Although the team she normally covers, the New York Knicks, took an early exit in the playoffs, Tina Cervasio remains engaged in following all things basketball. A sports junkie growing up in New Jersey, Cervasio came from a family who passionately followed and played the sport, and she parlayed that interest into a career as one of the New York area’s most diverse sportscasters today. In addition to her sideline reporting and feature work for the Knicks on MSG Network, Tina covers the New York Red Bulls of Major League Soccer and works morning and weekends for FOX TV. She also fills her days mentoring young people and assisting in charity work, as well as keeping up to date with what’s going on in the NBA and college hoops, especially at her alma mater the University of Maryland.
Dime caught up with Tina to get more background on her work and interests.
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Dime: Have you always been an NBA fan, and if so what drew you to enjoying the game?
Tina Cervasio: As a young girl I used to go to a lot of high school basketball games with my father to see my mom’s cousins coach. I learned more about the NBA game when I was 11/12 and my friend’s father had season tickets to the Nets. I remember being drawn to the athleticism, the ball handling, twisting and vertical in their jumps. I became a full-time NBA fan in college in the ‘90’s, of, guess who? The Knicks. I was taking summer classes in ’94 and a bunch of New York fans would gather every night to watch the Eastern Conference Finals and the Finals. It was sick…until it ended. I obviously loved Patrick (Ewing). John Starks and his feisty, gritty, diving after balls and getting into guy’s faces-spirit of the team play, was why I sat down every night in front of the TV to watch later into the ‘90’s.
Dime: You are a Maryland grad. Any big memories from Gary Williams’ reign as the Terps’ head coach?
TC: YES, I was at Maryland during the brief, but exciting Joe Smith years. With Smith, the Terps not only made the Tournament, but made it to the Sweet 16. Gary was a God around campus. He was lifting the Terrapins out of the doldrums of sanctions and the dark memory of Len Bias’ death. The entire campus was buzzing about basketball the week leading up to the Sweet 16. Everyone was wearing t-shirts, talking about the Terps. It was really the turning point for the program, because for the next decade Maryland became a fixture in the national rankings, and of course won the Championship in 2002.
Dime: What is the biggest challenge you have in reporting on the NBA and working the Knicks broadcasts?
TC: Getting all of my reports on the air during a game. There are games where I come in with 10-12 reports, story ideas or quotes from players. And sometimes I’m lucky to get two in. But that’s the gripe of every sideline reporter. You do so much behind the scenes that goes unnoticed during a broadcast. However, there are games where my producer sets me free! One example was versus the Hornets in New Orleans. The Knicks had an ample lead, so that gave us some leeway. MSG had a special guest, sports action artist, painting Amar’e during the game, then the Hornets arena staff brought me Louisiana Style Food and I brought it to Clyde and Mike Crispino. I interviewed Amar’e three times during that game and got a few good Chris Paul basketball reports in. It was a blast.
Dime: As a broadcaster, what advice do you give other young women looking to get involved in the business?
TC: Have a thick skin going in, because at times it won’t be all sunny and shiny. You will hear “NO” many times, but it doesn’t mean you have to take no for an answer. Find someone to say yes to you. If you’re persistent, willing to learn, make changes, become a better reporter, broadcaster, storyteller, you will find someone to hire you in some capacity. Expect sacrifices, such as very low pay in the beginning, working weekend, nights and holidays. But stick with it, if this is what you want to do. I still work weekends and holidays and LOVE IT!
Dime: What has been the most interesting event since you have started working Knicks games?
TC: It’s a toss up between when Amar’e announced he was coming to the Knicks and Carmelo’s first game. We all knew Amar’e was scheduled for his big Knicks meeting on Monday, July 5th, 2010. By late morning we were getting word, he not only made his decision, he was going to announce it, at the Garden. I still remember when he bounced out of the limo on 7th Avenue in front of Madison Square Garden, with his picture lighting up the Marquee. As he walked by my camera crew, he looked and flashed that smile. We were all giddy fans at that moment. It was pretty funny. Joe Johnson already announced he was re-signing with the Hawks, and the whole Lebron-a-thon was dragging on, but Amar’e was about to become the first BIG free agent to take the Knicks’ MAX offer. When he appeared from inside the MSG Presentation Center where he had a closed door meeting with Donnie Walsh and Coach D’Antoni, he stepped in front of a wall that was plastered with “STAT City”, and then he puts a Knicks hat on. Amar’e knew me pretty well as the Knicks TV reporter, from my interviews with him with the Suns. He looked at me, so I jumped and I asked, “Amar’e, what do you have to say about your meetings today and that KNICKS hat you’re wearing?” He answered, “The Knicks are Back.” BAM … and you know what? Without that decision, that statement, we might not even be talking about Carmelo.
So, we all know how electric and emotional Carmelo’s first game was at the Garden. The chants were engrossing. And seeing Carmelo so emotional after the game was a really nice surprise – to see that side of him. So while Amar’e’s announcement wasn’t a game I covered, it was indeed, quite a historical EVENT.