Former New York Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy fired back over criticism of Patrick Ewing for his performance in the playoffs against the Chicago Bulls.
Charles Oakley cast blame on former New York Knicks teammate, Patrick Ewing, for the Knicks failure to conquer Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls during the nineties. Citing Ewing’s inability to pass out of double teams, and comparing Ewing to a cheap imitation of Beyonce, the rough-and-tough rebounder didn’t mince words in talking about the Knicks legend.
Former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy, who is rumored to be a coaching candidate for New York under new team president Leon Rose, defended Ewing’s accomplishment during an interview with Chris Russo of Mad Dog Sports Radio on Sirius XM on Monday.
Russo brought up Charles Oakley’s comments that made headlines over the weekend in discussing Ewing’s legacy with Van Gundy.
“It’s not just Charles,” Van Gundy interjected. “It’s how people, even back then, how people try to portray Ewing as not coming through in the clutch.”
Van Gundy was an assistant under Pat Riley during the Knicks’ intense playoff rivalry with the Bulls in the early nineties. He took over as head coach in 1996 and experienced his own share of battles with Jordan. His first win as head coach was a 32-point drubbing of the 72-win Bulls team.
Van Gundy noted how people romanticize certain things about those nineties teams, while having “amnesia” about other things.
"“I’ve been reading about, like, you know, Ewing, and I’m like, This guy, I went and looked back at those six games from ’93. Man, he was unbelievable! And if I would have told you Jordan went, in the first three games 10-27, 12-32, and 3-18, people would be saying, What! Yeah, that’s what happened. We won the first two, and where we, to me, will always have regret is Game 3. Jordan was 3-18, he got to the line 17 times, but 3-18, and we got beat by twenty.”"
While Van Gundy said he was defending Ewing against critiques stemming back to his playing days, it sure sounds like he is making sure certain people remember the facts about the Hall-of-Famer in conversations today. I mean, reading off those game stats, he did his research!
“If you’re going to be compared to Jordan, then everybody’s going to come up short,” Van Gundy added. “But if you’re compared to a level of greatness [it’s a different story].”
Michael Jordan had the New York Knicks' number most of the time, but there were a handful of moments when the Knicks got the best of him.
It’s almost hard to imagine for the modern Knicks fan, but Patrick Ewing appeared in 135 playoff games with New York. He averaged 20.6 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks. The Knicks made the playoffs in thirteen consecutive seasons with the Big Fella leading the way. They have advanced to the postseason only five times in the twenty years since.