John Minko had been thinking about leaving WFAN — or at least cutting back on his hours — for some time.
But as WFAN’s parent company, Entercom, faced staff cutbacks this week because of the COVID-19 pandemic slowdown, he recalled what an early WFAN executive named Rick Cummings said when he saved Minko’s job in the station’s first year.
“I said, ‘There’s no way I can thank you for this,’ ” Minko said. “And he said, ‘Yes, there is a way . . . You could do this for somebody else someday.’ ”
It was with that in mind that Minko stepped aside by accepting a buyout and leaving effective Friday, ending a run as its best-known, best-liked, longest-running update man.
“I thought that if I took it now, which was the right thing to do, if that prevented somebody else from getting fired, then I thanked Rick [for what he did],” Minko told Newsday on Thursday after announcing his departure on Mike Francesa’s Radio.com show.
The news led to an outpouring of appreciation on social media for “The Mink Man,” who has been a fixture on the station since its inception.
Minko, 67, started two days before the launch of the nation’s first 24-hour sports station, on June 29, 1987. He went on to a long run as the update man for “Mike and the Mad Dog” and later for Francesa’s solo shows, among other roles.
His final shift will be 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday. Asked what he plans for his final update, he said, “Stay tuned.” But he suggested it will involve thanking his many co-workers over the decades.
Minko will continue calling St. John’s basketball games. “They’re going to have to pull me out of Carnesecca Arena,” he said. “I love doing it.”
During an hour on the air with Minko on Thursday, Francesa called him “one of the great personalities in the history of the station” and credited Minko with contributing to his success.
“I couldn’t have done it without you,” said Francesa, who countless times ended a segment by throwing it to an update saying, “Here’s the Mink Man.”
Francesa and other hosts at the station have good-naturedly teased Minko over the years for his decidedly square image, among other quirks.
Asked if he is surprised by the appreciation he receives from fans, Minko said, “Sometimes when people tell me things, I’m blown away, if I get stopped on the street or on the PATH train or in a supermarket. It’s hard to put into words, at least for someone like me who doesn’t ad-lib well.”
Minko added, “At the end of the day, I just do updates. As [Chris] Russo would say, ‘Let’s be honest here.’ I realize that. But I’ve done updates for 32 years and nine months.”