On This Date: Knicks fire Stu Jackson

December 3, 1990: Knicks fire Stu Jackson and hire John Macleod as head coach

The Knicks fired Stu Jackson and hired John MacLeod to take over as head coach. Jackson was an assistant on Rick Pitino’s staff dating back to his days coaching the Providence men’s basketball team. Once Pitino left the Knicks for the University of Kentucky, the Knicks hired Stu Jackson as head coach, marking him the third youngest coach in Knicks history, at the time.1 Continue reading →

On This Date: Knicks draft Lonnie Shelton – with some controversy

June 8th 1976: The New York Knicks draft Lonnie Shelton, but had to clear some loopholes in order to sign him

In the 1976 NBA Draft, the New York Knicks attracted some minor controversy after drafting Oregon State Junior Lonnie Shelton with the 25th pick (2nd round). At the time, the NBA was in discussions to merge with the American Basketball Association (ABA) but the terms were not final.

Shelton originally declared for the ABA draft in 1975 as a sophomore in college. The Memphis Sounds drafted him, but the team folded shortly before the season was to begin. His rights transferred to the Spirits of St. Louis and he ill-advisedly signed a contract with the team without having any intention to play for the team. Shelton never played for the ABA team and instead returned to Oregon State. However, a federal judge ruled that his eligibility was lost. The Spirits planned to relocate to Utah for the 1976-77 season to become the Utah Rockies

By the 1976 NBA Draft, the ABA-NBA merger was near finalization. 4 of the ABA teams (Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, New York Nets, San Antonio Spurs) joined the NBA and the remaining two teams (Kentucky Colonels & Spirits of St. Louis) eventually folded. Shelton had undergone a lawsuit against the Spirits regarding the enforcement of his contract. The courts ruled that Shelton wasn’t officially signed with the team, but he did lose his college rights. The impending contract litigation led to many teams ignoring him, but the Knicks did their homework and drafted him in the 2nd round.

As for the 2 ABA teams that folded, the respective players were drafted in a supplementary dispersal draft in August 1976. The Knicks drafted Randy Denton in that dispersal draft.

Shelton was the Knicks’ first draft selection. The team forfeited their 1st round pick after the George McGinnis saga the year before. Shelton had a solid first two seasons with the Knicks, but was traded to the Seattle Supersonics as part of a compensation package in signing Marvin “Human Eraser” Webster as a free agent. Shelton eventually won an NBA championship with the Sonics in 1979.

As for the compensation package, the Knicks additionally sent over a 1979 1st round pick (via the Nets from acquiring Phil Jackson) and received a 1981 1st round pick in return. The Sonics used the 1979 1st round pick to draft Vinnie Johnson. The 1981 1st round pick eventually was traded in a three-way deal where the Knicks acquired Campy Russell.

On This Date: Knicks honor 40th anniversary of the 1973 Knicks

April 5th 2013: Knicks honor the 40th anniversary of the 1973 Knicks

The Knicks honored the 1973 Championship Knick team on this date. The team got together the day before to reminisce on their heyday at Aretsky’s Patroon in New York City. The team was officially recognized at halftime of the Knicks-Bucks game.

The ceremony began with a video narrated by Al Trautwig. The team brought out the original championship trophy from 1973. All the living players were introduced one-by-one. For those who passed away, – including Red Holzman and the team trainer – the team had a special representative from the family join the ceremony.

The most notable player in the ceremony was Phil Jackson. Phil finally made his return to MSG not as a coach, but rather as an alum of the Knicks. The Knicks spent multiple efforts to lure Phil Jackson back into coaching the team in 1999 and 2005. The efforts were futile as he continued on his journey to win championship rings with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Earl Monroe ended the ceremony with a passionate speech about the team. He gave several complimentary remarks for the 2012-13 Knicks squad that would ultimately reach the 2nd round of the NBA Playoffs.

