06/02/1997 at 01:00 AM EDT
AT TIMES HE APPEARED TO BE EVERYWHERE. NBC's voice of professional basketball, he was for years the play-by-play man for both the NBA's Knicks and the National Hockey League's Rangers, broadcasting what seemed like hundreds of games every year. Yet Brooklyn-born Marv Albert was always the picture of cool self-possession—low-key, well-spoken, ironically self-deprecating. "He's a terrific guy," says SPORTS ILLUSTRATED writer Rick Reilly, who worked with Albert on his 1993 autobiography. "A perfect gentleman. Very much in control..." In short, not a man one would expect to be charged with a violent sexual assault.
Yet last week a grand jury in Arlington, Va., indicted the 53-year-old divorced father of four for allegedly attacking a female friend last Feb. 12 in his room at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel outside Washington. Arlington police say Albert (who is engaged to freelance producer Heather Faulkner) invited the 41-year-old woman to his room, that she arrived after midnight and refused Albert's sexual requests.
After that, the woman—mother of a teenage daughter and a 20-year-old son—told police Albert threw her on the bed, bit her repeatedly on the upper back and forced her to perform oral sex. Afterward she went to National Hospital in Arlington, where she phoned police at 1:44 a.m. Police say they withheld the charges until confirming the accuser's credibility. (Nonetheless she is not without other troubles: Washington's WRC-TV disclosed last Wednesday that the woman will be tried on July 30 for allegedly threatening to kill an ex-boyfriend, his girlfriend and his dog, then commit suicide.)
Police have yet to interview Albert, who released a statement denying the charges. "I am confident," he said, "that I will be completely exonerated when these allegations are addressed in a public courtroom." Albert will have his first chance on May 27, when he is to be arraigned on charges of sodomy and assault in Arlington County's circuit court. NBC declined to comment before consulting its lawyers. As for Albert's colleagues, veteran broadcaster Marty Glickman, his onetime mentor, may have spoken for many. "I'm stunned," he told the New York Daily News, "and I'm skeptical. I'm waiting for the story to come out."