Ireland embraces new gig

For the past nine seasons, John Ireland has been the Los Angeles Lakers' sideline reporter for KCAL 9 television. But that has changed because the Corona del Mar High alumnus will now be calling the action.

Ireland, a 1981 graduate of CdM, will be the play-by-play announcer on 710 ESPN radio alongside commentator and former Laker Mychal Thompson, it was announced Tuesday.

Ireland, 47, who has been with KCAL since 1995, replaces Spero Dedes, now with the New York Knicks.

Corona del Mar High must be proud of its alumni. Ireland isn't the only former Sea King with a new Lakers' gig. Bill Macdonald, also a former Sea King, will call the games on TV alongside commentator Stu Lantz on Fox Sports West and KCAL 9.

So, if there is no NBA lockout, Macdonald and Ireland will be the play-by-play announcers for the Lakers for the 2011-12 season.

Ireland has come a long way since his first job in the media business. He began as a paperboy, delivering the Daily Pilot while attending CdM Middle School. He took time out Wednesday to talk to his old paper before working as the emcee at the All-Star Lowsman Trophy Banquet.

The dinner at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa is the signature event of Irrelevant Week, the weeklong celebration of the final pick of the NFL Draft. Ireland always does his best to provide jokes and funny stories during the night.

Question: What has Chick Hearn meant to you in your career?

Answer: Growing up in Southern California and I grew up in Corona del Mar, it was like going to sportscaster's school because Chick Hearn did the Lakers, Vin Scully did the Dodgers, Bob Miller did the Kings and Dick Enberg did the Angels. I never heard a bad play-by-play guy growing up. I had this Mount Rushmore of play-by-play guys. When I got to KCAL, I got to know Chick. I think he's the best play-by- play guy ever. I'm very biased but when I hear Celtics fans, they say Johnny Most was the Chick Hearn of the Celtics. But I say he loved the Celtics, but Chick was a basketball guy.

Billy [Macdonald] and me look at it the same way. We're not replacing Chick. We're both four times removed. There was Paul Sutherland, and Joel Meyers, and Spero Dedes and now there's me. You never want to be the guy who is replacing the guy. You don't dishonor the chair.

He told me, if you don't tell the audience what is actually going on they'll sniff it out in a second. What they expect out of you is honesty. He was always on point, but brutally honest. I hope I can keep that going on.

Q: Is getting the new gig bittersweet because of the NBA lockout looming? How did you react to getting the job?

A: Sure it is. We have a one-year deal. Then Time Warner is this behemoth coming in and when they do they can shuffle the announcers again.

I've been told by others: You might be the only guy to get the play-by-play job and then never be able to do the thing.

Q: What do you think of two CdM guys getting the new jobs with the Lakers, one on TV (Bill Macdonald) and one on radio?

A: Pretty weird. Billy was five years before me. He married a girl from my class so I've always known him.

He's always been a hard worker. We're both the same. We're both not going to say no. And, we're not going to get outworked. I'm proud of it.

Q: What was it like for you to raise money for autism after losing the bet that Cleveland would not beat the Lakers during the regular season? (Ireland said he would walk back to L.A. if the Cavs beat the Lakers. Instead, he raised money and participated in a walk for autism charity event in Pasadena.)

A: Humbling, but good. To me I had the attitude I can do something dumb, but I didn't want to. I was told to do something silly, to walk from Cleveland National Forest to home, or to walk from Cleveland Golf Shop to home. I've always been close to Autism Speaks. My son is on the autism spectrum. I just sent out an email and we wanted to raise $2,344 for the miles from Cleveland to Los Angeles. We raised more than $25,000. It just took off like a rocket. I had a humble goal and we shattered it.

Q: What do you have to say to everyone who has congratulated you recently? What's that been like?

A: Flattering, but I temper enthusiasm because of this unique situation. Most guys in the business that I respect think there will be no season. So, I'm humble. It's a great honor and it's very flattering. I say my thank yous and I go cross my fingers.

Q: Even though you "played" basketball what do you have to say about the recent success of Corona del Mar, boys' volleyball winning the ESPN RISE national title?

A: The funny thing is Billy and I were both athletes but we were not very good. I know I wasn't. We won a CIF championship in basketball and I was literally the last guy on the bench. For me to say anything on CdM athletics would be hypocritical. But they are great. I like to have fun with my school on the radio show. My school's nickname is the Sea Kings and our rival {Newport Harbor] is the Sailors and we had Laguna Beach, and at that time they were the Artists. So every time the Sea Kings and Sailors got together you know it was a throw-down.

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