May 31st 1991: Knicks hire Pat Riley as the next head coach
In one of the most monumental moments in Knicks’ franchise history, the Knicks hired Pat Riley as the next head coach of the franchise. Riley spent the previous year as a NBA commentator on NBA on NBC before receiving an offer to coach the Knicks shortly before the 1991 NBA Finals.
After John MacLeod left the Knicks at the end of the 1990-91 season, team president Dave Checketts contacted Riley about interest in returning to coaching. Riley looked at the prestige of coaching and the history of the Knicks and found the situation to be perfect for him. The team agreed to a contract that paid Riley around $1.5 million/year over the next 5 seasons.
In contrast to the Showtime era of the Los Angeles Lakers, Riley instilled a culture of tough defense and grittiness that embodied the team and the fan base throughout the 1990s. His philosophy helped cultivate into a decade of playoff berths, even extending beyond his tenure. The climax of his Knicks tenure was reaching the NBA Finals in 1994. One of his final remnants of his Knicks legacy was having Jeff Van Gundy alongside him as an assistant coach. Van Gundy was previously an assistant coach dating back to the Stu Jackson era. Van Gundy remained assistant coach until 1996 where he was promoted after the team fired Don Nelson. Van Gundy also replicated the defensive principles and mentality instilled by Riley in his tenure.
May 30th 1975: The New York Knicks ALMOST signed ABA Star George McGinnis, until the NBA intervened
In one of the strangest moments in Knicks Free Agency history, the New York Knicks tried to sign ABA Star George McGinnis to a 6 year/$3.1M offer sheet. McGinnis was the consensus star, alongside Julius Erving, of the American Basketball Association (ABA) and played for the Indiana Pacers. He led the league in scoring in the previous season and was an integral piece to the Pacers’ championship trophies in 1972 & 1973.
However, the Philadelphia 76ers drafted McGinnis in 1973. He remained in the ABA while the 76ers retained his draft rights. After the 1973-74 season, McGinnis attempted to play in the NBA, but only for the New York Knicks. The 76ers gave the Knicks 30 days to convince him to sign with the team. However, McGinnis decided to return to Indianapolis.
Fast forward one season and McGinnis showed interest in returning to the NBA. However, the 76ers were less inclined to allow McGinnis to sign with the Knicks. Despite the warnings, the Knicks offered him a 6 year/$3.1M deal. Iry Kozloff, then owner of the 76ers, accused the Knicks of violating the NBA constitution and demanded that the league rescind the contract.
Then-new commissioner Larry O’Brien reviewed the 76ers case and ruled the contract invalid. Additionally, the Knicks forfeited their 1976 1st round pick and had to pay the 76ers legal fees as part of the punishment.
This was one of the earliest cases of tampering in the NBA, but was probably known as one of the strangest moments in Knicks history.
It’s Scott Perry, General Manager of the New York Knickerbockers. Listen, I know we don’t know each other, and I know I’m infinitely more qualified than you in all things basketball, and I know I work in tandem with someone whose Princeton degree suggests he’s MUCH MUCH smarter than you, and I know I have plenty of people on my payroll whose opinions I trust, but look man: this one’s tough. All this talk that Kyrie’s coming; we’ve got a really good shot, I just…[sigh] Look, if KD says, “I want him,” done – end of conversation; and if Kevin falls through or Kyrie decides to go elsewhere, then it’s a non-issue of course, but…see, what if Kevin signs but doesn’t demand Kyrie? Should we still sign him? I’m conflicted. So do me favor: take some time to think it over, and hit me back.
Yo, is he for real? What’s there to think about? It’s Kyrie f***ing Irving. One of the best players in the NBA. Top —
May 29th 2000: Larry Johnson leads the Knicks with 25 points to tie the series between the New York Knicks & Indiana Pacers
With Patrick Ewing sidelined due to a sprained right foot and Latrell Sprewell & Marcus Camby hobbled with a bad foot and knee respectively, Larry Johnson took the initiative to lead the New York Knicks past the Indiana Pacers 91-89 to tie the series 2-2. LJ scored 25 points and hit a couple clutch three pointers to give the Knicks a cushion after the Pacers cut a 17 point halftime deficit down to 1 with 6 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter. LJ hit all 5 of his three point attempts and played 44 minutes overall.
The Knicks also received positive contributions from Charlie Ward & Kurt Thomas. Ward scores 16 points on 4-6 from three and had 7 assists, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals. Ward was the key playmaker for the Knicks in transition and within the halfcourt offense, especially finding LJ for looks. Thomas scored 16 points off the bench and had 6 rebounds and 4 assists in 35 minutes. Chris Dudley started in Ewing’s absence, but only played 8 minutes due to Kurt’s productivity.
Latrell Sprewell & Marcus Camby were both hobbled throughout the game due to injuries. Spree fractured his 5th metatarsal in his left foot near the end of Game 3, but played nearly the entire game and scored 12 points despite being hurt. Camby also went down with a knee sprain in Game 3, but returned to secure 8 rebounds and 3 blocks in 18 minutes off the bench.
Before the introduction of the draft lottery, the NBA draft consisted of 10 rounds. The draft was also held in May, one of the last few drafts to be held before June.11975 was the last draft held before June 1st
The 1974 NBA Draft was mostly non-consequential for the Knicks. Entering the night, the Knicks had the 14th pick, but the team traded it to the Bulls for Howard Porter and a 1975 2nd round pick that became Larry Fogle. Both players only played one season with the Knicks. The Bulls used the 14th pick to draft Maurice Lucas. Lucas had several All-Star seasons in his NBA career and won a championship with the Portland Trailblazers. Ironically, the Knicks acquired him in 1981 for Ray Williams. Coincidentally, the Knicks dealt Lucas in the next year for Truck Robinson, drafted in the 2nd round of the 1974 NBA Draft.
The Knicks drafted Jesse Dark & Greg Jackson in the 2nd round and 5th rounds respectively. Both players only spent one year with the Knicks.
The draft overall consisted of 4 Hall-of-Famers including Bill Walton, George Gervin, Bobby Jones, & Jamaal Wilkes. In addition to the players mentioned in the prior paragraphs, both Campy Russell & Len Elmore had short stints with the Knicks later in their careers.