On This Date: Knicks hire Phil Jackson

March 18th 2014: Knicks hire Phil Jackson as President of Basketball Operations

The Knicks brought back Phil Jackson into the organization as the new President of Basketball Operations on a 5 year $50 million contract. The Knicks previously courted him on several occasions (back in 1999 and 2005) to coach the team, but was rejected due to a myriad of reasons (mostly related to the fact that the team wasn’t as talented). Phil spent most of his playing career with the Knicks where he won 2 championships as a player.

Ever since the team relieved Glen Grunwald of his duties, James Dolan went into full pursuit to find a full-time President of Basketball Operations. Steve Mills returned to the organization to become the interim President of Basketball Operations. At the same time, Madison Square Garden recently acquired the Great Western Forum for the main purpose to renovate the arena to serve as an entertainment venue rivaling the nearby Staples Center.

Through the entertainment business and his own musical ambitions, Dolan maintained a long-standing friendship with Irving Azoff. In 2013, both Azoff and Dolan formed a joint venture – Azoff MSG Entertainment LLC – that served to fuel MSG Entertainment’s presence in the live event industries.

It was at one of Azoff’s parties in late 2013 where Dolan met Phil Jackson. Azoff setup the courtship beforehand to help broker the relationship. Phil advised Dolan on certain basketball transactions (including not trading anymore 1st round picks and nixing the Kyle Lowry/Iman Shumpert trade) over the course of the next few months. Things further progressed in March and the team finalized the hire on March 18th.

Phil Jackson’s hire brought massive expectations to the organization. Many expected the team to re-establish their winning culture and use the influence of Phil’s 11 rings to get back to the NBA Finals. Others expected the Knicks to bring back the triangle offense.

In the months after the hire, Phil had several looming questions to answer. After Phil fired Mike Woodson and traded both Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler, he was left with a major decision involving Carmelo Anthony. Melo unsurprisingly opted out of his contract at the end of the season. It was assumed that Dolan told Phil that Melo had to be a part of the long-term future of the organization. Therefore, Melo signed a 5 year $124 million extension with a no-trade clause.

Unfortunately, the Melo signing was one of many ill-fated decisions that destroyed Phil’s tenure with the team. Phil hired Derek Fisher with the intention to run the triangle offense. However, the team was not able to grasp the offense and immediately spiraled out of contention before the new year hit. Phil quickly went on a firesale and JR Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Amare Stoudemire were all gone from the team before the All Star Break. Additionally, Melo suffered knee soreness that required surgery. Due to his desire to play in the All Star Game, he postponed the surgery to after the ASB. The injury and surgery severely impacted Melo’s game to this date on both the offensive and defensive end.

Phil seemed to strike gold in the 2015 NBA Draft with the Kristaps Porzingis selection. However, Phil made a rash decision to fire Derek Fisher midway towards the 2015-16 season after only 1.5 years with the team. Phil later hired Jeff Hornacek as the new head coach.

Phil decided to embark on a win-now mission during the 2016 offseason and traded for Derrick Rose while signing Joakim Noah to a massive 4 year $72 million contract and Courtney Lee to a 4 year $50 million contract. The 2016-17 season also proved to be a mess, but it was mainly due to the fact that Phil publicly criticized Melo throughout the entire season. The side-effect to the Melo drama was that Kristaps Porzingis became disenchanted with the organization and decided to skip the exit meeting.

The final straw occurred during the 2017 NBA Draft where Phil tried to trade Porzingis to various teams and seriously considered to buyout Carmelo Anthony. Dolan rejected both ideas and ultimately both parties agreed to part ways. Phil’s last move was drafting both Frank Ntilikina and Damyean Dotson in the 2017 NBA Draft.

The remaining remnants of Phil’s tenure are Lance Thomas, Ntilikina, Dotson, and Joakim Noah’s contract that has been stretched until 2022. Phil did not trade any 1st round picks during his tenure, though he did give up several 2nd round picks in miscellaneous trades. Ultimately it seemed that Phil was never prepared to handle the responsibilities required to be President of Basketball Operations. His mindset was stuck on being a coach and that overshadowed what everyone else was doing within the organization. His public feud with Melo and the Noah free agent signing added dark stains to his professional legacy within the NBA.

