On This Date: Patrick Ewing plays his last game in MSG with the Orlando Magic

April 9th 2002: Patrick Ewing plays his last game in MSG as a member of the Orlando Magic

In what will always be a weird sight in Knicks history, Patrick Ewing played what would be his last game in Madison Square Garden, but with the Orlando Magic. Ewing started for the Magic, for purposes of recognizing the moment, and had 5 points and 5 rebounds in 19 minutes. The Magic defeated the Knicks 108-97.

After playing sparingly throughout the game, Ewing re-entered the game with a minute remaining as the Magic were up 9. Ewing received a roaring ovation from the MSG faithful as his former teammates Charlie Ward, Kurt Thomas, Allan Houston, & Latrell Sprewell were on the floor. Ewing finished the final minute of the game as the crowd roared once again after the buzzer to commemorate Ewing’s career.

Ewing’s final season with Orlando was quite strange to almost any fan of the NBA. The sight of the Orlando Magic uniform and not seeing him in his signature #33 (Grant Hill wore the jersey at the time) was even more bizarre. Interestingly enough, Ewing played with perhaps the most talented and athletic teammate ever in Tracy McGrady. He also reunited with former teammates Monty Williams & Doc Rivers (as coach of the Magic).

The Magic victory helped them clinch a playoff spot and gave Ewing one more opportunity to taste the playoffs. The Knicks missed the playoffs for the first time since Ewing’s sophomore season.

On This Date: Richie Guerin scores 57 points and Latrell Sprewell scores 49 points

December 11, 1959: Richie Guerin scores career-high 57 points in a victory against the Syracuse Nationals

Richie Guerin became the first Knick player to eclipse the 50 point mark by scoring 57 points in a 152-121 victory. In addition to the 57 points, Guerin had 12 rebounds and 8 assists.

The 57 points was a then-record high for any guard in the league. Only Elgin Baylor & Wilt Chamberlain, both of whom were big men, scored more points in the game. Ironically, Wilt scored 100 points against the Knicks in 1962.  After the game, Guerin quipped that the 76ers were intentionally fouling the Knicks to give Wilt more opportunities to score.

Guerin’s 57 points remained a Knicks record until Bernard King scored 60 on Christmas Day in 1984. Carmelo Anthony scored 62 points in the 2013-14 season to hold the Knicks points record in a game.

Guerin was eventually enshrined into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.


December 11, 2001: Latrell Sprewell scores a career high 49 points in a loss against the Boston Celtics

Fresh off Jeff Van Gundy’s abrupt resignation, Latrell Sprewell exploded for a career high 49 points in a 102-93 overtime loss against the Boston Celtics.

Sprewell scored 49 on 18-32 from the field and an impressive 6-10 from three. Paul Pierce, former Knick Erick Strickland, and rookie Joe Johnson all attempted to guard Sprewell at times and didn’t have luck doing so.

Despite the offensive outburst, it wasn’t enough to stop the Celtics in the loss. Spree had a chance at the free throw line to put the Knicks up by 4 and hit the 50 point mark with less than 9 seconds left in the 4th quarter. However, he only made 1/2 free throws and Antoine Walker tied the game with seconds left in regulation.

Spree was held scoreless in overtime and the Celtics outscored the Knicks 13-4 in overtime. Antoine Walker matched Spree with 42 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists. Paul Pierce had an all-around game with 18 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 6 steals, and 2 blocked shots.

On This Date: Bernard King returns to MSG as a Washington Bullets player and Jeff Van Gundy unexpectedly quits

December 8, 1987: Bernard Kings makes his first visit to MSG as a member of the Washington Bullets

Bernard King returned to Madison Square Garden for the first time as a Washington Bullet. The Knicks got the last laugh in a 116-92 blowout victory. King came off the bench to score 19 points in 32 minutes.

Patrick Ewing & Bill Cartwright combined for 52 points and simply overpowered the Bullets’ frontcourt. Mark Jackson nearly had a triple double with 8 points, 8 rebounds, and 11 assists.

King missed the entire 1985-86 season and all but 6 games of the 1986-87 season recovering from the torn ACL.  In the 6 games, King averaged 22.7 points a game and shot nearly 50% from the field.

However, the Knicks decided against re-signing Bernard King in the summer of 1987 for various reasons.  At the time, the Knicks were afraid that King wouldn’t fully recover from the knee surgery.  At the same time, the front office didn’t like that King did most of his rehabilitation away from the team and barely attended games during the stretch.  Furthermore, the Knicks committed to rebuilding with Patrick Ewing, Mark Jackson, & Kenny Walker, amongst others, and thought that King would be a deterrence to the development process.

Despite the Knicks’ qualms, King was able to make a near-full recovery and had several productive seasons after his Knicks tenure.  He made the 1991 All Star team and averaged 28.4 points/game that season, including a 49 point effort against the Knicks.

The Knicks had a short stint of success in the Rick Pitino era and spent a lot of effort looking for small forwards after King’s departure.  Perhaps Bernard King would have made a difference.


December 8, 2001:  Jeff Van Gundy unexpectedly quits

In a day that marked the downward spiral of the New York Knicks in the 2000s, Jeff Van Gundy (JVG) abruptly resigned after a 10-9 record to start the season. The team won 5 of their last 6 games heading into the resignation.

He was known as one of the hardest working coaches in the league.  Many of his former assistant coaches currently coaching in the NBA possess the same traits as him. Six + years of coaching at high intensity took a toll on Van Gundy and his family.  JVG, then 39, was married with a 6 year old daughter and often longed to spend more time with his family.

JVG felt he was losing the team as early as the 2000-01 season, the same reason the Knicks traded Ewing.  The team wasn’t playing with the same intensity that they were reputed for during the 90s.  He often questioned the team’s effort and publicly stated that the team was “mailing it in” during some of the games.

Additionally, Van Gundy dealt with tragedy close to home as two of his close friends, Farrell Lynch & Bill Minardi, were killed in the September 11th attacks.  The culmination of events leading up to the season were tough to overcome.

JVG left the Knicks with a 248-172 record.  He spent nearly 7 years as an assistant coach under Stu Jackson, John MacLeod, Pat Riley, & Don Nelson.  As a head coach, he led the Knicks to an unexpected NBA Finals run in 1999.  Despite the success, he was nearly fired on multiple occasions and dealt with a highly publicized feud with GM Ernie Grunfeld that led to the latter’s dismissal.  Furthermore, he outlasted both Patrick Ewing and Dave Checketts, leaving him with few allies internally in the organization.

Don Chaney took over for JVG as interim coach.  It’s safe to say the Knicks never recovered after his resignation during the decade.  Likewise, JVG has admitted that he shouldn’t have resigned.