Guess when I was a Knick fan?
That’s right, back in the days of Red Holtzman when Walt “Clyde” Frazier quarterbacked the plays at point guard next to Dick Barnett and Cazzie Russell; when Willis Reed bravely played center (on one good leg sometimes); when the future senator Bill Bradley consistently hit jump shots from the top of the key; and when the forwards were Dave DeBusschere and Jerry Lucas.
DeBusschere was briefly a pitcher for the Chicago White Sox. I still have his baseball card.
I rarely missed a game back then, a period covering the years from about 1968 to 1975. Bob Wolf was the Knick’s TV announcer, and he was the best basketball play-by-play man there ever was.
I worshiped those players. I wanted to be like them– they were selfless, fearless and loyal to one another. They didn’t dance and prance over minor on-court accomplishment and they didn’t taunt their opponents. They just won games.
In the spring of 1970, the New Rochelle Elks Club sponsored an invitational track meet for the area high schools and threw an awards dinner for the winners. I was a sophomore half-miler for Mamaroneck and went to the dinner with my father.
The motivational speaker was Walt Frazier. I don’t remember what he said– mostly boilerplate stuff, I guess. But I did get his autograph, which he signed on a Knicks pennant. Unlike DeBusschere’s baseball card, the pennant didn’t survive my school boy years.
Over time, my interest in the Knicks waned. The team changed. The nature of professional sports changed. And I changed. Every now and then, I’d regain a spark of interest in the team, but it never lasted.
In every way the Holtzman-era Knicks spoiled me. They were real men. They were to be admired.
But now I can’t stand the Knicks at all. I can name only one of them– Stephon Marbury and I only know his name because of his tangential role in the sordid sexual harrassment suit that was just concluded against Isiah Thomas, the coach and team president. I really don’t want to know who else is on the team.
The Knicks are a disgrace but more tellingly, they are owned and operated by a disgraceful organization, the Madison Square Garden Corp.
For the most part, the players seem to be greedy, narcissistic losers. But this is a reflection on the ownership. And the buck stops with the boss, James Dolan.
You would have thought that Dolan would have fired Isiah Thomas a long time ago. Thomas has consistenly delivered a terrible “product” over the last three or four years and Dolan only rewards him with a vote of confidence and more money.
That’s the high-powered corporate world for you. The principle of pay-based-on-performance is a quaint notion today. It’s for suckers, or bottom feeders — at least that obviously holds true with the New York Knicks.
And now Thomas is nailed for sexually harassing a female Knick executive by the name of Anucha Sanders. She was awarded $11.6 million– about the going rate for a power forward who can’t hit from the free-throw line.
You’d think that this time Dolan would show Thomas the door. Nope. What he did was squire him out of town on a private jet.
This is beyond crazed loyalty to one indivdual. At best, its demonstrative of one organzation’s complete absence of a moral center. Clearly, Dolan has money to burn and no sense whatsoever of the message he sends to young basketball fans, who will learn nothing good from the craven retention of an overpaid, over-sexed services man who freely refers to women as “that bitch” and worse.
But maybe there’s more to this. It does make me wonder. Maybe Thomas has something on Dolan. Maybe he’s got “pictures,” either literally or figuratively.
It wouldn’t be the first time somebody held onto an executive postiion because they had the proverbial goods on the boss. I’ve seen it happen before…and it will happen again.
Nothing surpises me anymore. It’s the way the world turns.