John Andariese would carry a notebook with him during the NBA season filled with boxscores and newspaper clippings. Even in the age of I-Pads and tablets, John Andariese was old school when it came to preparing for every Knicks broadcast.
“I keep it all right here,” John would tell me leafing through the book. “After every game I cut out the boxscore and the game story. Some of yours are in here Frank … only the good ones.”
That was classic John. He was always game for a wise crack or two. That was the New Yorker in him. I’m guessing he sharpened his wit working alongside a couple of other New York characters, Marv Albert and Mike Breen, all those years. It was easy to connect with John because while he took his job seriously, he never took himself too seriously.
“He exemplified class and professionalism every time he held the microphone,” Breen said Wednesday during MSG Network’s pregame show.
John represented the network and the Garden with grace and class every time he went to work. He was a true pro. He was impeccably dressed. Even when you bumped into him in the gym on the road he looked like a million bucks.
“He’s the one guy that probably wore better ties than I did,” Walt Frazier said on Wednesday, moments before the Knicks held a moment of silence for John, who died late Monday following a long illness. He was 78.
When I first began traveling with the Knicks in the 1996, I was more in awe of the broadcasters than the players. Talking to Patrick Ewing was great, but in the days before broadcasters were invited on the team charter, the beat writers were flying commercial with John, Marv, Mike and Walt Frazier. That was one of the perks of the job.
Mike Wise, then of the New York Times, would pray before every takeoff that the plane wouldn’t go down only because “with these guys on board we won’t get mentioned in news story.”
The Knicks haven’t competed for a championship in a while, but their broadcasting teams on television and radio have always been first class. John was always kind to the beat writers, even at a time when the organization frowned upon their paid employees mingling with the press.
John, however, would occasionally come to dinner with us. One of the last times I can remember was a few years back in Orlando, where John would order his signature drink; a glass of beer with ice. We gave him a hard time about that.
The first time I met John was in the early 90’s at a restaurant in lower Manhattan. Peter Vecsey, the Hall of Fame basketball writer, invited me to dinner and John just happened to be there. He joined us and, as you might imagine, it was an incredible experience for a young writer trying to break into the business listening to two New York basketball guys, Andariese and Vecsey, talk about the game.
Over the years, I would remind John about that first meeting. What I never told him was how kind and generous he was to me when I was just some kid tagging along. But the more I got to know John, I realized he was that way with everyone, especially the fans who would stop him at the Garden and in visiting arenas. He was always a gentleman.
“Elegance and class are John’s defining characteristics,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said when John was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame.
For years, John and I had a running joke. We’d talk briefly before every game and he’d listen to me rant about the state of the Knicks. I would always tell him, “feel free to use any of that stuff on the air tonight.” John would laugh and say “only the good stuff.”
I miss talking basketball with him. I miss him laughing at the nonsense of it all; the crazy salaries, the players becoming their own brands.
To him, it was just basketball. And he was a great ambassador for the game, the NBA and the Knicks. It hasn’t been the same without John around the last few years. It never will be.
Published at Wed, 15 Mar 2017 00:40:55 +0000