Hi guys and girls, this is my first post of any kind on any site/forum/blog. I chose to post here because I am absolutely captivated by this current group of Knickerbockers, and this blog is led by a true master in his field: Seth. His daily servings of sweet, savory Knicks goodness is unmatched in any blog I have read, although I am a big fan of John B over at GGN.
Please take the jump to ready some history about one of my favorite topics: the Knicks! For those that wanna feel Knick-stalgic, I hope you enjoy this.
I grew up watching the Knicks beginning in 1984, when guys like Bernard King, Louis Orr, Rory Sparrow, and Darrell Walker roamed the courts of MSG. This was NOT a good team, record-wise... finishing up 24-58 that season. Why didn't I stop watching after that season? Maybe it was Pat Cummings' dreamy good looks or the way Trent Tucker seemed a bit too comfortable in the standard-issue gym shorts of the day. Nah, it was probably because my family was raised on Walt Frazier, Earl Monroe, and Willis Reed... although my mom disowned the Knicks after they dealt Clyde to the Cavs before the 77-78 season. Oh, and did I mention that following this '84-'85 season the Knicks would win the rights to draft Patrick Ewing?
The addition of Patrick Ewing did not equal overnight success... primarily due to alternating (sometimes concurrent) injuries to King/Ewing from the get-go. As fans we would say "If only these guys could play together for one full season". King was soon gone (released), but Ewing received some major backcourt help when the team drafted Mark Jackson and hired Rick Pitino as their coach after the 1986-87 season. A string of 3 consecutive lottery appearances was about to end.
Pitino's full-court-press defensive style mixed with Mark Jackson's outstanding floor leadership immediately turned the Knicks into a team to watch. New York kids emulated Jackson's "finger-wag" (or maybe just me) as Jackson/Ewing turned in one no-look pass/dunk after another. While the team finished 6 games under .500 (.463) in 87-88, they improved by 14 wins from the previous season and then gained another 14 wins in '88-'89, finishing as a #2 seed and knocking off Philly in 3 games before losing the first of several excruciating playoff series' to the Chicago Bulls. This was also the year that Jordan hit "The Shot" over Craig Ehlo to knock Cleveland out of the playoffs. Fun fact: the Knicks averaged 116 PPG that season!
Pitino left the Knicks after that season for Kentucky, was replaced by Stu Jackson, and despite an impressive 1st round upset of the Celtics in Boston Garden in 1990 could not advance past the eventual NBA champion Pistons. Jackson was gone after 2 seasons, and the Knicks brought in a highly successful coaching free-agent with a certain slicked-back mane. Yes, this was the magical Pat Riley era ('91-'92 to '94-'95).
To say Pat Riley instilled a new sense of excitement and a higher level of success and accountability would be like saying that Ewing mildly perspired while playing. Riley instantly turned the team into a contender, winning 68% of his games coached during the 4-year stretch. With CBA waiver pickups John Starks and Anthony Mason injecting an instant intensity infusion, the Knicks were poised for greatness. Playoff sucess, unfortunately, was not in the cards. After consecutive playoff series losses to the Bulls, the Knicks entered the "Jordan has retired so maybe we can win it" sweepstakes in '93-'94 but fell to the Rockets in the Finals in 7 games. I've heard that one of our SGs had a JR Smith-like performance (2-18) in that fateful Game 7, but that part of my memory has been erased. Mmm.. donuts...
Where was I? Oh yeah, the last of the Riley years ended in an equally painful fashion, with Ewing missing a finger-roll layup vs. the Pacers in the '95 Semis. This is where the franchise seemed to have started to fall off the tracks a bit... Riley left for the Heat (more on that later), Don Nelson took over, and my only "positive" recollection of Nelson was the way he would have visible acid reflux during post-game interviews. I swear you could see a green cloud emanate from his mouth... Goodbye Nelson after less than 1 season (referred to by me as a "half-Nelson"), and enter Jeff Van Gundy, who continued a string of disappointing playoff losses to the Bulls, Heat, and Pacers. Van Gundy was my favorite Knicks coach of all time - I would trade my Mets fanhood for him to return to the Knicks bench.
As the Knicks slowly descended the slope of mediocrity with Ewing becoming a shell of his former self, the Knicks began a fresh rivalry with the Miami Heat (and Pat Riley) that would provide years of entertainment while simultaneously taking years off my life expectancy. Heroic performances by Marcus Camby, Larry Johnson, Latrell Sprewell (PJ's Buddy!), and Allan Houston propelled the 8th-seeded Knicks to an improbable upset over the 1st-seeded Heat in the '99 playoffs. This ignited a playoff run that saw the Knicks steamroll the Hawks (4-0) and Pacers (4-2) on their way to getting crushed by the Spurs in the Finals. My most vivid memory of that Hawks sweep was the way Houston & Sprewell would
abuse post up the Hawks on nearly every possession without much resistance.
Another playoff series victory against the Miami Rileys in '00 was not enough as the Knicks would fall to the Pacers in the Conference Finals... and thus began the DARK AGE in Knicks history. Coaching changes that included Don Chaney, Lenny Wilkens, Larry Brown, and Beelzebub Thomas resulted in 9 consecutive losing seasons. We all know this recent-era history, so I'll stop there.
Thanks for reading, fellow Knicks fans. Have a great weekend!