The recent shakeup at ESPN has sent shock waves throughout the sports broadcasting world. Some top names have been dropped as a result of the massive cut to high-profile personalities.
In the wake of this shocking turn of events, Monica McNutt has emerged as one of the best in the profession.
A graduate of Holy Cross, Georgetown University and University of Maryland (UMD), McNutt is a shining star at the “worldwide leader in sports.” With so many who specialized as either studio host, play-by-play or color analysts, McNutt has capitalized on being a jack-of-all-trades in the industry, and a veritable master of all.
She has been with ESPN since 2019 and has taken a meteoric rise. She started out with the ACC Network as studio and game analyst. In 2021, her role expanded to include “SportsCenter,” “Around the Horn,” “First Take” and “NBA Today.”
With her credibility and popularity rapidly rising, McNutt also currently serves as studio analyst for the New York Knicks on MSG.
If you google the term “paid their dues,” it most likely includes McNutt. Prior to her current experience, Monca worked her way up the food chain with stops at local WJLA ABC7, the American Sports Network, NBC Washington Sports and even an occasional contributor to the Washington Post.
“I have found that getting to do multiple things makes you better at all things,” McNutt said about her dynamic versatility.
She developed an incomparable working knowledge of the game of basketball, after having played at the Academy of Holy Cross and later at Georgetown where she helped lead them to the Sweet 16 of NCAA Tournament.
“Having played AAU, high school and college basketball, you develop a sense of teamwork that carries over into your professional pursuits,” she noted.
Yet, another important part of her journey and where she has come can be attributed to family support.
“My family has been important in this journey,” says Monica, who owns a graduate degree from UMD. “My mother (Desiree) is a teacher and is big on self-awareness. She used to say to me,‘You are tall so people will see you before they hear you.’”
She continued, “My father (Kevin) has been around sports as a high school basketball official and a coach for many years. So I learned a lot because I was always included in the conversations.”
Though she works in a male-dominated profession, McNutt said she has many role models and mentors who have directly and indirectly contributed to her journey.]
McNutt credits Doris Burke (current analyst for ESPN) and Robin Roberts (one of the first women at ESPN and now at ABC) as role models.
An individual who has been a key figure throughout her ascendancy is LaChina Robinson. Robinson has served as a mentor, friend and colleague since 2011.
Robinson, who also looms from the DMV, has been with ESPN for 14 years.
When they met, McNutt was at Georgetown finishing up her senior season and Robinson was calling a game between Georgetown and Waker Forest. From there, they developed a mentor-mentee relationship that has grown over the years.
“From the first time that I met her, Monica had a sense of authenticity about her,” said Robinson. “You see the confidence and courage that she was going to be special.”
Then came what Robinson feels was the turning point, McNutt got an opportunity to call what was a heavyweight match between the University of South Carolina and UConn women in a nationally televised game on Fox.
“Monica blew everyone away,” recalls Robinson. “Her analysis, insight and presentation put people on notice. They were finally getting a chance to experience a rising star in the profession.”
Robinson adds that the key to McNutt’s success is that she brings a unique perspective and she knew then that she was going to be a star in the profession.
“The key is her unbelievable versatility. She is comfortable doing interviews. If you need a studio host, she is equally capable. And then she shines as an analyst in her ability to understand the game and articulate it in terms that the audience is able to grasp and understand. That is a rare quality in this profession.”
Robinson continued, “There is something about her that engages the audiences. She is that homegirl from down the street or the person that everyone knows and feels comfortable. That is the uniqueness that sets her apart.”
Despite the success, McNutt admitted that there was a point in her rise that proved to be challenging and gave her some self-doubt.
It was in 2018 and I was in a different place,” she intimated. “Then, I remembered seeing a response that I received from Maria Taylor (formerly of ESPN and now with NBC) after looking at one of my reels. Along with her response at that time, I was watching Jemelle Hill (former award-winning host at ESPN) and right there, I became inspired and said, ‘I can do this.’”
In an effort to provide space and encouragement to young women, she works with a non-profit organization, Grow Our Game, that helps young girls learn self-confidence and more, all while learning basketball.
One of McNutt’s mentees, Tykera Carter, sees her as a role model.
Carter currently does social media for the WNBA and serves as a reporter for various media outlets. She got her start at Howard University doing color commentary for the streaming of men’s and women’s basketball games. She was referred by who else? Monica.
“Monica McNutt is one of the realest people, both on and off television,” praised Carter, who is also from the DMV. “Her rise to stardom is no accident. From the relationship, I have had the privilege of building with her, the one thing that is consistent. Even if her time is thin from working so many gigs, she is always looking to help.”
Carter said McNutt is also true to her roots.
“Monica is a representation of the DMV in her personality and work ethic and I hope she knows that I will never forget some of our talks and conversations about negotiating your worth to being where you feel valued,” Carter said.
So as McNutt continues to shine, what is the next step of progression for her?
“My ultimate goal is to become a game analyst,” she declared. “I will continue to work on my craft to get better.”
And what advice does McNutt have for up-and-coming hopefuls as women in the profession of sports broadcasting who, like Carter, see her as a role model.
“Have a happy relationship with the word ‘no,’” she said without hesitation. “Work on your craft, respect others in the profession, but always be true to yourself.”
Source: Washington Informer