It doesn't take much to understand why Donnie Walsh wanted to hold a Knicks Legends night honoring seven former greats this season. The Knicks are all about turning the page from Isiah Thomas this season, which means reach further back to remind everyone that the organization wasn't always a butt of jokes.
Walsh dressed it up differently, though, and the Garden sold it as a night that would help instill pride into the current crop of Knicks. So why weren't the Knicks there during halftime to help honor Patrick Ewing, Bernard King, Willis Reed and the other stars of bygone days? The Magic were there to help fete Ewing, an assistant with the team, but the Knicks were too busy making halftime adjustments to join in the fun.
In their second straight game against the Magic, up four at the half and with nothing but pride to play for, the Knicks couldn't go to a ceremony that was supposedly about instilling pride. Fat lot of good it did them as they blew a nine-point lead entering the fourth quarter to wind up with a fifth straight loss. Maybe a little pride would have helped when they were getting run off the court down the stretch because whatever happened in the locker room didn't do squat.
Walsh's idea to reconnect with the past is a great one, even if the Knicks legacy is something less than that of the Celtics. Getting the players to the court at halftime was a pretty major oversight, but it wasn't the only blemish on a celebratory night. Stan Van Gundy, coach of the Magic, ripped the Knicks for honoring Ewing as an valuable member of the franchise but never giving him a chance to interview for a coaching job.
"What's amazing is they honor the guy, I don't know, every year," Van Gundy said. "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. I mean, I don't know. It's sort of back and forth. They seem to like you. The fans certainly love him. The organization to me sort of pretends to appreciate him and like him."
The Knicks have brought several former players into the fold, but Allan Houston and John Starks work in off-court jobs. Handing a coaching job, even an assistant one, to a former player just because he's a former player shouldn't be the way it works. Ewing should have probably gotten an interview this summer, especially when Walsh interviewed Mark Jackson. Jackson had no coaching experience, while Ewing has spent several years on the bench with several different teams.
It's a bit of a stretch to say that the Knicks only pretend to appreciate Ewing, but not to say that he's underappreciated. The lack of a championship has become the top line on his bio, instead of everything else that he accomplished for and with the team. If last night showed anything, it's that there's been a lot more bad than good in the 36 years since the Knicks won a title.
Ewing represents the very best of those years, and it would be nice if the team found a way to bring a player like that back into the fold. If he's serious about pursuing a head coaching job, it probably won't happen. When and if he looks to move in another direction, though, the Knicks should be on the top of the call sheet.