CHICAGO — “Bang.’’
Knicks longtime broadcaster Mike Breen is headed to the Hall of Fame, winning the 2020 Curt Gowdy Award during ceremonies at United Center on Friday.
Breen, who grew up in Yonkers and graduated from Fordham, has called Knicks games for 28 seasons, starting with WFAN radio in 1992 before moving to MSG Network.
The rest of the country knows Breen for his national-TV duties, in which he has teamed with former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy and ex-Knicks point guard Mark Jackson to form a venerable trio.
Breen, who has called a record 14 straight NBA Finals, said he found out after broadcasting the Knicks’ game versus Washington on Wednesday, but wasn’t allowed to tell anyone except his wife.
Mike BreenNBAE via Getty Images
“I almost started crying before,’’ Breen said. “It’s hard to fathom even after getting the word. As a 5-year-old, I fell in love with basketball, played it until I was 45. To get this job, it was hitting the lottery and to get an award like this for doing job you love so much. … It’s hard to find the proper words to say how I feel.’’
“Bang’’ is his signature call and it started at Fordham from the bleachers.
“When we weren’t doing games, I was in the stands as a student,’’ Breen said. “When a Fordham player made a shot, I would scream, ‘Bang.’ I tried it on air as a student couple of times. I said, ‘This doesn’t work. I don’t really like it.’
“Then I went back to it when I started doing TV and felt it was a nice, concise way in a big moment. You say a one-syllable word and the crowd rises and you don’t have to scream over it. One easy word. I’m from the Vin Scully, Pat Summerall school of conciseness. It worked with a big, loud crowd.”
Upon the announcement, Knicks fans were abuzz for Breen on social media. He has maintained an even keel on the air with partner Walt Frazier while calling all those losses across the better part of 20 seasons, and he still is beloved by Knicks fans. The Knicks are expected to miss the playoffs for a seventh straight season.
Asked how he has been able to handle the incessant losing, Breen said,
“It’s the love of the game,’’ Breen said. “I just love the game. Every night we sit down, you don’t know what you’ll see. Some nights it’s an incredible individual performance, some nights an amazing comeback, some nights it’s a horrible game and you get nothing fun to watch. But every night there’s an opportunity.’’
Breen said he put up a Frazier poster in his childhood bedroom in Yonkers at age 10. His mother still lives in the house and the poster is still hanging.
“I go from Walt Frazier being my basketball hero to my partner and lifelong friend,’’ said an emotional Breen. “I can’t make this up.’’