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RIP Harry Gallatin: 1927-2015

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Adios, Caballo

Harry "The Horse" Gallatin passed away today. He was 88.

Before Patrick Ewing, Willis Reed, and Walt Frazier, Gallatin was the first greatest player in Knick history. Drafted 40th by New York in 1948, the undersized center (6'6") was a seven-time All-Star (1951-1957) and twice made All-NBA teams, including the first team in 1954, when his 15.3 rebounds per game led the league. In the last game of the 1953 season against the Fort Wayne Pistons, he pulled down 33 boards, a Knick record to this day. In addition to dominating the glass, Gallatin annually ranked among the league leaders in field goal percentage, free throw percentage, true shooting percentage, offensive and defensive win shares, player efficiency rating, and minutes. He did it all, he did it well, and he did it over heavy minutes, night in and night out. The Basketball Hall of Fame enshrined him in 1991, one of eight different hall-of-fames to honor the man's achievements.
Gallatin said his ironman streak was the accomplishment he was most proud of. "My mother isn't alive now, but she probably could have told you that I didn't miss a game or a practice all the way through grade school, junior high school, high school...didn't miss a game or a practice all the way through my basketball career, and that includes the [p]layoffs. So when I say my prayers, I thank God for the health I've enjoyed. I don't know of anybody else who hadn't missed a practice or a game in their entire basketball career. I feel really proud about that."

After his playing career ended, Gallatin entered the world of coaching, leading Southern Illinois for four years (Walt Frazier's alma mater) before taking over the NBA's St. Louis Hawks in 1963 and 1964, winning coach of the year his first year. In 1965 he was part of a strange exchange: Knick coach Richie Guerin took over St. Louis while Gallatin replaced Guerin in New York, albeit for just one season.

Gallatin served in the Navy in World War 2. A prolific all-around athlete, he played two years of minor league baseball while also playing for the Knicks, making him the original Bo Jackson. After exiting the NBA, he coached SIU-Edwardsville to 19 D-II golf championships.

Farewell to the first great New York Knick, a man whose ferocity and toughness as an undersized big were a counterpoint to the respected and Renaissance gentleman he was off the court. Rest in peace, Harry.