Life on the sidelines: Flatbush native built career on love of hoops

Life on the sidelines: Flatbush native built career on love of hoops
Hofstra University / Jonathan Heisler

He’s got two things on his mind at all times — Brooklyn and basketball.

College basketball analyst and Flatbush native Fran Fraschilla grew up around sports, but there’s always been something about basketball that drew the James Madison grad to the game. And he’s certain that won’t ever change.

“I’ve been obsessed with the game my whole life, and I’ll be obsessed with it until the day I die,” Fraschilla said. “Growing up in the playgrounds and the schoolyards of Brooklyn, I got attached to basketball when I was about 12 or 13. And I was a schoolyard, playground rat.”

Fraschilla — who played high-school basketball at Madison, graduated from Brooklyn College, and began coaching after graduation — has spent his entire life watching the game grow and evolve. He’s kept an eye on New York hoops throughout his career — even after walking away from coaching — and, right now, Fraschilla is watching a game and a culture that’s changing rapidly.

The local kids aren’t staying home — opting instead to take their talents to big-name prep schools in the hopes of earning Division-I scholarships and jump-starting a pro career — and the trend has Fraschilla worried about the future of local high-school hoops.

“High-school basketball is not as good as it was,” he said. “The kids are leaving. They’re leaving the city. And when they leave the city, they don’t always come back.”

Still, Fraschilla has nothing but hope for New York City basketball at the college level. The former Manhattan and St. John’s head coach — who served as moderator for New York City college basketball media day earlier this month — is excited to see what the local programs across the boroughs can accomplish this season.

“College basketball, I think, is healthy, because you’ve got great coaches in the area who are doing some great things with their programs,” he said. “You’ve got some proven coaches and up-and-coming programs. It’s fun to watch.”

And Fraschilla does plenty of watching — he is about to begin his 13th season as an ESPN analyst. It’s a far cry from his coaching days, but Fraschilla has found a renewed love for the game by picking apart every aspect of it and helping others understand the sport at its most fundamental.

“Once I got a taste of broadcasting and I realized I could be around the game every day — but not have the stress of coaching a team — it really fit me,” Fraschilla said. “I’ve found the exact perfect career for me. I stay close to the game, and I get to lend my coaching expertise.”

Fraschilla knows he’ll never get tired of the game, and his goal now is to make sure the it continues to evolve and influence others as positively as it’s affected him. He’s not leaving the sidelines any time soon, and Fraschilla is determined to make sure basketball is even more inclusive in the coming years, bringing in as much talent as possible — particularly at the local level.

“What I try to do now — along with educate people on TV — is to use my experience to be a mentor to young coaches who are in the same position I was in,” he said. “The fun part is to be able to transition from coaching to broadcasting and still have that spark for it.”