On This Date: Pat Riley resigns via fax

June 15th 1995: New York Knicks head coach Pat Riley suddenly resigns via fax

In a stunning moment after a disappointing 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals exit, Pat Riley suddenly resigned via fax as head coach of the New York Knicks. Riley just finished the 4th year of his 5 year contract with the Knicks as he left the team amidst contractual issues.

Riley desired not just a contract extension, but an ownership stake in the team and control in basketball operations. The latter point seemed treacherous with relation to Dave Checketts and Ernie Grunfeld’s roles within the organization. Furthermore, Cablevision & ITT Corporation purchased the Knicks from Viacom shortly before the 1994-95 season. Paramount Communications sold their stake in the Knicks to Viacom shortly before the end of the 1993-94 season. Therefore, there was no chance that Riley could receive any ownership stake.

Supposedly Riley asked for a 5 year extension and $50 million, plus 25% ownership of the Knicks. Clearly that offer was unrealistic. The Knicks supposedly countered with $25 million, but Riley refused the offer. Ultimately, Riley joined the Miami Heat before the 1995-96 season. Riley not only became coach, but also was the president of basketball operations and received an ownership stake in the franchise. The Knicks subsequently filed tampering charges against the Heat and received $1 million and a 1996 1st round pick as compensation. The Knicks drafted Walter McCarty with the 1st round pick.

Riley instantly became the Knicks’ new villain. Signs with “Pat the Rat” and “Benedict Riley” proliferated around MSG whenever the Heat visited the Knicks. Riley was vociferously booed on his return to MSG. This move ultimately began the rivalry between the Heat & Knicks.

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