Things keep happening in New York
(Sports Network) – On December 22, 2003, the New York Knicks fired team
president Scott Layden and named Isiah Thomas as his successor.
Since that Monday in December, Thomas has traded forward Clarence Weatherspoon
to the Houston Rockets in exchange for guard Moochie Norris and forward/center
John Amaechi. He then acquired point guard Stephon Marbury, shooting guard
Anfernee Hardaway and center Cezary Trybanski from Phoenix for forwards
Antonio McDyess and Maciej Lampe, guards Charlie Ward and Howard Eisley, the
draft rights to former second-round pick Milos Vujanic, an unconditional
first- round draft choice in 2004, a conditional future first-round draft pick
and an undisclosed amount of cash.
In his latest move, Thomas fired head coach Don Chaney and replaced him with
Lenny Wilkens just a short time before the Knicks defeated the Magic, 120-110,
on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. Herb Williams, an assistant under
Chaney, took over for Wednesday’s game and guided the club to the victory.
Thomas also sent assistant coaches Brendan Malone and Lon Kruger packing.
“Don hired me,” said Williams. “He’s a close friend. I respect him a lot. I
learned a lot from him. Changes needed to be made and they made changes.
Talking to him throughout the years, he understands that it’s part of the
league. Lon also spoke to me before the game. Both of those guys were helpful.
They both wished us well. Whatever they could do to help us, they said they
Wilkens is the all-time winningest NBA coach with 1,292 victories. Under
Wilkens, the Seattle SuperSonics won the NBA championship in 1979. Wilkens,
whose record is 1,292-1,114, has also coached Portland, Cleveland, Atlanta and
Toronto. He is one of just two coaches to lead four different teams to 100
In 1996, Wilkens coached the U.S. Olympic team to the gold medal at the
Atlanta Games. He mutually agreed to leave his position as head coach of the
Toronto Raptors following the 2002-03 season after three years at the helm.
This will be his 31st season as a head coach in the NBA.
Wilkens will take over at practice on Thursday and will be on the New York
bench for the first time Friday when the Knicks host the SuperSonics.
“I am excited,” said Marbury about the hiring of Wilkens. “Everything to me is
a fresh start. I really haven’t had the time to evaluate the time I have had
here with coach Chaney, but obviously Isiah (Thomas) thinks this is best for
the team. I just know he is a player’s coach. Every player that has said
anything about coach Wilkens is that he is a player’s coach.”
“He (Wilkens) is a veteran and a gentleman that has been around the game for a
long time,” said New York forward Kurt Thomas. “He definitely knows his Xs and
Os. We are looking for him to come in and do what he has been doing for a
number of years in this league.”
Thomas has clearly put his stamp on the Knicks and he is not done by a long
shot. He has acquired a franchise player in Marbury and has hired Wilkens, who
has a similar demeanor to Chaney but has the respect of all who play and coach
in the NBA.
“I think each one of us have a high regard for coach Wilkens and what he has
done in his career,” said New York forward Keith Van Horn. “I think anybody
who they bring in, I think as players, we should always have respect for our
coaches. I think we will do that with him.”
What will Thomas do next? There are rumors that Portland is looking to move
forward Rasheed Wallace. New York, which has not been rumored to be involved
in the Wallace discussions, could be a nice fit for the controversial but
talented North Carolina product. With Thomas calling the shots in New York,
one never knows what is going to happen. The new Knicks president could be on
the phone with Portland general manager John Nash right now.
The Knicks are still on the outside of the playoff race in the Eastern
Conference. However, bringing in a two-time All-Star (Marbury) and a coach
(Wilkens) that has accomplished so much in the league that he automatically
gets the attention and respect of his players could be just the thing that
gets New York into the postseason for the first time since the 2000-01 season.