Photo by Fernando Medina/Orlando Magic
To the locals that reside in the City Beautiful or even in the blogosphere, Dante and Galante are names that carry significance.
They are the infamous broadcast duo that have been the voices of the Orlando Pro Summer League the past two years, calling games, making jokes, and reading e-mails on live internet streams. Their wit and humor, as well as their humble and down-to-earth nature, gained them a cult following and eventually led to the creation of “Magic Overtime with Dante & Galante” — a show that offers a unique look at coaches, players, and personalities, and is aired on OrlandoMagic.com and Sun Sports. The fellas wrapped up their second season a little over a week ago.
And their official titles? Dante Marchitelli is the Radio Manager for the Orlando Magic, George Galante is the Director of Communications, and both of them have been with the franchise for over 10 years. It’s safe to say they’ve been through a lot with the Magic, both the ups and the downs.
Whenever I’ve covered games, practices, or press conferences in Orlando, I’ve chatted with Dante and George plenty of times and they’re two of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet. As such, given their openness and willingness to talk, it wasn’t too hard to arrange this interview.
Each of them provide their take on the series between the Magic and the Boston Celtics, as well as make sense of the mainstream media’s treatment of Dwight Howard, and more.
What do you think the Orlando Magic need to do to get over the hump and win a championship?
George Galante: I really think we’re right there, and the more I watch the Lakers/Celtics series, the more angry I get because I really feel like this was a year that was a wasted opportunity. Dante and I have been here for a long time, where the window was not only shut but it was sealed and dead-bolted and there was no way that you were going to get in. Now that the window has been open for us the last two or three years, to see how brief that time can be, you really need to take advantage of your opportunities. The more I watch the Lakers/Celtics series, the more angry I get that I really feel like we were the better team and we let an opportunity slip away. That’s not to take anything away from Boston. However, I think we just let an opportunity go by that we’re going to look back on in a couple years and be really ticked off about.
Dante Marchitelli: I don’t disagree with Otis [Smith], either. I don’t think you blow up the team. You’re right there. You went to the Finals two years ago, you went to the Eastern Conference Finals this year … if you win one of your first two games, you win the series. You lose a Game 6 and come home to win a Game 7, so you’re right there. Whatever the reason was that you couldn’t win one of those two games, you got to make a couple of tweaks this year and you hope that you’ve done enough to do that next year.
Did it surprise you guys that the Magic didn’t play with the sense of urgency you’d expect, given that they had home-court advantage against the Boston Celtics?
Galante: I have a hard time thinking that we just didn’t come out hard, because I still think we played hard. I was more surprised at Boston’s level and how high they were playing as opposed to like where we were. That’s what surprised me. They definitely weren’t the team that was losing to Memphis at home in late March. They were a different team and they just beat us in a way that we weren’t prepared for. I think that’s what surprised me more than our effort. I still think our effort was [fine], taking Game 3 out of it because that was obviously not what we had in mind … I think I was more surprised by how well Boston was playing. Even against the Lakers and this whole playoffs for [the Celtics], I’ve been pretty surprised.
Do you think the players for Orlando were caught off guard by how well Boston was playing against them?
Dante: I think they were surprised that what they were doing wasn’t working. I think that’s the only thing that caught them off-guard, because they played one way the entire year. I honestly think they knew what they had to do, they executed it, and I think they were surprised when it didn’t work. They couldn’t hit a shot … they didn’t knock down a three-pointer in the entire first half of Game 1. That hadn’t happen in two years, so I think that surprised them. If you have a little bit of doubt in your shot or in your execution or whatever, it opens the door for a team like Boston, who smells that, and just kicks it into gear. Boston plays well on the road … better road record than home record. I don’t think being here for Game 1 intimidated them, whatsoever, and I think that surprised Orlando a little bit. But they weren’t surprised that Boston played hard. They were very prepared. I think they were surprised that they couldn’t hit a shot and that Boston seemed to have an answer for everything they did.
After the Game 6 loss against the Celtics, Dwight Howard said afterwards to the media that “the team needs guys that are willing to give everything they got to get wins.” What’s your thoughts on that quote? Was there an underlying message to it, or was Howard merely frustrated after the game?
