John Andariese, the white-haired, avuncular Knicks radio and television analyst whose love of basketball earned him the nickname Johnny Hoops, died on Monday at his home in West Palm Beach, Fla. He was 78.
His wife, Maureen, said the cause was complications of primary progressive aphasia.
“He was all basketball,” Marv Albert, one of Mr. Andariese’s radio and television partners, said in an interview. “He was in very good shape for a long time, and he was always looking for a game. One of his thrills was on game day at Madison Square Garden — he’d play on the court with Garden employees.”
Mr. Andariese (pronounced AN-drays) and Mr. Albert established an easygoing camaraderie nearly from the start of their first season together on the radio, when the Knicks won the 1973 N.B.A. championship.
Mr. Andariese brought to the job a sophisticated knowledge of New York City basketball, which he had nurtured as a player at Fordham University. But he had not been a major college star and, unlike most N.B.A. analysts, did not play or coach in the league..
“I wasn’t a famous player,” he told The Daily News in 2005. “That’s why I came to define the analyst as a giving function. If you don’t give, you are not doing your job.”
He said that he was driven during games to spread his love of the game and explain how talented N.B.A. players were. “That’s what feeds me to this day, that I realize this gift, and I love to share the understanding of that gift with people,” he was quoted as saying by the Knicks’ team historian, Dennis D’Agostino, in an appreciation of Mr. Andariese’s career that was published Tuesday on the website of MSG Network, which televises Knick games.
John Kenneth Andariese was born in Brooklyn on Aug. 19, 1938, to Harold Andariese and the former Mary Ellen Burns. He played basketball at Fordham under Johnny Bach, who became an assistant in the 1980s to Chicago Bulls Coach Phil Jackson, the Knicks’ current president.
Mr. Andariese played on two Fordham teams that went to the N.I.T. He averaged 13.0 points and 8.7 rebounds a game during the 1959-60 season. Mr. Albert jokingly introduced him at dinner events and other appearances as the “53rd leading rebounder in the history of Fordham.”
After graduation, he served stateside in the Army and played professionally for the Allentown Jets of the Eastern Basketball League.
Mr. Andariese was calling college basketball games when he was hired to work with Mr. Albert, starting in the 1972-73 season. Mr. Albert recalled traveling to Los Angeles to call Game 1 of the N.B.A. finals between the Knicks and Lakers: “The first thing we did was to shoot around at Pauley Pavilion,” home to the powerhouse U.C.L.A. basketball team that was coached by John Wooden.
During the game, Mr. Albert added, “John had one of his career highlights” at halftime, when he interviewed the actor Peter Falk. “After that,” he added, “any time we were in L.A. or New York, Falk would come over to us to look at the halftime stat sheet.”
For decades, Mr. Andariese kept his own portable record of the league by meticulously cutting out the box scores of every game and taping them into schoolboy notebooks, some of which he would tote to games as reference.
“I have cases of them,” Maureen Andariese said. “I’d get up at 2 a.m., and he’d be cutting out box scores and highlighting articles.”
In addition to calling Knicks games on radio and television, Mr. Andariese worked for ESPN, Turner Sports and NBA TV.
He retired from calling Knicks games in 2012, as his health problems began to affect his work. Two years later, he received the Curt Gowdy Media Award from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
In addition to his wife, the former Maureen Hayden, he is survived by three daughters, Amy McLaughlin, Julie Collins and Emily Wright; four grandchildren; and a sister, Janet Cianci. His first marriage ended in divorce.
For one of his birthdays, Maureen Andariese said, she built him a regulation N.B.A. court on their property in upstate Montgomery, N.Y.
“It had old-fashioned glass backboards, and he had a ball-retrieving thing that kept the balls from going into the cornfield,” she said. “He loved it. His friends would go out and shoot with him.”