When you walk into the renowned gymnasium at St. Thomas Aquinas parish, Flatlands, two shrines immediately catch your eye in the lobby.
The first is of the great Chris Mullin, whose Hall of Fame basketball career began as a Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) star at the church
Fittingly, the subject of the second shrine idolized Mullin growing up. In fact, he loved basketball and sports so much that he would settle for nothing less than turning it into his career.
That second shrine is set up in honor of Brandon Tierney, a well-known sports radio personality who wears many hats when it comes to the local sports scene.
Tierney though never actually played sports for St. Thomas. Instead, he began his athletic career as a baseball and basketball player for Good Shepherd, Marine Park. However, his father Charles, a retired NYPD detective, has coached basketball at St. Thomas for a number of years – hence the shrine of appreciation toward his son.
Though Tierney has undoubtedly covered countless sporting events since breaking into the business, he’ll always cherish the memories of playing CYO sports, with his dad as his coach. He vividly remembers the big games, the annual Christmas tournaments and the different gyms throughout Brooklyn.
“We would feel as if we were going to Madison Square Garden,” he said. “That’s how big it felt. It was really a laboratory for my career. If we were playing a big game that night, I might write in class a fake scouting report against who we were playing or a prediction of the game. It felt natural. It was really was so awesome.”
“Showing up to play at a tournament at St. Pat’s (Bay Ridge) or Our Lady of Angels (Bay Ridge) or Our Lady of Grace (Gravesend) or St. Mark’s (Sheepshead Bay), it was just so much fun,” Charles said. “It was really a joy of both of ours.”
In addition to playing sports, Tierney developed a curiosity for the history of sports at a young age through conversations with his dad. He was always asking questions and absorbing as much information about sports as he could.
“At a very early age, I could tell you about Oscar Robertson; I could tell you about Lew Alcindor; I could tell you about Bill Walton; I could tell you about Jerry West; I would tell you about the entire ’73 Knicks team and their roles, even though I was born in 73,” Tierney said
Each step along the way, Charles was there to support his son’s quest. Tierney recalled that in fifth grade, his dad drew up a contract saying that if he did well in school, he would get a new basketball hoop for Christmas that year.
After working hard in the classroom all semester, Tierney was rewarded on Christmas morning with a beautiful NBA-sized fiberglass backboard and a new pair of Air Jordan sneakers.
“There is zero chance that I would be where I’m at it if wasn’t for my dad,” Tierney said. “He was invested in making sure his son was a good kid and a disciplined kid, and there is no chance I’m here without him…none. Zero.”
Pretty much every single day, Tierney played basketball in his backyard, even taping up his fingers to emulate the great Bernard King of the New York Knicks. He would even pretend to announce the game, which wound up serving as the perfect precursor to his sports broadcasting career.
This was right around the time Mullin was making a name for himself at St. John’s University, Jamaica, so Tierney was consumed by the Johnnies during his formative years. Who knew that someday they’d share similar shrines at St. Thomas Aquinas?
Despite his love for basketball, Tierney gravitated toward the baseball diamond, playing four years as a first baseman and outfielder at Xavier H.S., Manhattan, and then another four years at Marist College, Poughkeepsie, N.Y. At Marist, he received a bachelor’s degree in journalism.
Like any sports journalist trying to make a name for himself, Tierney’s travels took him all over the country after he graduated in 1996. He began broadcasting in Pennsylvania, moved to Detroit and then wound up back in the Big Apple – joining 1050 ESPN Radio in 2003.
He later moved to San Francisco to co-host “The Drive with Tierney and Bucher” before again returning to New York City. He currently hosts “Tiki & Tierney” weekdays from 3-6 p.m. on CBS Sports Radio, as well as “That Other Pregame Show” on Sundays during football season on the CBS Sports Network.
And just like he imagined it, he’s now the play-by-play announcer for St. John’s men’s basketball games.
“I just always knew that I was going to do what I’m doing,” Tierney said. “Whether I was writing those scouting reports in the fifth grade or whether I was pretending I was announcing a game in the backyard or if I was talking to my dad at the diner or studying baseball cards, I was doing homework for my future profession. I just didn’t know it.”
Each day on the air is a blank canvass for Tierney, who masterfully paints a portrait of what’s happening that day in the sports world. He loves communicating, connecting and debating with other sports lifers like himself.
Through his journey, he’s been extremely grateful to Good Shepherd for laying the foundation of his sports career. He’s also grateful for his God-given gifts, which have allowed him to accomplish his dream of covering sports as a means to make a living. Does it get any better than that?
“I’ve always remained true to what I believe, and that allows me to get on the air every day and still extract joy from that,” Tierney said. “As much as it is a business and there’s pressure, I think that the best part for me remains when I hit that button and start going.”
So the next time you’re at the St. Thomas Aquinas gym, check out the shrine to Brandon Tierney, who serves as a role model to all CYO athletes.
If you follow your passion and seize the opportunities that come your way, you can do anything you want, and that includes broadcasting sports in a major media market.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.