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Sunderland Moves On After His Laker Setback

Paul Sunderland got the devastating news a year ago Sunday. His agent at the time called, telling him that the Lakers were not going to renew his contract.

A few days later, Sunderland got a letter from Frank Mariani, Laker executive vice president, that strongly implied that Sunderland was out as the Lakers’ television play-by-play announcer.

“It was obviously a tremendous disappointment,” Sunderland said this week. “But what’s done is done. There is no going back.

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“It was difficult and painful for myself and my family. But every day is a new day and you’ve got to move forward.”

Sunderland says he still doesn’t know exactly why he was let go.

“I’ve got some ideas, but that’s for a conversation another day,” he said. “I don’t want to linger or focus on the past.”

Joel Meyers, Sunderland’s replacement, was accused, particularly on talk radio, of politicking to move from radio to television. But Meyers has vehemently denied that, and sources close to the situation back him up.

So the question remains: Why was Sunderland’s contract not renewed?

The reason given at the time was that the ratings were down and sponsors were complaining. But the Lakers’ poor play obviously was keeping the ratings down. Was that Sunderland’s fault?

“I know Stu [Lantz] and I were a very good broadcast team,” Sunderland said. “Our approval rating was very high among fans. Not two days go by where someone doesn’t say to me, ‘Why aren’t you back on the Lakers?’

“There was no outcry, no radio buzz that anyone was dissatisfied with my work. Dr. [Jerry] Buss once told me on one of the charter flights that he expected some negative reaction, since I was replacing a legend in Chick Hearn, but not only was there none, the feedback had all been positive.”

Losing the Laker job was a big blow, but the arrival of Tom Feuer as executive producer at FSN West and West 2 in December has been good for Sunderland.

Sunderland is Feuer’s type of broadcaster -- a professional, always prepared, always cooperative.

Feuer and Sunderland got to know each other in 1985, when Prime Ticket was launched. Feuer, fresh out of UCLA, was the publicity director and Sunderland and Chris Marlowe were hired to announce volleyball.

Feuer came from the FSN regional network in Seattle, where he found work on college basketball this fall for Sunderland. He has done the same the last three months at the two FSN regional networks in Los Angeles.

Sunderland worked about a dozen college basketball games for Feuer in Seattle. And he has done about that many for Feuer in L.A., plus the recent Pacific 10 swimming championships with John Naber.

“I’ve done more than I thought I would,” Sunderland said.

Yes, life goes on.


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