John Saunders, a longtime ESPN sportscaster best known for his coverage of college basketball and hockey and as the host of the network’s weekly roundtable program, “The Sports Reporters,” has died. He was 61.
His death was announced Wednesday morning on ESPN’s Sports Center by anchor Hannah Storm, who broke down while giving the news. No further details were immediately available.
Saunders, who had been with ESPN for 30 years, had been a play-by-play announcer, Sports Center anchor and host of the sports network’s coverage of the World Series and the NHL’s Stanley Cup Finals.
A native of Canada and a onetime college hockey player, Saunders was a play-by-play announcer for the Toronto Raptors of the National Basketball Association from 1995 to 2001 while also working at ESPN, based in Bristol, Connecticut.
He was among the best-known black announcers in sports broadcasting and occasionally addressed racial issues in sports and in the wider society. He attended last week’s joint convention in Washington of the National Association of Black Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists.
Saunders also was a founding member of the board of directors for The V Foundation for Cancer Research, a charity started by the network after his broadcasting colleague, former college basketball coach Jim Valvano, died of cancer in 1993.