Galante: I think it’s just frustration that the season was over. I don’t think it’s anything specific. Like we said, if you take one of those first two home games, I think we’re playing right now. I don’t think it’s a factor, so I don’t think anything he said was coming out of anything other than frustration for the fact that we were done playing. I really do. The team, literally from the time they broke [training] camp … the goal was to win a championship and anything less than that was going to be unsatisfactory. When it came up so short, I think everybody felt the frustration and just the fact that we were done and we didn’t reach our goal. I really don’t think there’s anything more [to Howard’s quote] than that.
What do you think Howard will benefit the most from working out with Hakeem Olajuwon in Houston?
Dante: I think he’ll pick up an accent in his speech. *laughs*
I just think his offensive game around the basket [will benefit], obviously that’s the main thing. But if you look at it, everyone is upset about Dwight not having an offensive game or not having what they feel he should … Hakeem didn’t have the “Dream Shake” and all those moves until he was 30. It takes a while for these guys to adapt, and I think working with a guy like that, a guy that’s won, a guy that’s possibly one of the best post-up centers the game has ever seen, I don’t think it can hurt. You might see a little jumper, but you’re going to see some confidence, some nice footwork around the basket, some up-and-under moves, and all those things that Hakeem brought to the game.
Galante: Going back on Dwight’s offensive game for a little bit, the guy still almost averaged 20 points a game. There’s only a handful of players that can stop Dwight. Now granted, would you like to see Dwight have a couple of more moves? Yeah, sure, but let’s not nitpick a guy that’s been All-NBA First Team for three years in a row. I think that’s just a little unfair. That’s the fans, that’s the media, that’s everyone’s perception of Dwight, that he should have a more polished game. The guy dominates an entire end of the floor.
Do you think the mainstream media wouldn’t be as harsh to Howard if his strengths as a player were on offense instead of on defense?
Galante: I think they still would. If that was the case, we would not win 59 games back-to-back years. We would not make it to the Finals. The reason we win games, as much attention as the offense gets and the three-point shooting, the defense is what has won games for us and division titles, and has gotten us deep in the playoffs. The offense is nice, but it’s the defensive end that wins us games — bottom line.
Dante: But people are enamored with LeBron James, who hasn’t won anything, and that guy can do no wrong. It is unfair because if [Howard] was out there, averaging 30 points a game and his defense was lacking … everyone is enamored with points and scoring, I think they would give him a pass. I really do, and I don’t think that’s fair.
Galante: See, that’s why we differ because I would say then we would not be winning any more games. Then we would be on him about, ‘why isn’t he better on the defensive end? Here’s this force that should be a force in the middle and better on defense.’ Everybody would find something.
Dante: Sure, but then I think they’d say that he’s a one-man band and is like LeBron and needs some help. It never ends.
Do you think it’s a catch-22 with Howard, then? Can he never win with the media, in terms of his perception as a player?
Galante: The media, or whoever, criticized Michael Jordan for eight years. They killed the guy. Michael Jordan! It’s not surprising and unfairly or fairly, until he wins the title … you know what? Even after he wins a title, people still bash Kobe Bryant. If the Lakers don’t win [today], how many things will we see killing Kobe Bryant? Whether it’s a lack of leadership or he shot too much. There’s always going to be something. To me, you got to have a pretty thick skin and just know how to bounce back and not worry about it. If the media can criticize those people, the best players in the world to ever play?
Dante: None of it bothers Dwight. Nobody works harder. This guy is going to reach every bit of potential that he has, and that’s the exciting part. Why waste our time criticizing somebody like this? This is what we ask for. Don’t we ask for our athletes to be like this guy? To not get in trouble, to do right things on and off the court, to enjoy the game, to embrace the competition, to have fun out there, to realize it is a game, and to appreciate being in this position, getting paid like this, fans adoring him, that sort of thing … how is there anything to harp on? He’ll get better. He’s young. He’s going to have his chance.
Galante: You know what, Eddy? With all this being said, it is good that people do criticize and pay attention to the Magic. If this was five years ago or six years ago, I don’t think anybody would care. The culture of the team has changed, and the culture of what the perspective of the team has changed. That’s all good so to me, the more criticism that he gets, it means that more people are paying attention to him and more people expect the Magic, as an organization and as a team, to compete for a title.
Dante: Fans are disappointed, players are disappointed, and that’s a good thing. They expect more from the organization, and how disappointed would you be five years ago if you were two games away from the Finals? You know what I mean? That shows you something.
Galante: Yeah, you got to put that into perspective. We didn’t make the Finals, and it was crushing. Five years ago, if we would have made the playoffs, we would have had a party and that’s a fact.
Stay tuned for Part Two tomorrow.