Sacred Heart University student Daniel Gardella of Fairfield always loved sports. As a youth, he tried everything from baseball to basketball to soccer to cross-country. The competitiveness, team work, the wins, the losses–he found it all alluring. But in high school, he realized he wasn’t going to make a living as a professional athlete.
“I knew I was a small, skinny kid,” said Gardella, an honors student with a sports media and journalism double major. “I didn’t exactly have the physique that was going to launch my career in sports.”
Instead of playing, he directed his passion for sports to media communication and broadcasting. Hard work, drive and positive energy earned the rising junior an internship this summer at the Dan Patrick Show in Milford. Gardella said the experience has been nothing short of amazing.
Gardella, 19, found himself rubbing shoulders with expert sportscaster after asking Mario Miranda, his digital editing professor during the fall semester, if he could help out on the sports talk radio program. “I knew Professor Miranda worked on the show,” Gardella said. “He’s a really relatable guy, and I just asked if there was any way I could help.”
Fast forward to the end of the spring semester: Miranda asked Gardella if he wanted to be a commentator on a new segment of the Dan Patrick Show—about a three-on-three basketball league geared toward the “average Joe”. “I couldn’t believe it. I was like ‘sign me up,’” Gardella said.
Miranda, a part-time professor and SHU alumnus, is an associate producer on the Dan Patrick Show. He said he believed Gardella would be a good fit for the role because he’s responsible. “In this business, you must be able to be relied upon. When I had him in class, he never was absent and was always very anxious to improve his work. I also noticed he was very passionate about sports, which is exactly what we do here on the show,” the professor said.
He recalled that he was fortunate to receive an opportunity to work full-time on the Dan Patrick Show through Paul Pabst, a SHU professor and executive producer of the Dan Patrick Show. “Like Dan [Gardella], I was a student at Sacred Heart when Paul helped me get my start in this business, so if I could pay it back to help someone out the way I was helped, it’s always something I look to do.”
The league—the American Unathletic Association of America (AUAA)—came about in late May, Miranda said. The Dan Patrick Show recently moved to a new facility with new equipment and “cool new toys,” one being a field house where the group uses half a basketball court and half a football field, Miranda explained. The show’s executive producers were brainstorming ways to use the new facilities and were already playing basketball there after the show. The idea to start a basketball league in which all the on-air talent—including producers, cameramen and production assistants— would form teams and play weekly evolved from there, Miranda said.
The league is also is the furthest thing from serious, Gardella said. The AUAA is a way to deviate from the typical sports talk and provide a comedic alternative to watching competitive basketball.
Pabst said Gardella “walked into a snarky room of media veterans and absolutely nailed it.” Pabst said the rising junior was professional and understood the league was supposed to be a bit of a spoof. “He towed the line between calling the games cleanly, while injecting dry humor all along the way.” Pabst added that he thinks Gardella learned how to adapt to the room. “A lot of people don’t get that. He didn’t hide in the corner and he didn’t act as if he owned the place. He saw what Dan Patrick and the crew wanted this to be and he adjusted to it.”
Miranda said Gardella was very dynamic in his approach as commentator. “There are times when we’re adding content to the broadcast last minute, and he adjusts on the fly. He’s always on time and well prepared, which has made the broadcast that much better,” he said.
In June, when Adam Sandler was in town for a comedy show at Webster Bank Arena, he stopped by the Dan Patrick Show to take part in an AUAA game. Gardella met the actor, former Saturday Night Live star and comedian. “I looked over and there’s Danny Gardella interviewing a sportscasting legend in Dan Patrick and one of the most famous comedians on earth, Adam Sandler,” Pabst said.
During all the league games, Gardella was on the sidelines with Patrick, dressed in a suit and donning a headset, like a true sports anchor.
“It was really surreal to get the opportunity to intern on the show,” Gardella said. “Dan Patrick is one of the most successful people in the business.”
“I think there is no better experience Dan [Gardella] could have gained from this,” Miranda said. “He has been able to work side-by-side with one of the most renowned sports broadcasters of all time. He’s also working with a full production staff as if he were broadcasting a professional game. He has producers talking in his ear, sponsored scripts to hit during the broadcast, post-game interviews to conduct with players, and more. I think this particular broadcast can be a bit more of a challenge, being that we are the farthest thing from professional athletes and I’m sure it must be a bit difficult to articulate exactly what we’re doing out there at times. Nonetheless, he rose to the occasion week in and week out with everyone, including the show’s fans, coming away extremely impressed with his efforts.”
Gardella said the experience provided him with more real-world broadcasting skills. He refined his professionalism, perfected his on-air personality and learned what goes on during a real, syndicated sports radio show. The team at Dan Patrick even put together a video on him.
But before Gardella landed his dream internship, he had already gained valuable experience. His first internship at the HAN network gave the then-high school student his first glimpse at media. “I learned the basics, shadowed some people and learned about cameras,” he said.
At SHU, Gardella applied to work on the TV show CT Sports NOW, an all-local channel dedicated to bringing viewers year-round coverage of Connecticut’s high school, collegiate and youth sports. It is produced and filmed at SHU’s broadcasting studio. Gardella worked behind the scenes as a studio manager during the 30-minute broadcast last fall. “There was a lot of pressure doing this,” he said. “You really had to thrive. The team was depending on you to follow through with tasks.”
Gardella was also assistant sports editor for Spectrum, SHU’s newspaper, and will be the paper’s sports editor come fall. “I’m really looking forward to being editor,” Gardella said, adding that he can’t wait to work with the other editors and reporters and brainstorm on topics.
While balancing school work and his responsibilities with CT Sports NOW and Spectrum, Gardella also freelances for the college basketball blog, College Hoops Digest. He has media credentials and attends college basketball games all over Connecticut and New York. “I meet all kinds of people; it’s a great networking experience for me,” he said.
If it wasn’t for SHU, Gardella said, he doesn’t think he would have received such experiences. “The school presented me with so many opportunities,” he said. The faculty support, SHU’s extracurricular clubs and its proximity to media outlets all helped Gardella steer his career in the right direction.
“This is another great example of how our faculty, students and alumni are working together to build an exceptional sports communication program at SHU,” said Andrew Miller, director of SHU’s sports communication and graduate program.
Gardella said he’s looking forward to the next two years and hopes to land an internship with NBC Sports or Sirius XM, all while maintaining his high GPA.