Maria Marino has never shied away from a challenge in her career. In her new role as host of Action Network’s Green Dot Daily, she’s ready to start building.
Those in women’s basketball or New York sports media circles have known Maria Marino for a while. The New Jersey native had been a mainstay on SNY for the past five years, appearing regularly on SportsNite and working as a sideline reporter for the network’s UConn women’s basketball coverage.
That changed on March 1 when she began her new role at Action Network, hosting Green Dot Daily — a daily sports betting-focused show covering everything happening in the evening ahead. It was the next, natural step in her career. Already experienced and respected as an on-air talent, Green Dot Daily gives her a chance to craft a young show in her own image.
What will that look like? She’s already figuring that part out. So far, it includes a blend of interviews, analyses, and picks. You can also count on the show to provide a healthy dose of women’s sports coverage. As Marino puts it, women’s sports are sports and should be covered as such. With both women’s and men’s March Madness well underway, her first month on the job has provided plenty of opportunity to dive into both.
Marino took some time to talk to Boardroom about her new role, how she got there, and how she thinks women’s sports coverage has evolved over the course of her career.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Russell Steinberg: For people who aren’t familiar, give me a quick rundown of what Green Dot Daily is all about.
Maria Marino: We cover it all. We cover really everything that’s going on that day and try to tie it into what to look for that evening. So it’s really a preview of anything that you would be watching on any given day. It’s a really nice blend of analysis, reaction to news coverage of any and all sports, and hopefully, it’s fun because I’m gonna try to have so much fun hosting it. And I’m hoping that I can be me and allow my personality to also shine through and that people feel a kinship with me and feel like they wanna catch up with me.
At the same time, make sure that they know everything that’s going on and that they’re educated enough to not only place a bet on it if they so choose, but just to understand it and to be entertained by it. So, that’s really what I’m hoping to achieve and the product is in the process of being molded to really find that sleek presentation that becomes unique to us as an identifier. But in general, we are already achieving, I think, what I just described.
RS: How how did the opportunity Action Network come about and what about it interested you?
MM: Action Network first got on my radar in early 2021. They actually had reached out to me asking if I was interested in doing any work for them. I told them at the time that I was under exclusive contract with SNY, so I couldn’t really do anything. I think they just kept up with me and then when my contract was coming up, I wasn’t necessarily looking to leave SNY, but I didn’t want to rule it out either. They had reached out again just checking in and I was like, ‘well, you know, with this being towards the end of my contract, let’s talk.’
I think what drew me to them was first the fact that they really seem to wanna work with me. And so I’ll be honest, I was kind of flattered. I think the second thing was the growth piece. Just feeling like I needed to keep challenging myself and keep doing new and different things. It was interesting in terms of the positioning of Action Network being a newer entity. I definitely am somebody that likes to be collaborative, to be involved in every aspect of the production process. I was intrigued at the idea of having a say in molding what we do here at Action Network, which you don’t always get at more established places.
So, on one hand, it was a little scary, maybe a little risky. The fact that Action is newer and there’s more unknown. But I kind of took that as something exciting, as something that I could be part of building and leave my mark on. And I also felt like I could help them. I felt like the experience that I had would translate into, hopefully, taking their content to the next level, putting a face to their content and identity.
RS: I read the piece you did with Howard [Megdal] for Forbes and you talked about one of your first jobs in media — working for $12 an hour, and “embracing the grind.” What lessons do you take from that time in your career? And is there anything that you still carry with you?
MM: I still carry the same work ethic and the same drive. I think that never goes away, no matter what kind of job you have, what kind of money you’re making. And I think that because I’ve tried to maintain that, that’s been a good measure of my success. I wouldn’t measure success on my job security. I would measure it on just my consistency in the job that I’m doing.
I think fondly of those times. Even though it was tough and it was scary, I still loved what I was doing and believed in what I was doing, and felt like I was doing good work and that carried me through. And I really feel very similarly today. I’m more stable today. My career probably has a little more weight to it. But I’m still the same Maria and so I wanna try to attack any role or any aspect of my job with that same hunger, that same preparation.
I felt like embracing the grind is definitely why I’ve been relatively successful to this point because I always used to say what set me apart was the grit. I was okay with the three or four part-time jobs. Everybody has different needs in life and different priorities and that type of existence isn’t right for everybody and I don’t claim that the way I went about it is better than anybody else. It just so happened that I didn’t mind doing a shift at Sirius XM until 2 a.m. and being afraid of walking by myself to the Port Authority Bus Terminal and having dreams about being afraid to get attacked and carrying pepper spray in my hand every time, and I didn’t care. Rolling home at 4 a.m. or on a back-to-back, and then waking up super early and doing another hit with another job. All those things excited me. I was just game for it and that’s why I’m okay with doing what I’m doing now. I’ve been working my butt off and I’m game for it. I’m game to get in the trenches with this team and hypothetically go to battle and really work. I’m ready to work and I feel like that’s just always how I’ve approached it. I think I’m lucky enough to be passionate about what I do and that’s why the work is so thrilling to me.
RS: What sort of impact do you hope to make at Action Network?
MM: I’m a perfectionist and I try to balance my own perfectionism with picking my spots. I want to try to bring a different perspective to both the production and the content. I think it’s always valuable to have that fresh perspective. I think it makes everybody better. When you have an outside view coming in and raising questions about the process and a team that’s willing to work together to identify things we can do differently and perhaps better.
