On This Date: The New York Knicks hire Don Nelson

July 6th 1995: The New York Knicks hire Don Nelson as their next head coach

Weeks after Pat Riley abruptly resigned, the Knicks went ahead to hire Don Nelson as their next head coach. Nelson came off a campaign where he resigned from the Warriors mid-season after starting the year 14-31. He spent much of the 1993-94 season embroiled in a conflict with their #1 pick Chris Webber.

Nelson sought to bring an uptempo pace to a Knick roster largely built in their halfcourt motions. The match was basically doomed from the start. Although starting the season on a high note, the Knicks hit a rough patch after the New Year. Tensions arose between Nelson, Patrick Ewing & John Starks.

Nelson de-emphasized Ewing’s role in the offense and made Anthony Mason the focal point. Although Mason had a then-career year with the Knicks showcasing his point forward abilities, Ewing was frustrated with his role on offense. Additionally, Nelson reduced Starks’ playing time for Hubert Davis.

The climax occurred when word got out that Nelson wanted the Knicks to trade Ewing in order to pursue Shaquille O’Neal in free agency. This point marked the beginning of the end of his coaching tenure with the organization.

The Knicks fired Nelson midseason after posting a 34-25 record. The conflicts proved to be too much to overcome. The Knicks appointed Jeff Van Gundy as the interim head coach. Van Gundy remained the head coach through the 2001-02 season. Additionally, Van Gundy retained Don Chaney, an original Nelson assistant, as his main assistant coach. Chaney took over as head coach in 2001 after Van Gundy abruptly resigned.

In hindsight, Nelson sought to implement a modern offense that teams would eventually replicate. However, the older personnel on the roster were not equipped to run his offense at the time.

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