Longtime ESPN anchor and show host Johns Saunders is dead, the network announced Wednesday. He was 61 and the cause of death was not immediately clear.
Saunders had been a part of ESPN for nearly 30 years and served in several roles ranging from hosting SportsCenter to commentating on college basketball and the WNBA. He was also the host of The Sports Reporters, ESPN’s roundtable show of sports journalists. He also anchored the network’s Stanley Cup playoff coverage from 1993 to 2004, as well as helping with coverage of the World Series and Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game.
“His wide range of accomplishments across numerous sports and championship events is among the most impressive this industry has ever seen,” John Skipper, president of ESPN and co-chairman of Disney Media Networks, said in a statement. “More importantly, John was a beloved and devoted family man who cared deeply about people and causes.”
The Canadian-born broadcaster had played in the junior hockey leagues in Montreal and at Western Michigan University
“John Saunders represented everything that was good in a human being. He was all about family and helping people,” said Dick Vitale, a former college basketball coach and ESPN cohort. “He was as good as it gets and he had deep loyalty and love for others.”
Saunders was also a founding board member of the V Foundation for Cancer Research.
Several tributes were paid online when colleagues learned of Saunders passing.
Devastating doesn’t even begin to describe how I’m feeling right now. John Saunders was a wonderful man, ultra pro & father figure.#RIP
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) August 10, 2016
John Saunders was a better person than a host, which is saying something. Classy. Professional. I can’t even describe his impact on me.
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) August 10, 2016
Our thoughts are with the family and friends of John Saunders. Rest in peace.
— Washington Redskins (@Redskins) August 10, 2016
Photo: ESPN Images