St. John's radio voice John Minko before the Red Storm's...

St. John's radio voice John Minko before the Red Storm's game against North Texas at the Charleston Classic on Thursday in Charleston, S.C. Credit: Newsday / Roger Rubin

John Minko left WFAN 3 1/2 years ago, but WFAN never has left him.

When he runs into folks around his town in northern New Jersey who ask whether he misses it, the answer, he said, is “a simple one.”

“I was there for 33 years; how can I not miss it? For 33 years!” he said. “And I was there from the beginning. As I tell people, I worked there when no one listened.

“We were laughed at.”

The rest is sports broadcasting history, and Minko, primarily a popular update man, was a big part of it before he accepted a buyout in April of 2020.

So yes, he misses it.

But 2023 has brought a plot twist to his post-FAN professional life.

Since 2008, Minko has been the radio play-by-play voice of St. John’s basketball, most of that time a relatively minor outpost in New York sports announcing.

It was the one regular gig he has retained, a way of staying involved in the business and calling the sport he first became attached to as a college student in Indiana.

Then St. John’s hired Rick Pitino as its coach in March, a world-changing development for the program and everyone associated with it.

St. John's radio voice John Minko before the Red Storm's game at the Charleston Classic on Thursday. Credit: Newsday / Roger Rubin

At 70, Minko finds himself near the center of what figures to be a wild ride, with a gig that is more relevant than in any of his previous 15 seasons on the job.

He insisted he will not change his approach but acknowledged the buzz.

"I get excited for every game, and I get excited for every season," he said on Wednesday from Charleston, South Carolina, where St. John's is playing in the Charleston Classic. "But there's something special about this, no question about it."

That reality hit home when St. John’s lost to Michigan at Madison Square Garden on Monday. “The building was basically red,” Minko said. “We haven't seen that in the beginning of November in, I would guess, quite a while.”

These days St. John’s games are heard only on several streaming outlets, but they used to be on WFAN. Originally, Minko was a fill-in, including for an early 2008 game at Louisville, then coached by Pitino.

He got the full-time job for the 2008-09 season and has not missed a game since. Assuming the streak continues, his 500th St. John’s game will be Jan. 24 against Villanova.

In Charleston, Minko is working with former St. John’s coach Brian Mahoney, one of a rotating cast of partners that includes Tarik Turner, Vin Parise and Brandon Tierney.

He is enjoying it all, fulfilling a goal he first considered when he was calling Butler games as a student a half-century ago.

“I always wanted to do play-by-play and have it be my only job,” he said. “When I left FAN, it was difficult, but I finally got what I wanted, and that was to be able to do just games and that's it.”

When not working, Minko enjoys participating in community events, including attending high school football games, where he once was asked to fill in for the public address announcer.

Minko said he still listens to WFAN at times and wakes up to the morning show on his clock radio.

Despite being an announcer for live streams, he said of his WFAN consumption, “I still use the regular radio. I don't know how to use these modern conveniences. I listen to it when it’s on AM.”

Longtime WFAN employee John Minko appears in one of the station's studios on June 19, 2012. Credit: Craig Ruttle

When old friends and colleagues lament the youth movement at the station that pushed out many in recent years, Minko tries to put things into perspective.

“Some of them feel bad,” he said, “and I tell them this: I've been in this radio business for about 50 years, and normally there's a recycle in radio that's six, seven eight years at the most for people in certain positions.

“It took FAN basically 30 years to change — 30 years! I was in the same shift for basically 30 of the 33 years. That does not happen.”

Minko was a popular figure inside and outside the station, often a target of good-natured ribbing.

When he signed off for the last time, former afternoon host Chris Russo was among those who called in, saying, “You’ve bored us for 50 years; it’s time to move on, for crying out loud.”

Current afternoon host Evan Roberts said then: “He’s an icon. He’s a legend.”

Speaking of icons and legends, Minko recalls something Walt “Clyde” Frazier said when Minko was filling in on a Knicks game in the 1990s.

During a recorded pregame interview with Pat Riley, the coach said the most difficult thing his players ever would do would be winning an NBA championship.

“Clyde takes the headphones off and nudges me, so I take mine off,” Minko said, “and he goes, ‘The toughest thing these players will ever have to do is deal with retirement.’

“As Russo would say: True story!”

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