For the foreseeable future, WEEI is going back to the future.
Michael Holley and Dale Arnold, a well-rated and received tandem on the sports radio station’s midday program from March 2005 until February 2011, will reunite in afternoon drive for the next several weeks — and perhaps beyond.
“They sound good together, Dale brings out the best in Michael and vice versa,’’ said Entercom Boston vice president and market manager Phil Zachary, who revealed that the show will also include a rotating cast of third hosts. “What I hear now coming out of those speakers is good radio. It’s very easy to listen to. The response from listeners and advertisers has been very strong.”
Arnold has filled in alongside Holley several times since co-host Mike Salk abruptly resigned last Wednesday to return to Seattle as the program director and host at ESPN 710. Salk, a Sudbury native, came to WEEI from the Seattle station in February 2013 after longtime host Glenn Ordway was fired.
When Jeff Brown, the former market manager of WEEI’s parent company, Entercom Communications, split up Holley and Arnold in February 2011, Holley, whose contract was expiring, went to the more prominent spot in afternoon drive, where he was paired with Ordway. Arnold, who has been at the station since 1991, was demoted to part-time and fill-in duty, and eventually took on a more prominent role at NESN.
“Dale is a different talent. To my ear, what comes out of the speakers sounds good,’’ said Zachary. “It sounds upbeat and energized. I think being on the bench for a while can make you appreciate the game when you do play. I think Dale is rejuvenated, has a great locker-room presence, and Michael has great chemistry with him. I think that’s contagious and comes through the speakers to the listeners.”
It’s been a tumultuous couple of years at the station. Brown, who departed Entercom in September, did not leave behind a legacy of savvy personnel decisions. While Zachary doesn’t outright say that mistakes were made by his predecessor, he acknowledges he did speak to Ordway about returning (it was nixed by others in Entercom management) and believes retracing some steps to find out if the right decisions were made is a worthwhile exercise.
Zachary paused for several seconds when asked if he believes the “Dale and Holley” program never should have been broken up in the first place.
“It’s hard to say. I think there were so many things happening at once. There were a lot of decisions that were made that in retrospect may have warranted a second look,’’ he said. “That show is comfortable. It’s like meatloaf and mashed potatoes. It’s comfortable. Not every sports radio listener wants every little thing challenged and exaggerated and dramatized and confronted. That show is different. And I think there is a place for that show on our station, whether it’s afternoon drive or wherever. Without suggesting that this is going to be our five-year plan, it warrants another look in a different context, and that’s what we’re doing now.”
Regarding WEEI’s other programs, Zachary said he is very comfortable with the morning “Dennis and Callahan [and Minihane]” show, which remains the only program among the three morning and afternoon shows that is registering solid ratings.
“I wish I could clone Kirk Minihane because he’s made such a great difference on that show,’’ Zachary said. “That’s not easy, walking in to two strong personalities like Dino [John Dennis] and Gerry [Callahan]. Kirk has not stood down a single moment. He’s been very, very good in there. I think if we’ve done anything in the last 4-5 months it’s to validate Kirk’s presence and not make him an ampersand at the end of Dennis and Callahan.”
Zachary said he plans to add a rotating third voice to the midday program, featuring Lou Merloni and Mike Mutnansky as well. He was asked, given the subpar ratings of the program, whether the two hosts would remain a part of it.
“Right now that’s our plan,” he said.
While there will be a third host in afternoon drive as well — expect Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix, Comcast SportsNet New England’s Tom Curran, and former Patriot Christian Fauria to be in the rotation — Zachary is pleased with Holley and Arnold’s on-air affability and approach.
While there is a turn toward a transparently cynical approach on certain other shows — really, the Bruins’ 10-game winning streak isn’t impressive? — Zachary believes there is a place for hosts to be engaging rather than enraging.
“What’s the old adage? ‘Bostonians aren’t happy unless they have something to complain about?,’ ’’ he said with a laugh. “But my mom used to say, ‘Everything in moderation,’ and I think if you build a whole station around that, it could be a mistake. There’s a lot of that in the market. You do have to have those lightning rods, and two of the three day parts will feature that, but it’s not all you need by any stretch. That’s just not what Dale and Michael do, that’s not who they are, and they would be miscast in that role.”
Ordway, whose online sports radio program “Big Show Unfiltered” on sportstalkboston.com launched Monday with a familiar cast and sound and a slightly more colorful vocabulary, had a couple of other relevant announcements this week. The biggest is that the show will be available on SiriusXM channels 108 and 206 beginning next Monday. Also, Jason Wolfe, the former program director among other titles at WEEI during its heyday, has joined sportstalkboston.com as the chief content officer . . . The search for a reporter to replace Jenny Dell on NESN’s Red Sox broadcasts is still ongoing. There is no specific timetable to make a hire, and the network is expected to use a rotating cast of reporters and anchors in the role to begin the season . . . NESN had former Red Sox utilityman Steve Lyons in for an interview recently, but not for the in-game reporter role. Lyons was replaced on Dodgers regional broadcasts by Nomar Garciaparra.