Tim MacMahon is a seasoned reporter, to say the least, who began his career at the Denton Record-Chronicle. When he started with the Chronicle he was presented with a full-time position allowing an opportunity to get hands-on experience, while still in college. Due to his heavy workload that comes that comes with the territory, MacMahon was not able to graduate on time because he only could take classes in the summer at UNT.
During his time at the Chronicle, he would begin covering North Texas events allowing him to build relationships with the editors at Sports Day, which in the sports section of the Dallas Morning News. Those relationships paid off because it led to MacMahon getting an opportunity to work for Sports Day. The position was focused on high school football and then transitioned into covering college games at Texas Tech and Baylor.
MacMahon would later get the opportunity to make the jump to ESPN when the Dallas section of the website was launched after being recommended by the morning news editor at Sports Day. After he took on the duties of being the managing editor at ESPN Dallas.com.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with the industry veteran to discussed what sparks his interest in journalism. We also discussed his thoughts on Maverick’s draft picks Luka Doncic and Jalen Brunson, and what are some reasonable expectations for their rookie season.
RESPECT: When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in sports journalism?
I figured it out during my freshmen year of college and went to a Division II school in Florida to play basketball and major in business. Neither one of those lasted the first semester after I realized during a business class I would be bored to death to pursue either as a career. As a basketball player, I knew I would be riding the bench, and that brought an end to my athletic career, but I always had a huge passion for sports. Just like any other kid growing up I wanted to play in the NBA, but once I figured out that was not going to be a possibility, I decided to pursue a career in journalism because it presented the path that made the most sense to me at its time. This is right when “The Ticket” launched in Dallas and I thought I would be taking more of the radio route. I ended up transferring to North Texas and majoring in broadcast journalism. That led me in the direction of newspaper reporting classes and then I got involved in print journalism.
RESPECT: After you graduated college what path did you take to land a position at ESPN?
First of all, it took me a long time to graduate from college. I was on the eight-year plan, and the was partly because I was fortunate enough to work for the Denton Record-Chronicle. I was presented with the opportunity to work full-time and it got to the point where I was only able to take a couple of class in the summer. Even though it took me a while to graduate college, I was getting great experience, and that job was critical in launching my career. Working at the Denton Chronicle, I very quickly began covering events around North Texas for that company, which was owned by the parent company of the Dallas Morning News.
So, I was providing the Dallas Morning News with coverage in North Texas, and I was fortunate to build relationships with editors at Sports Day. Those relationships led to me getting hired at Sports Day to cover high school football for a couple of years then I got promoted to colleges. I covered Texas Tech and Baylor for a year and later got promoted again to the sports blogger position. This allowed me to cover a little bit over everything including the Dallas Cowboys, Dallas Mavericks, and Texas Rangers. I had the opportunity to work in this position for a couple of years and when they launched ESPN Dallas they hired the morning news sports editor to be the managing editor of ESPN Dallas.com and he took me along with him. That is how I got my foot in the door at ESPN.
RESPECT: Who are some of the mentors you credit for pushing you towards where you are today?
There are a lot of them, Richard Durrett is the guy who reached out when I was working at the North Texas Daily paper in North Texas. He first offered me the Denton Record-Chronicle part-time and then got hired at the Dallas Morning News. Then he lobbied hard for them to take a chance on a college student to cover North Texas for the publication. Without him, I would not have gotten my first big break. Randy Galloway was someone else that I looked up to, I wanted to have a radio and column platform like he did. It did not turn out that way, but he was always an inspiration and a great friend to me. Randy always gave me great advice. Marc Stein has been huge for pushing me throughout ESPN as a guy that was focusing on NBA reporting. Barry Vigua was the person that brought me to ESPN from the management side, and I credit those four guys as my mentors.
RESPECT: With the technology that we now have available, what is some advice that you would like to share with individuals who have not received their big break?
Anytime I go and speak to college classes my advice is to get as much experience as you can. What I mean by that is you want to know about writing traditional news stories and features, whether that is for a website or newspaper. As you eluded, this is a multi-media world that we are now living in. You need experience being in front of the camera, behind the camera, editing videos, creating podcasts, and radio. Try to gain as much experience as you can nowadays, being a specialist is very rare, and the more skills you can bring to the table the better off you will be.
RESPECT: How do you want to use your platform to inspire the next generation?
