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Sports Media

New WEEI boss Phil Zachary returns to Boston roots

Phil Zachary, who takes over as vice president and market manager at Entercom Boston on Oct. 21, hasn’t worked in this market since late 1979. That’s when he departed his role of operations manager at WITS 1510 — then the flagship for Red Sox and Bruins broadcasts — for a job in Cincinnati.

“I realized along the way that this is a business of ‘C’ students when someone tabbed me to be a general manager,’’ said the 59-year-old Zachary jokingly during a phone interview Wednesday, which took place a couple of hours after his first meeting with Entercom Boston employees, including those from sports radio station WEEI (93.7).

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During his 41-year career, Zachary has worked in Cincinnati, Washington, New Orleans, and Raleigh, N.C.

Now, he’s back to where he began, and his Boston bona fides are legitimate. A Connecticut native and graduate of Holy Cross, Zachary’s first radio gig was an internship at WAAF when it was based in Worcester. All these years later, WAAF is one of the four Boston-based Entercom stations under his umbrella.

Zachary became the operations manager at WITS at age 24, when “Emperor” Bob Hudson brought the laughs in the morning and “Clif and Claf” — sportswriters Larry Claflin and Clif Keane — spent the afternoons flame-broiling the likes of Don Zimmer.

He also worked with Glenn Ordway, who became one of the most prominent personalities in Boston sports radio and whose departure from WEEI last year figured significantly in the chaos that occurred during Zachary predecessor Jeff Brown’s 28 controversial months in charge

“Oh, yeah, Glenn Ordway was there [at WITS] when I was,’’ Zachary said. “Glenn was a good supporter of mine. I always had a good relationship with Glenn.”

Zachary acknowledged he’s still piecing together all that has happened with WEEI in recent years, from personnel changes to its consistent finishes behind 98.5 The Sports Hub in key ratings demos.

“I’ve got a sense that there have been some miscues, some things that could have gone better and haven’t,’’ Zachary said.

Miscues?

“I think just missed opportunities. Things that could have been done a different way, whether it was coming or going,’’ he said. “Sometimes when you get into a battle . . . cooler heads don’t prevail. Things take place that maybe in hindsight could have been done different.”

Might he reconsider some of Brown’s changes?

“I’m not one to go backwards, but you do have to look at the station and ask, ‘What did they do to be successful?’ I would think that some of that recipe is still valid today,’’ Zachary said. “Now, we don’t operate in a vacuum. The competitive arena has changed. But you don’t throw out the whole playbook. You make modifications to the system based on the current conditions.

“ We want to create an atmosphere where guys can come in and walk into an on-air tavern of lively discussion, most of which will revolve around what’s happening with local teams. But there will be other things that come up in conversation, like what happens when you’re down at the pub with your buddies, that may be in a parallel universe [and not necessarily sports-related]. So it’s OK, from time to time, to talk about things other than sports, but the reason they’re at WEEI is because it is unapologetically a sports bar.”

Ainge adds new color

What I like about Comcast SportsNet New England’s revamped Celtics programming this year: The idea of president of basketball operations Danny Ainge doing a handful of road games as a color commentator. He’ll join Mike Gorman and former Celtic Chris Herren, who will appear only when Ainge is on. Tommy Heinsohn will be the analyst on home games, his 33d year paired with Gorman.

But when the Celtics are on the road, Heinsohn, 79, will serve as a studio analyst, opening the door for Ainge and Herren to fill in.

Ainge is unflinchingly candid about his team for a person in his position, and he was a terrific analyst for TNT from 2001-03.

As far as research has revealed, there’s no recent precedent for a prominent executive calling his team’s games. But it is not unprecedented in Celtics lore. Old-timers will recall Red Auerbach spending more time barking at referees than offering cogent analysis when he provided color on WKBG’s broadcasts from 1967-71.

What I don’t like: The departure of Greg Dickerson. The Celtics’ sideline reporter since 2005 and a part of their broadcast since 2002, he was easygoing, respected, and had genuine institutional knowledge of the team.

There is frustration among the rank-and-file at CSNNE that Dickerson, who has battled neurological health issues in recent years, deserved better.

TBS on overload

TBS’s revamped postseason baseball studio programming is promising, but it could stand to be streamlined to a more manageable number of contributors. Anchor Keith Olbermann, analyst Pedro Martinez, and info guy Tom Verducci would be an ideal trio. Problem is, TBS is cramming five personalities onto the set, which leaves little literal or figurative room for anyone to stand out. Dirk Hayhurst, a Blue Jays broadcaster and author of two terrific memoirs, is fine, but he has been in the inexplicable position of discussing pitching while the far more accomplished Martinez remains silent. Solution: Move Hayhurst to a booth role, eliminate the “active player” position (sorry, Mark DeRosa), and watch Olbermann, Martinez, and Verducci thrive.

Chad Finn can be reached at finn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeChadFinn.
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