by the situation. They’ve been a pleasant surprise.

Q: Coach Jacque Vaughn.

IAN: He’s a great human being. Among the nicest people you will ever meet. Got to know him as a player when he was with the Nets. He’s got his finger on the pulse, he’s got a good handle on his personnel, he’s an incredible people person, so you can understand why players respond to him, and respect him.

Q: Have you warned YES analyst Sarah Kustok about working with Noah?

IAN: (Laugh) We haven’t had “the talk” yet, but Sarah’s known Noah for as long as she’s been here, and she’s been here since the team got to Brooklyn. So talking about 11 years of knowing a kid that was 15 years old when they first met, and the fact that he’ll be sitting next to her calling the game I’m sure is pretty mind-blowing.

Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn reacts against the Miami Heat during the second half. The Nets won 112-97. AP

Q: Your thoughts on working with Sarah?

NOAH: Well I was really fortunate, one of the first things I ever got to do professionally was the Junior NBA Global Championships years ago for Fox Sports, and Sarah was one of the analysts, I was one of the sideline reporters. And what makes Sarah so special and so great — aside from how hard she works, aside from her knowledge of the game — is how inviting she is as a person … and then I was accepted, just basically with a snap of the finger, a blink of an eye. And so I know that doing a game with her is going to be easy. And I know that she’s a good audience in terms of all the sense of humor stuff, which I find important in a partner.

Q: What is the best Nets team you’ve seen?

IAN: That first Jason Kidd team, ’01-02. They just came out of the gate and shocked the NBA.

Q: Best interview subject?

NOAH: It would be hard not to say Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. That one was just a surreal moment. They told me literally five minutes before, “Hey, you’re interviewing Kareem.” I thought they were joking.

IAN: The former Miami Dolphin? (Laugh).

Q: Did you two play 1-on-1?

IAN: Noah became a very good basketball player, so there was a time period where I still had him, and then I’d say by eighth grade, freshman year of high school, the transition took place where he took over.

Q: In the driveway?

IAN: Driveway … then local gyms … we went overseas, it was like a barnstorming tour. We did it in Turkey, in parts of Serbia.

Q: What is the best sporting event you’ve ever worked?

NOAH: It would be hard not to say the Vikings-Colts game from last year, it was the largest comeback in NFL history.

Q: How will your father handle following Jim Nantz calling the Final Four?

NOAH: I would say that the best thing about him is his focal point is making sure that the audience gets what the audience needs, and the events does the speaking and that the players are the superstars of this massive event. He’s going to attack it like he attacks everything, and it’s going to be a sense of humor, it’s going to be levity, but when it gets down to business, he’s going to get down to business, and he’s going to make sure that what’s required is going to be there. It certainly helps that he’s got Bill Raftery there. He’s going to be great, as he always is.

Jim Nantz has been a Final Four fixture. Getty Images

IAN: I’m elated to be on the mic for that. The hope when you enter this business is to work championship games. And the Final Four is seared in my brain as one of the biggest events in sports. Not much I’m going to change in how I do the job, but I recognize the stage will be a bit bigger. If anything, I may end up doing less on the air, because the event is the meal. And I just have to recognize that you put words to pictures.

Q: Since there is a “ManningCast,” how about an EagleCast?

IAN (laugh) Are you funding it? If America wants it, we’re more than happy to oblige.

NOAH: The only thing is how do I refer to you? Because Peyton’s always like, “Hey E, E, E … do I go I? Is that allowed?

IAN: No, you have to say “Dad.”

NOAH: I don’t know if I can do it.

IAN: It has to be wholesome fun.

Q: Tell me about your mom, Alisa, 25 words or less.

NOAH: It’s like a tweet — there’s a limit on the characters I can use on this —25 words for 27 years of life!

IAN (Laughing)

NOAH: I would say the first thing is kindness. And I think I’ve learned the impact of what kindness can have on the people around you in what your everyday life looks like. I would say selflessness and willingness to do for others in front of herself. And then, just an overall positive attitude. She always comes with a positive disposition, and I think the optimism that I live with, a lot of it comes from her, where every morning she’d wake up with a smile no matter what was going on outside, no matter what was going on inside, it was always, “Hey, we’re going to attack this the right way.” She’s a wonderful person, I understand why he eventually tied her up and married her and had the family with her, all of that stuff, that was good, and I’m thankful for it because I’m here.

Q: Tell me about your wife.

IAN: She is the best. She is the reason why I’m successful, and Noah’s successful, and my daughter Erin is successful. She has the secret sauce to keeping our family tight and close-knit. This isn’t a person that I met after I started in broadcasting. This is someone I met literally freshman year of college [Syracuse].

Q: Describe this gentleman as a father.

NOAH: I would say first thing that comes to mind is wisdom, imparting not just on the broadcasting front, which I think a lot of people expect, but the life view and the maturity that he brings to every situation, and really the levity that he brings to every situation certainly helps it as well, but he’s so wise in how he sees the world. It allows myself, it allows my sister Erin to really grow as people and to do it our way. I’d say understanding. He never looked at us and said, “You need to do it this way, you need to do it that way.” He let us figure it out, and then when we maybe made a mistake, or when we came for advice, he was there to help us out. Certainly funny, I think that’s got to be towards the top of the list. And then, just caring. He’s a caring person, I think a lot of people see that when they’re around him, but at home as well. And that has everything to do with everything that we wanted to do. So as a father, he was so supportive and so caring with everything that we did — school, outside of school, work, friendships, relationships. Not only cared, but had a genuine interest in helping, but being a standoffish help, and I think that’s the best thing a father can do is allow a kid to live, allow a kid to figure out their own path, but be there to support them along the way no matter what the situation calls for.

Q: Describe Noah as a son.

IAN: Wise beyond his years. A pleasure. He was such an easy child to raise, and I don’t say that lightly. He came out of the womb, and was agreeable and open to life. Not fighting, not looking to battle and quarrel. He really is the same as he was as a kid. Just excited about the day, excited about what’s next and whatever the new chapter may look like, he just has a real great handle on day-to-day life.

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