I would not necessarily look at it as using my platform, but I will say I am always open to giving people advice. I am still willing to help. At the same time, I will give a warning that journalism is an industry where the future is uncertain. Another piece of advice I would share with someone entering this field I would say unless this is something that you are passionate about, I would consider other options. There are different ways to make a living and some individuals are not able to make a decent amount of money in this industry. Some talented individuals are not able to get their big break or with people who are established, there are a lot of layoffs. We are all kind of year to year in this business, to be honest. I know that is not an inspirational message, but I want people to know what they are committing too. Now, do not get me wrong it can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a challenge with the late nights and traveling. There is a downside to the job regarding family obligations.
RESPECT: Are there any other sporting events that you would cover that you haven’t yet?
I think everyone has a bucket list and I would say there’s not necessarily, at this point, any sporting event I would like to cover. I do have a bucket list of sporting events that I would like to attend. In this business, you do not get the opportunity to enjoy sports as a fan. So, one thing that I would like to do, and this might have to wait until I retire, but I want to get to 35 college stadiums. I do not want to be in the press box I would like to tailgate and be a fan. I have had the opportunity to cover a Superbowl, NBA Final, and World Series. I haven’t covered a college football national championship game. At this point, I would like to attend events where I’m not a member of the media to experience them as a fan. As far as basketball goes, I would want to be a part of different story ideas more so then covering events. I would like to sit in on some of the offseason pickup games at UCLA.
RESPECT: A couple of years ago Mark Cuban revoked you and Marc Stein’s media credentials due to concerns about electronic reporting at a major publication like ESPN and the Associated Press. Outside of that incident when was the last time you were denied access to a sporting event?
Cuban also banned bloggers back in 2008 that was back when I was blogging for the Dallas Morning News. I cannot say that I was the only blogger covering the team on a full-time basis. There have been a couple of times where I was caught the crosshairs of Mark Cuban, but other than that I’ve never been denied credentials at a major publication. During both incidents, they were worked through more publicly than my bosses might have liked, but they were resolved.
RESPECT: Over the years what would you say has been your toughest assignment?
There have been several times where real-life situations have superseded sports. I remember when I was the high school beat writer for the Dallas Morning News there was a Carter High School player who died from heat stroke. This happened during two-a-days, and we had to conduct some investigative reporting. I had a great relationship with the head coach Allen Wilson, but I had to ask questions, see what was done wrong, and how it could have been prevented. It is an enormous tragedy and we as journalists must ask challenging questions. That is more difficult than any assignment related to the game.
RESPECT: What are your thoughts on the NBA possibly flipping free agency and the draft?
I think it makes a lot of sense and it seems to work fine in the NFL. I do not like the idea of drafting for need. I think the draft should be the best person available and the emphasis on development. In the NFL the free agency period is for need, and the selection is pure talent, now there is some exception, but I like the idea.
RESPECT: What are your thoughts on the new Mavericks Luka Doncic and Jalen Brunson and what is reasonable?
Luka is going to be fascinating to watch. He is the highest selection for a Euro prospect that we have ever seen. Certainly, he is the highest that we have ever seen for a 19-year-old kid, also with the hype and accomplishments being that he is the youngest Euro League MVP ever. I think Luja will be in the running for Rookie of the Year if not the front-runner to win it. He will have the ball in his hands a lot. Luja has proven to be a phenomenal decision-maker with the way he sees the floor. It’s enormously advanced and I think he can be a better version of Chandler Parsons in a Maverick uniform right out the gate. From there he can blossom into a franchise player.
Now look, there are questions about him regarding athletic ability by NBA standards, but the Mavericks think that he can benefit from their strength and conditioning program. They would not have given up next year’s first-round pick and moved up two spots if they didn’t believe that he could not make an immediate impact.
Jaylon Brunson is someone else that comes in with an impressive resume; two-time NCAA National
Championship and NCAA Player of the Year. Now, he is not stepping into a starting role clearly as Luka Doncic is and it will be difficult for him to get playing time next season. He might be playing in the G-League running the show with the Texas Legends with Dennis Smith Jr., and J.J. Barea ahead of him on the depth chart at the point guard position. We still do not know what will happen to Yogi Ferrell, who has NBA experience and Jaylon Brunson is going to have to earn playing time. I understand why the Mavericks jumped at the chance to select him in the second round because he possesses all the intangibles that you want in a point guard. I think he has an opportunity to develop into a bigger left-handed J.J. Barea who has been able to carve out a great career based on being able to run the pick and roll.