When Eddie Palladino ‘79 was a kid, he’d lock himself in his bedroom, turn down the sound on TV, and announce the Celtics game he was watching, pretending his hairbrush was a microphone.
Back then there was no bigger Celtic than Larry Bird, and unbeknownst to Palladino, he’d bump into the power forward years later, during his audition to be the Celtics’ public address announcer.
In 2003, Palladino saw in the Boston Herald that the Celtics were holding auditions for a new public address announcer. He had done the same job while attending high school in East Boston. He had done such a good job, that he continued for four years after graduating.
“I was doing games of guys and their brothers I went to high school with. To this day, I still get approached at the Garden and people say, ‘My uncle is Jimmy Sullivan and you used to [say] ‘Sully for 3,’” said Palladino.
He said openings for professional teams’ PA announcer jobs are rare generally, let alone a job for a team as storied as the Boston Celtics.
“It’s kind of like a secret society,” said Palladino.
For the application, he had to provide an audio cassette tape. He didn’t tell anyone about it – not his wife, his parents, or his children. Then he got a call saying he was one of 10 finalists being called in to audition.
All of the candidates attended the first audition at Boston College’s Conte Forum, and Palladino recognized a few of the other candidates: WEEI on-air talent, the voice of Mohegan Sun, and more. They were handed a script of promotional and commercial reads, and then they were asked to freelance a couple of pretend calls, including a scenario of then-Celtic Paul Pierce hitting a game-winning three-pointer.
“I went back to my job at the State House, and I get a call the next day. They said, ‘Eddie can you be in New Hampshire on Friday night?’” recalls Palladino, who was working in the state auditor’s office. “I said I’d go to Timbuktu if it’s my audition.”
Palladino was one of three finalists for his dream job. Each would get to audition during one of the three remaining preseason games.
“At the time, I was driving a broken-down Ford Aerostar. I had to tell everyone at the time what I was doing. I told my dad, ‘I need to borrow your Lincoln. I need to make sure I get to Manchester,’” said Palladino.
He was given free parking, handed a lanyard with his press pass, and told to go through a door to get to the scorer’s table at center court.
“I took 10 steps in and I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I bumped into Larry Bird,” said Palladino. “Larry was coaching the Indiana Pacers and that’s who the Celtics were playing.”
Palladino was so nervous that he used the in-game script like a towel to wipe the sweat away throughout the game. He called the game, and was later told he had another audition Friday night at the Garden because ownership wanted to hear him do a game in the “big building”.
He called the game and went back his normal life. He figured if he didn’t get the job, at least he could cross off calling a game at Boston Garden from his bucket list.
Opening night was the following Wednesday. He waited by the phone. No call on Saturday. No call on Sunday. And nothing on Monday. He remembers at exactly 12:38 pm, he was having lunch with his normal work group when he was told he had a call from the Boston Celtics.
“They said, ‘Eddie, how would you like to be the voice of the Boston Celtics?’ I shook my fist,” said Palladino. “And I hear my boss, [former state auditor and middleweight boxer Joe DeNucci] yell loudly, ‘He got the f-ing job!’ I was there opening night at the Garden, and I’m getting ready for Year 20 in three weeks. It’s been a great ride.”
He continued to work full-time at the auditor’s office; the Celtics job is part-time, and Palladino gets paid for each event he works. Now he is the government relations representative for the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles.
Reflecting on his career, Palladino’s advice to any aspiring announcer is to never turn down an opportunity to hone their talents. After high school, he attended the now-closed Grahm Junior College in Boston, which was at the time a feeder school to Emerson.
“Emerson gave me background knowledge of media, and the relationship of how you should be relating to your audience. Whether it’s reading sports stats or doing a music show – always gear yourself to your target audience,” said Palladino.
Palladino said the high point of the job was in 2008, when the Celtics won the championship on their home court. The Celtics gave Palladino a championship ring identical to the players (albeit smaller) with his name engraved.
He is still friendly with the three Hall of Famers from that team: Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen. Palladino remembers how Allen would take hundreds of shots before games.
“I took a ball and said to him to give me some tips. He said for me to stay at the microphone,” said Palladino.
Through the years, Palladino has created iconic calls for Celtics that fans imitate throughout New England. He comes up with the cadence of calls independently from the game operations staff, and he’s had to adapt to today’s faster-paced games.
“Shortening a call is sometimes mandatory. [Jayson Tatum] could hit a three on one end and Giannis [Antetokounmpo] could hit a three at the end in three seconds. Then I can’t get out ‘JT for 3’. It goes with the game,” said Palladino.
Scripts for in-game announcements such as “Heroes Among Us” is written by the Celtics’ community relations department, “but it’s my read. My cadence. I’m building it up to tell the story. Tonight’s Heroes Among Us. Sometimes I get more compliments on that than games.”
Another interesting facet of the job is that he can rarely leave his seat because there is always something that needs to be announced, whether it’s game action, a halftime event, or announcements.
While Palladino only announces in Boston, his voice is heard all around the world thanks to the very popular NBA2K video game. He was invited out to Los Angeles for a week of recordings for the game.
“Those were the most intense and biggest strain on my voice ever. I was in the studio from 9:00 am to 4 o’clock every day. The first year I did it there were 4,300 voice segments,” said Palladino. “The next year there was a little less than that because it was an updated version. Everything was sort of choppy. I would say, ‘Paul’, then ‘Pierce’, then ‘for 3’. The computer did the rest and would put them together.”
Unlike programmed computers, most people do not have the particular skillset to be a PA announcer for a professional team. Palladino said the value of his knowledge of the game of basketball flies under the radar. He knows the probable call when a whistle is blown, and understands referees’ lingo.
Palladino knows he always needs to be on his game because people will notice any slip-up, and the NBA often has people in the stands observing game presentation.
“It’s the greatest job in the world for someone who loves basketball, who grew up talking to an empty bedroom,” said Palladino. “I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my education from Grahm and Emerson. When you went to Emerson you got a better understanding of the business. Emerson was more in-depth with teachings of what it was like to be in the media world.”