Tuesday, March 14, 2017

John Andariese, 1938-2017

Here in the Museroom, we don't make jokes about serious illnesses, and that includes age-related dementia such as Alzheimer's disease.

But having watched the New York Knicks for as long as John Andariese did would make a lot of people wish they could forget.

John Andariese (no middle name) was born on August 19, 1938 in Brooklyn. A high school star in New York City, he became known as "Johnny Hoops" at Fordham, where he captained the team in his senior year, 1959-60, and the nickname stuck with him for the rest of his life.

He couldn't get drafted or signed by an NBA team, so he went back to school and, like many Fordham men who loved sports, went into sports media. He began by broadcasting college games, and then, in 1972, the Knicks hired him as a radio analyst. The timing was great in the short term: The Knicks won the NBA Championship in the 1972-73 season, as they had in 1969-70.

But it was bad in the long run: They have never won another, and have only been to 2 NBA Finals since: 1994 and 1999. Andariese broadcast several good years, but also a lot of bad years, first on the radio with Marv Albert from 1972 to 1986, then on TV with Marv until Marv's scandal in 1997, on MSG Network with Mike Breen in 1997-98, then back on radio with the returned Marv until 2000, on radio with Breen until 2004, on radio with Gus Johnson until 2010, and finally on radio with Spero Dedes until 2012.

He started out broadcasting coach Red Holzman's great team of Captain Willis Reed, Walt "Clyde" Frazier (who also became a great Knicks broadcaster), Dave DeBusschere, future Senator Bill Bradley, Earl "the Pearl" Monroe and Jerry Lucas, future Hall-of-Famers all (Red included). He later broadcast the exploits of Bernard King, Mark Jackson, Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley, John Starks, Latrell Sprewell, Larry Johnson, Allan Houston and Carmelo Anthony.

In 2012, he retired, perhaps sensing that his health was beginning to overtake him. He made this statement:

After what seems like a lifetime behind the microphone and having the good fortune and privilege to be part of nearly 40 years of Knicks’ history, I’ve decided it’s time to step away to spend time with my wonderful wife Maureen, my three beautiful daughters and my four grandchildren.

I’ve been blessed to be able to cover one of the greatest sports teams on the planet, one with the most knowledgeable and passionate fans. It’s now time to shift my focus to my family and my position as CEO of TVI Media.

I’m grateful to MSG Networks and the Knicks for giving me this wonderful opportunity and for all of the love and affection shown to me by our New York basketball savvy fans, who have been such an important part of my life. I’m pleased beyond words to have been able to share my enthusiasm and passion for Knicks basketball with them. I’ll miss you all.

John Andariese was given the Basketball Hall of Fame's Curt Gowdy Award, equivalent to election for broadcasters, in 2014. But he began to suffer from dementia, and was taken by his family to Florida, where he died yesterday, March 13, 2017. He was 78 years old.

The Knicks have been blessed with some great broadcasters: Marty Glickman, Marv Albert, Marv's son Kenny Albert, Walter Frazier, Mike Breen, and now Spero Dedes. John Andariese broadcast for the Knicks longer than any of them -- even Marv. Awards? Trophies? He should have gotten hazard pay and a medal for bravery.

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