On This Date: Clyde helps Knicks crush 76ers

March 7th 1973: Clyde Frazier helps Knicks crush the Philadelphia 76ers

The Knicks rounded back to form to rout the hapless Philadelphia 76ers 120-94. Clyde led the way with a near triple double and had 28 points, 13 rebounds, and 9 assists. Bill Bradley also had 22 points in 34 minutes. Both Willis Reed & Phil Jackson had double doubles with the same identical statline of 17 points, 12 rebounds, and 3 assists.

Both teams headed in different directions that season. The Knicks eventually won their 2nd NBA championship as they defeated the Los Angeles Lakers. The 76ers lost every game for the remainder of the season as they finished 9-73. The team eventually drafted Doug Collins with the #1 pick in the NBA Draft. Collins spent his entire NBA career with the 76ers and made 4 All Star teams before entering the coaching and broadcasting worlds.

On This Date: Walt “Clyde” Frazier and Mel Davis lead the Knicks to victory against the Hawks

January 28, 1975: Walt “Clyde” Frazier scores 39 points and Mel Davis makes his first NBA start in a victory against the Atlanta Hawks

Clyde led the Knicks to victory with a line of 39 points, 10 assists, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals. He had 35 points through three quarters, but only scored 4 points in the final quarter. The Knicks led by more than 13 points with six minutes remaining, but let the Hawks climb back into the game. The victory helped stop a stretch where the Knicks lost 14 of the previous 20 games.

This game was also notable for being Mel Davis’ first NBA start. Davis, a 6’6 St. Johns alum, was in his 2nd season with the team before he received his first start on this date. In 32 minutes, Davis had a double double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Coach Red Holzman decided to start Davis to provide additional frontcourt grittiness, while allowing Phil Jackson to come off the bench to provide versatility playing either the power forward or center positions.

Mel spent most of his 5-year NBA career with the Knicks. He spent a few years overseas and had a successful post-basketball career working with Pepsico, and later the NBA. He eventually became the Executive Director of the National Basketball Retired Players Association. The association helps NBA players successfully transition into a post-retirement career. Some of the duties include understanding pensions and obtaining post-basketball education.

On This Date: Knicks stave off ferocious comeback against the Seattle Supersonics

January 23, 1972: The New York Knicks withstand a late-game comeback against the Seattle Supersonics.

The Knicks nearly averted trouble to hold onto a 101-99 victory on the road against the Seattle Supersonics. The Knicks led by as much as 20 points by halftime and even had a 15 point lead with 4 minutes remaining in the game. The Sonics went on a 9-0 run and cut the lead down to 6 with less than 40 seconds in regulation.

A combination of Earl Monroe fouling out, an unfortunate traveling call, and a costly turnover cut the lead down to 2 and gave the Sonics an opportunity to tie the game. However, Phil Jackson and Walt Frazier made the final defensive stop to seal the victory.

Monroe led the Knicks with 27 points. Clyde nearly had a triple double with 13 points, 10 assists, and 7 rebounds. Future Knicks Spencer Haywood and Lenny Wilkens (coach) were on the Supersonics roster. Haywood was an All-Star for the Sonics for 4 seasons before the Knicks acquired him in a trade in 1975. Haywood teamed up with Bob McAdoo for slightly more than 3 seasons.

Lenny Wilkens served a unique role as player-coach of the Sonics. He was one of the last player-coaches in the NBA. He spent two separate stints as a player-coach with both the Seattle Supersonics & Portland Trailblazers from 1969-1972 and 1974-75. After Wilkens retired from his playing career in 1975, he became a full-time coach for the Blazers before rejoining the Sonics in 1977.

The game was also nationally televised on ABC. For viewing purposes, the game had to be played at 11:00AM pacific time. Up until the David Stern era, most nationally televised basketball games (and televised games in general) were viewed on tape-delay so families could watch in the evening hours on the weekend.