You began working for Sports Phone when you were still an undergraduate at Fordham. How did that come about?
When I was working at WFUV (Fordham’s radio station), there was a 3×5 index card on the bulletin board one day that said this new outfit called Sports Phone is looking for announcers and producers. It sounded like an interesting concept. The guy doing the initial interviewing was “Bullet” Bob Meyer, the track announcer at Yonkers Raceway at the time, who also had been doing Knicks game stats on the radio side with Marv Albert. I got a job as a full-time, nighttime producer.
Why did you choose to attend Fordham?
I grew up in Queens, and I wanted to stay local. I went to Regis High School in the city. It’s a Jesuit school, and Fordham is a Jesuit school, so a lot of Regians went to Fordham. It had a good reputation academically. My father had passed away when I was 11 years old, so we were not a wealthy family. I got a New York State Regents scholarship, and then Fordham also gave me a scholarship. Between the two it was close to full tuition, and that made it affordable. So the price was right and the school was right.
How did you wind up doing PA for the Knicks?
A Fordham connection was really instrumental in getting me the Knicks job. John Cirillo, FCRH ’78, who was behind me at Fordham, was the Knicks’ VP of communications. When longtime PA announcer John Condon became sick in 1988, I got a call from John saying, “Would you like to audition to be John Condon’s backup because he’s been sick?” I auditioned, and I got the job. When Condon passed away in 1989, they asked me if I’d like to be the lead PA guy, and I said, “Sure.”
Had you ever thought about doing PA?
No. When I left Sports Phone, I was trying to figure out if I wanted to go into radio as a sportscaster. My wife, Cheryl, FCRH ‘78, suggested I write a book of quiz questions, like I used to do on Sports Phone—almost like a sabbatical. So I wrote King Wally’s Olympic Fun Fact Book, and it was published. I got the call for the Knicks at the same time I was actually starting my other career, in the personnel business—headhunting. That keeps me busy during the week, and then the Knicks keep me busy at night.
You have a unique style. How long did that take to develop?
My first two years, I was basically a John Condon clone. My intonations, the things I said, closely mimicked John. When Dave Checketts took over, he brought in his people, and they said, “We want to give you the freedom to pick it up a bit.” They wanted it to remain classy, not over the top, but they wanted me to be more animated. And I was more than happy to do that. My philosophy was to give each player a signature call. I try to intonate every name a little uniquely—hitting certain syllables, extending a vowel or a consonant where appropriate.
Have you ever worked other sports?
I’ve done a couple of Rangers games as an emergency backup. I did some football and baseball games when I was at Fordham. Basketball is much more difficult than the other sports. Baseball, there’s very little to say except for announcing each hitter and a pitching change or something. Hockey PA is, not to take anything away from those guys, but it’s a lot easier because basically all you do is announce goals and penalties, and the referee tells you what to say in both instances. In basketball, the game moves a lot more quickly, and there’s a lot more to say.
What did it mean to have Pope Francis say Mass in the building where you work?
I think that’s really cool. Staffers at the Garden were not involved in any way, but I would like to have gone, just as a member of the congregation. I think it adds to the whole aura of the Garden. I know a couple of people who went, and they said it was a great experience.
Interview conducted, edited, and condensed by Joe DeLessio, FCLC ’06.