Going Courtside with Cayleigh Griffin

by The Cowl Editor on October 16, 2020

Friar Sports

Griffin Talks About Transition to NBA

by Jack Belanger ’21

Sports Co-Editor

Cayleigh Griffin ’14 can still recall the first time she ever spoke to Providence College legend Doris Burke ’87, ‘92G, & ‘05Hon. It was during her senior year at PC, and Griffin had every intention to break into the sports media industry after college. She reached out to Burke, not to ask for a job, but to make a connection, to show Burke the work she completed during internships for media companies such as Fox Sports. After all, what better opinion could you get than from the first woman to become a full-time National Basketball Association (NBA) game analyst who has been working for ESPN since 1991? What Griffin got was the start of a relationship that has helped her launch her own career into the top of the broadcasting industry.

“She is so supportive of young people trying to get in the industry,” Griffin said of Burke. “Especially young females trying to break into the field. And to have a young female that also went to PC, she was really eager to talk to me.”

With all of the accomplishments Burke has compiled over her storied broadcasting career, her lasting impact will be the path she paved for women like Griffin to have opportunities for top-level broadcasting jobs. Griffin, herself, put in the work before coming to PC to prepare for a career in media.

In high school, Griffin wrote for her local newspaper, covering high school sports whenever she could while juggling competing in volleyball and basketball at the same time. Even though PC lacked any sort of communication or journalism major, she grew up loving the College, as it is where her mother played basketball. Griffin knew she would have to create her own opportunities when it came to finding internships and hands-on experiences.

Photo Courtesy of USA Today Sports

During her time at the College, Griffin would intern as a runner during Red Sox and Yankees games for Fox Sports. She also interned for the local “Rhode Show” during her senior year and for NBC Universal. Despite working for some of the biggest networks in the country, Griffin believed her “big-break” was when a station in New Jersey contacted her to commentate for high school volleyball and basketball. This provided her with her first chance to broadcast games live.

“It was a really fluke thing that these people reached out to me. It was an unbelievable experience for me as a college student,” Griffin recalled.

It was there Griffin worked with Ed Cohen, who would later go on to become the radio announcer for the New York Knicks and a colleague with whom Griffin has continued to keep in touch. Whenever the Knicks face a team that Griffin is working for, the two reminisce about their time together calling games in front of audiences that pale in comparison to those at the sold-out arenas they travel to today.

Griffin moved on from New Jersey and got a job working for the Big East Digital Network as an on-air correspondent. After working her way up in the company for two years, she felt that she had reached her peak and it was time to move onto bigger endeavors: the NBA.

During the summer of 2016, Griffin was searching for jobs when she turned on an NBA summer league game which happened to feature the San Antonio Spurs. Coincidentally, the team posted an opening for the position as the team’s sideline reporter that same day. Once again Burke was there to lend a hand for Griffin, as she was one of several people who reached out to the Spurs on Griffin’s behalf.

Griffin was able to land an interview with the Spurs and fly down to San Antonio. Sure enough, after a three-month application process, at age 23, Griffin landed her first job for an NBA team.

In the two years she worked for San Antonio, Griffin was able to work up close with stars such as Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard. Some of her favorite memories include working with Manu Ginobili during his final season in the league and getting to interview Patty Mills, one of her favorite players to interview.

“[Mills] is one of the nicest people I have ever met. He was always willing to do an interview. I have been so fortunate to work with teams that had players who were easy and respectful. They knew I had a job to do and they were willing to help.”

After completing two seasons with the Spurs, Griffin spent a season working for the Cleveland Cavaliers before settling into her current job with the Houston Rockets. She earned her first chance to work baseball games as a fill-in reporter for the Houston Astros. Even with the two traveling around the country every week, Griffin has been able to maintain a strong relationship with Burke.

“I see her so often at games. It’s so cool to be working with her at games at the same time. I try to take tidbits from her in all aspects. I will randomly call or text her and she will text right back. She is so great.”

Despite establishing respect from her peers, Griffin admits there are times when people will doubt her knowledge of the game even though she spends every day following the same team upclose. It is incidents like this which remind us that women still have to work harder than men just to earn the same level of respect from outsiders.

Griffin has learned to stay positive despite the detractors, though. She is quick to praise her colleagues who have been nothing but supportive and to compliment the players who make her job easier. While she may still be in the early stages of her career compared to her older counterparts, Griffin has proved that she has the talents to become a mainstay in the NBA for years to come