I am excited that already, last week, I was able to make sure that we are covering the tournament from both the men’s basketball side and the women’s basketball side. And I’m not saying that they wouldn’t have done that anyway. I just know that I’m one that’s gonna make sure that that’s happening.
So the Monday after Selection Sunday, I’m hosting the show. I see the rundown. We need to talk women’s basketball. Who can we get to come on? I just know that things like that are always top of mind with me and just making that routine. And it already is, even from the first week. I don’t have to ask who we’re gonna have to talk women’s tournament because I know that everyone here is for it. So, I think that’s one aspect that I’ve tried to bring, and to my prior jobs too, that has followed me throughout my career. I’m excited that I have to do less and less convincing. We are planning on having me do some sort of WNBA podcast as well coming up here, as we get closer to the W season, which I’m super excited about and I am glad that everyone here at Action is aware of the things that matter to me and are very supportive and game for it.
I feel like this is a good time for Action and a good time for me. They have grown to a point where they need someone with some experience and at the same time for me, I want to challenge myself a little bit. I wanna grow. I wanna be able to do a multitude of things and basically host my own show, host a podcast. I’ve always wanted to and they’re gonna give me that opportunity. So I feel like it’s definitely a cool fit.
RS: It sounds like, thankfully, you haven’t faced a whole lot of resistance at this job in terms of covering women’s sports. I’m sure that hasn’t always been the case. What sort of hurdles have you seen as somebody in this industry that women’s sports, particularly women’s basketball, still faces as it moves towards getting more equal coverage on par with what the men get?
MM: I first started covering WNBA in 2018. So it’s been five years, roughly, and I’ll say this: The changes have been considerable in favor of more women’s basketball coverage and women’s sports coverage. So I love to see that and I think that needs to be acknowledged because I don’t wanna be somebody that’s constantly complaining. I feel like people get it a lot more than they used to. In the past, I felt like I needed to ask about covering certain things and now I feel like I don’t have to ask. And that’s kind of across the board.
I even notice the difference with conversations with colleagues, where I can just talk about what I like to talk about. I just talk about basketball, whether it be men’s or women’s, and the conversation doesn’t have to turn to something negative about the women’s side or “why is this this way?” Which is what I’ve always dreamed of. I’ve always wanted to talk about women’s basketball in the same way that I love to talk about men’s basketball. I used to say I’m too busy covering women’s basketball to talk about how we need more coverage of women’s basketball. And I mean that as a sort of walk-the-walk versus talk-the-talk thing. I’ve just done it.
I was really lucky at one of my former jobs, it was FNTSY Sports Network, which is now Sports Grid. They were the first ones to be like, ‘hey, let’s have you do a daily WNBA video short.’ And that’s really what got me interested in the WNBA. I was an NBA junkie. And then I think I was a little thrown and perturbed by some of the social media conversation around WNBA and that lit a fire under me to make sure that I stood up for it. I have such respect for women athletes because in addition to all the hard work that they put in to be the best at their craft, they also have to have this sort of wall of defense up because of the negativity that comes their way from people who just don’t understand what it takes to do what they do and just don’t give them the respect.
I never want to make it seem like what I’m doing is anywhere close to the sacrifice that they make as athletes. But that being said, I always felt like I was in a unique position where I covered a lot of men’s sports and established a voice covering men’s basketball that it allowed me to be a palatable voice. And talking about women’s basketball too, if you heard me talking about NBA on Sirius XM NBA radio and then all of a sudden you hear me talking about WNBA, I think I was more accepted because I had already established myself in the NBA space if that makes sense. When I was at Sirius XM, I really started like, “hey, let’s talk WNBA once a week.” I did a segment for them. I’m just happy that I got over to SNY and I became synonymous with the Liberty and pursuing interviews with their players and just keeping tabs on stories and making sure that they were represented.
RS: Now you’re at Action Network, where you can cover women’s basketball from a betting perspective. How do you see women’s sports and gambling co-existing and helping each other out as both industries continue to grow?
MM: I think there’s so much to look forward to with both the business potential for women’s sports and how that can be happening in conjunction with sports betting. The way I see it is just another angle of a sports story and I enjoy treating it as such. I find it interesting, the different things that you can learn from a betting perspective that helps you have a better understanding overall of the game and the storylines.
I’ve always felt like women’s [sports] doesn’t have to be this other vertical. It’s all sports, and the same thing with betting, it’s all sports. I do think that sports betting is just another avenue that can continue to help people discover the beauty and the magic in women’s sports. If that means that they want to learn about the greatness of A’ja Wilson or Breanna Stewart through a betting scenario, then so be it. However you come to find yourself watching the women’s game, I’m all for it.
RS: I have to ask: How are your brackets looking? Have you thrown them out yet?
MM: Well, I haven’t thrown them out but I haven’t really been tracking them super closely because I wasn’t necessarily expecting great results. I dove in on the men’s side because of all of our coverage and I had to really brush up. I really had to get a little more knowledge of the men’s side of things just because as I said, like I was so locked in doing my job covering the UConn women. But that being said, I don’t know how great my women’s bracket is doing either because there’s definitely been some pretty notable upsets. I do think that I picked Princeton over NC State. I got that right. I think like everyone and their mom, I picked South Carolina to win it also.
For the men’s, I went with Houston to win it. But also that was because I had heard from some of our analysts that maybe that region wasn’t as tough as some other regions. But I’ve honestly just been enjoying watching all the games. I did nothing this past weekend but watch basketball. And I love it. I’ve been flipping back and forth between men’s and women’s games and as a basketball fan it’s just awesome. It’s been an absurd amount of basketball to absorb. It’s great.
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