During halftime of last night’s Knicks game, the team remembered one player from each decade in the franchise’s history with the Knicks Legends Award, an honor essentially invented to prove that Donnie Walsh is serious about reconnecting with the club’s past. Not that it’s not meaningful to Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, and all the other recipients, but at the end of the day, the mere existence of the ceremony — and what it symbolizes — was the real point.
Which is why Walsh can’t be too pleased with Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, who after the game essentially called him a phony, at least when it comes to probably the greatest player in franchise history, Patrick Ewing. Because according to Van Gundy, the Knicks only “pretend to appreciate him.” Ewing, you see, is an assistant coach with the Magic (who, by the way, defeated the Knicks 106–102 last night), but has never really been considered for a Knicks coaching position. He’s got a decent résumé, too, with assistant coaching jobs in Houston and Orlando, and he’s worked with two of the top centers in the game, Yao Ming and Dwight Howard. That, and he’s still extremely popular around these parts.
Said Van Gundy: “What’s amazing is they honor the guy, I don’t know, every year. They honor him, but while they’ve got a lot of ex-players in their organization, they’ve never made any move to try to hire him. That to me is amazing.” He even went a step further, accusing Walsh of using Ewing “to help sell out the building.”
Van Gundy’s sort of right, but that doesn’t mean that Walsh is in the wrong. Ewing probably did deserve at least an interview (especially when Mark Jackson, who has no experience as a coach, got one), but a token interview wouldn’t have meant anything. (It should also be said that the types of jobs some ex-players have within the organization — like John Starks’s role as alumni-relations and fan-development adviser, whatever that is — are beneath what Ewing is looking for.) And about Van Gundy’s claim that Walsh was using Ewing to sell tickets? Well, yeah, that was sort of the point. In fact, it goes further than that. Walsh was “using” all these great players not just to get people in the seats last night, but to remind those at home watching, and those reading about it today, that the franchise once mattered and will matter once again. And really, is there anything wrong with that?