WASHINGTON — Thanks to David Fizdale, Patrick Ewing finally got a chance to coach the Knicks.
The legendary center was a surprise speaker inside the Knicks locker room Monday ahead of the preseason opener against the Wizards in Washington, lending his unique experience – and advice – to the new Knicks.
“Unbelievable. Patrick came in and really talked to the guys about what a special moment they’re in to wear that jersey,” Fizdale said. “He’s the greatest Knick – you look at the numbers and his Hall of Fame stuff and All-Star games. It was just an honor. It really was. And he really spoke to them on a level like a college coach. He didn’t even make it about himself, he made it about all of them together. What it means to be a Knick.”
Ewing’s relationship with the Knicks strained over the years, at least partly due to the reluctance of previous regimes to even interview him for the coaching job (the Knicks once insultingly offered Ewing the D-League job). He is now the head coach at nearby Georgetown.
As Stan Van Gundy said recently, “I used to walk in (MSG) and Patrick would be sitting next to me on the bench and they would put him up on the jumbotron and everyone would clap and then he could never get an interview for any freakin’ job they had. That’s sort of fake appreciation in my opinion.”
But Fizdale is making an effort to connect the current Knicks to their past. He plans on having Willis Reed speak when they’re near his home in New Orleans in November. He also mentioned Clyde Frazier, John Starks, Larry Johnson and Latrell Sprewell as mentors.
So what about Charles Oakley? Let’s not get crazy.
“I don’t know. I don’t know,” Fizdale said about the fan favorite who remains banned from the Garden by James Dolan. “I’m going to try to take care of the ones I can right now.”
Of course, most of the Knicks were either too young or not conceived when Ewing was in his prime. The player on the roster who could most appreciate Ewing’s presence – Joakim Noah – is still in exile.
Mitchell Robinson, who was born in 1998, said he has never even watched a highlight of Ewing. But that’s also the point of Monday’s exercise – to introduce the Knicks to a time when the franchise was respectable and successful.