Being selected for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame will give Mike Breen the opportunity to share the moment and thank everyone responsible for him becoming the broadcaster and person he is.
Breen, a recipient of the 2020 Curt Gowdy Media Award, will be honored in August at the Hall of Fame’s Enshrinement Weekend in Springfield, Mass.
“My first reaction, I got a little emotional,” Breen, a 1979 graduate of Salesian High School in New Rochelle, told CNY about learning the news Feb. 14.
“It’s not something you ever think about or dream about. Then you just think about all the people who are responsible for it. I love basketball because it’s a team sport, and it’s the way it’s been for my life and broadcasting career.”
Breen, 58, joined ESPN/ABC as a NBA play-by-play commentator in 2003 and calls games primarily with former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy and former Knicks guard Mark Jackson. Breen has called a record 14 NBA Finals.
Since 1991, Breen and Walt Frazier have served as a Knicks broadcast team, first on radio and then on Madison Square Garden Network television. Breen grew up a fan of the Knicks and Frazier, and a poster of Frazier is still hanging in the Breen family home in Yonkers, where his mom, Mary, still resides. (His father, John, is deceased.)
“Just the fact I’m able to do this job all these years, I felt I hit the lottery,” Breen said. “Awarded with this, it makes me feel so blessed in all the people God put into my life. The best part is I will share this with all the people who are responsible for it.”
Breen attended St. Paul the Apostle School in Yonkers before heading to Salesian, where his four brothers—John, Joseph, Thomas and Peter—also went to high school.
At Salesian, Breen was a member of the boys’ basketball team that reached the 1979 state federation tournament under head coach, Brother Jim Wiegand, S.D.B.
“I had an unbelievable childhood, knowing every day you’re loved and someone was always there for you,” Breen said.
“I’ve been blessed in my life far more than I deserved. I’m so grateful for it. It starts with my mother and father, and the No. 1 thing I’m thankful to them for is instilling faith in me as a child. They were ultimate role models in watching how they treated people. I tried to meet their standards and tried to emulate them. It’s been a big part of my life to get along with people and to have wonderful relationships.”
Kevin Heppes, director of advancement and a 1977 graduate of Salesian, was one of the many friends who reached out to congratulate Breen when the Curt Gowdy Award winners were announced.
“He’s so humbled by the experience, and that’s Mike Breen,” Heppes said. “He personifies character and integrity. He never forgot where he grew up in Yonkers. All the things he’s done, you can have a conversation with Mike Breen and he’s the same guy.”
A 1983 graduate of Fordham University, Breen began working after college at WEOK/WPDH radio in Poughkeepsie, and started his television career doing Marist College men’s basketball games for Colony Sports Network. He later did sports updates on the Imus in the Morning show on WFAN, and called NFL games on NBC and FOX, Olympic men’s and women’s basketball games, and NBA games on NBC before joining ABC and ESPN.
Breen was named top sportscaster by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association for New York State in 1998, and won New York Emmy Awards in 2009 and 2014 for On-Camera Talent: Sports Play-by-Play.
In 2018, Breen was honored at Salesian’s President’s Dinner, and Catholic Charities in Rockville Centre recognized Breen at its annual golf outing.
Breen, a parishioner of St. Peter of Alcantara in Port Washington, lives on Long Island with his wife of 30 years, Rosanne. Their sons, Michael and Matthew, are graduates of Regis High School in Manhattan, and daughter Nicole is a graduate of Sacred Heart Academy on Long Island.
“I think like many,” said Breen regarding his faith. “During the good times, you’re just so thankful in the blessing you’ve been given. I’ve had such a wonderful life. When you go through patches of adversity, your faith gets you through it. You have something to lean on all the time.
“Through the ups and downs of life, (my faith) just provided me a wonderful feeling everything is going to be OK.”