20 People who turned their backs on the New York Knicks

The New York Knicks have a troubled past.

New York Knicks, Pat Riley
New York Knicks, Pat Riley / Focus On Sport/GettyImages
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Rick Pitino

Rick Pitino is no stranger to controversy, so it’s no surprise his stint with the Knicks ended badly. Like many others on this list, Pitino doesn’t deserve all the blame, as the front office’s mismanagement played a role in his departure. 

In 1987, New York hired Pitino after he led Providence to the Final Four. He wasn’t expected to be the next head coach of the Knicks, mainly because he had signed a five-year extension with the Friars a couple of months before. He dreamed of playing for the Knicks growing up in New York and said that coaching the team was “the next best thing.” 

Unfortunately for Pitino and New York, his time with the Knicks wasn't quite the fairytale he dreamed of. The team was coming off a 24-58 season, so Pitino was tasked with pulling New York out of a hole. In his first season, Pitino guided the Knicks to a 38-44 finish. New York made the playoffs in 1987-88 for the first time in four years but fell to Boston in four games. 

The following season, he got the team above .500 with a 52-30 record. The Knicks swept the Sixers in the first round of the playoffs but lost to the Bulls in the second round. That was an achievement on its own, considering New York hadn’t made it past the first round in five years. 

Pitino didn’t spend another season with the Knicks. He and GM Al Bianchi didn’t see eye to eye on New York’s future, so he left his first NBA head coaching job for Kentucky. The Knicks slipped back down the standings the next couple of seasons after Pitino’s departure but climbed their way back up in the early 1990s, no thanks to Pitino.