Gov. Andrew Cuomo opened a news conference Wednesday with an amusing anecdote about state Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joseph Martens, who previously served as an aide to Cuomo’s father when he was governor in the early 1990s.
Cuomo said he spoke to his brother — CNN anchor Chris Cuomo — on the phone yesterday while Martens was in the room, and Chris Cuomo recalled playing basketball against Martens while his father was in office. Staffers to Mario Cuomo had a basketball league then, the current governor explained, and it was taken “very seriously.”
“(Chris) played against Mr. Martens a couple of times and was talking about how Mr. Martens was, say, vertically challenged on the basketball court,” Andrew Cuomo said. “While he may not be great on the basketball court, he’s been a great commissioner for the environment, for the state, for the people of this state, for the groups that care about the environment.”
As Andrew Cuomo told the story Wednesday, Martens held a wide smile and laughed. He declined to interject.
But was Martens “vertically challenged,” as the governor said his brother recalled? The University of Massachussets’ record book suggests otherwise.
Martens (pictured, left) set a UMass indoor high jump record in 1975 with a leap of 7 feet, according to the record book. The record still stands today, 39 years after it was originally set. He also once held the university’s outdoor 400-meter dash record with a time of 47.2 seconds before it was topped in 2000.
He also played basketball for a year at UMass, missing the opportunity to play with Julius “Dr. J” Erving by just a few years, he told Gannett in a 2012 interview. You can read our 2012 profile of Martens here.
UPDATE: Via Twitter, Chris Cuomo weighs in:
@JonCampbellGAN this may be one the few times in recorded history gov is off. Joe was fast as hell and had hops. We called him silver fox
— Chris Cuomo (@ChrisCuomo) February 12, 2014
(Photo via the UMass Athletic Department)