As The Big Lead reported yesterday, Stephen A. Smith is nearing a long-term deal to stay with ESPN. Part of the new deal, as mentioned on Twitter and reported by the New York Post, means Smith will no longer host his daily national radio show from 1-3 p.m. ET. While ESPN has not yet decided on who will replace him, here is a look at some of the possible names.
Media sources around the industry have pointed to Max Kellerman as the most logical fit and as someone who will receive strong consideration for the job. Smith's current First Take co-host checks off the two key elements of the gig: Los Angeles and New York. Kellerman has previously had success in the two big markets that both carry the time slot. Kellerman has lived in both cities and would be the most natural lead-in to 98.7's The Michael Kay Show in New York. There is a question of whether or not Kellerman would want to add radio to his current load. He's on one of the network's biggest shows in First Take, hosts the weekly Max on Boxing program, and appears on ESPN's Top Rank coverage once a month.
It would be a mistake for ESPN to not give Will Cain a look to take over from 1-3 p.m. daily on radio. His show has been a massive success on terrestrial radio in the afternoon drive, which has historically been a challenge for national radio shows as most local affiliates carry their own shows at that time. Cain is also a rising star at the network. He's worked on radio, on television, and is even standing out on the fantasy football pregame show on Sundays. He is the closest thing to Colin Cowherd when it comes to solo rants, and has developed unique chemistry with several guests on the show. Cain has impressed filling in for Smith in the past and is entertaining on a wide range of topics.
Jorge Sedano has a track-record of success on both local and national radio. He is a talent the affiliates are sold on. Sedano could even improve the ratings in Los Angeles, a city in which he has recorded impressive numbers in both the morning and afternoon slots. Several of the markets Smith's show is in are heavy NBA, which fits right into Sedano's wheelhouse. Sedano also is one who is next in line for elevation. His Los Angeles radio show was moved to a later slot due to them adding The Will Cain Show, and this is would be a way for the company to utilize him more effectively.
If ESPN doesn't elect to turn the slot over to one of the three talents mentioned above, they do have a few other options. They could go the route of giving both New York and Los Angeles local shows and then moving The Paul Finebaum Show up in the more football-heavy markets. Finebaum has one of the best sports radio shows in the country and is misused by ESPN by being televised on the SEC Network. It's also expected for Finebaum will once again receive widespread interest from competitors once his deal with the network expires. Mina Kimes is another name to watch out for. According to sources, ESPN is going to continue to push her. It would hardly be a surprise to see her receive strong consideration of any opening at the network. If they go down this route, pairing her with a co-host would be the best bet. Domonique Foxworth, whom the network is also high on, is her former co-host on The Morning Roast and someone she has chemistry with. They could also pair Kimes with Sedano. Both Kimes and Sedano are based in Los Angeles and the duo would create a football-basketball punch.