This is the parallel universe of the New York Knicks where its most accomplished player can’t get within sniffing distance of the franchise he helped revive. In this warped world, former role players get more love than the main attraction.
It’s a world where Patrick Ewing remains unwelcomed, like the weird guy at the office who doesn’t get invited out to drinks after work. The Knicks did retire his number two years ago, the ultimate gesture of respect for the team’s all-time leader in points, field goals, rebounds, blocks and steals.
However, the fact remains that Ewing had to look elsewhere for an NBA gig. This past week, he took an assistant coaching job with the Charlotte Bobcats, an NBA outpost run by Ewing’s former rival, Michael Jordan.
Meanwhile, former Knickerbocker teammates Allan Houston, John Starks, Larry Johnson and Herb Williams – all side players to Ewing’s starring role in the 1990’s – have jobs within the organization.
The closest the Knicks ever came to offering their most iconic player a job occurred last fall. But the offer felt more like a gut punch: a head coaching gig with their minor league affiliate, Erie Bayhawks. He promptly turned the offer down.
And who could blame him?
Especially since the Knicks hired Isiah Thomas as team president in 2003. The Detroit Pistons’ all-time leader in points, assists and field goals went 56-108 during his tenure, inking player deals considered among the worst in NBA history. Let’s not forget that Thomas cost the Knicks an additional $11.6 million in 2007 with settlement damages paid out to a former team executive who accused him of sexual harassment.
Critics will argue that there are more desirable team president and head coach candidates than Ewing. They might also say that teams are not obligated to rehire former stars who have retired. The Bulls did not offer Jordan an executive position when he retired, the Washington Wizards and Bobcats did.
The Brooklyn Nets’ hiring of Jason Kidd flies in the face of that argument, however. It had to hurt Ewing and other former stars NBA clubs have shunned, especially since Kidd has zero coaching experience. Ewing’s son, Patrick Ewing Jr., echoed that sentiment in a tweet this week: “For real though I’m mad J Kidd got a head coaching job a year after retiring n [sic] my pops has been coaching 10 years n [sic] barely gets a look.”
Even, if New York didn’t believe he was ready for a head coaching role, it could have hired him back in some capacity as recompense for the 15 years he gave them – 13 of which resulted in playoff berths.
Wouldn’t Ewing’s presence in New York positively impact a club that has a tenuous grip on NBA relevancy, where it’s just one bad injury or draft pick away from rejoining the dregs of the league? Ewing’s years of coaching experience has to be worth something.
He will work for a team that, in its nine years of existence, amassed a .346 winning percentage, instead of the one he helped transform into a perennial contender a generation ago.
And while “No. 33” hangs in the Madison Garden rafters, the player who made that number famous won’t be in the building to see it much.
And that’s a damn shame.
Tacuma R. Roeback is a New York Knicks writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @TacumaRoe, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google+