Editor’s Note: The modern era of the NBA is generally accepted to have begun with the 1979-80 season, the advent of the 3-point line in the NBA. The lists to follow—one for each of the NBA’s 30 teams—will only consider seasons since 1979-80. We continue the series today with the best of the New York Knicks.
The New York Knicks, along with the Boston Celtics, are the only two NBA franchises that have remained in the same city where they were charter members of the Basketball Association of America in 1946.
One other franchise, the Golden State Warriors, remains from that first season of the BAA, but it was originally based in Philadelphia.
The Knicks have two NBA titles, winning in 1970 and 1973, part of what is the most revered era in the franchise’s history, a stretch of nine seasons (1966-67 through 1974-75) during which the Knicks made the playoffs every year and reached the Finals three times, losing in 1972 to the Los Angeles Lakers.
The longest string of playoff appearances in New York history is 14, from 1987-88 through 2000-01, but that period featured no championships and only two appearances in the Finals, losses to the Houston Rockets in 1994 and the San Antonio Spurs in 1999.
The Knicks also appeared in three straight NBA Finals from 1951-53, losing the first to the Rochester Royals (now the Sacramento Kings) and the last two to the Minneapolis Lakers.
New York has had a turbulent ride, with 17 general managers and 25 coaches through their 68-year history, one that includes a total of 42 playoff appearances.
The winningest coach is Hall of Famer Red Holzman, who led the team to both of its championships and was 613-484 in parts of 14 seasons on the bench.
Holzman came to the Knicks just after Christmas in 1967, replacing the fired Dick McGuire, and remained on the bench until retiring the first time after the 1976-77 season.
But Holzman returned to the Knicks in November 1978, replacing his former star center, Willis Reed, 14 games into the 1978-79 season. Holzman stepped down for good after the 1981-82 season.
Joe Lapchick, the team’s second coach, won 326 games from 1947-48 through 1955-56 in between stints at St. John’s, Jeff Van Gundy went 248-172 from 1995-96 through 2001-02 and Pat Riley went 223-105 in his four seasons from 1991-92 through 1994-95.
Ned Irish, the founder and first owner of the Knicks, made the personnel decisions from the franchise’s inception in 1946 until 1957. But it’s not been a position anyone has ever held for all that long—Irish is the only GM in Knicks’ history to last 10 years or more. Ernie Grunfeld was the next longest tenured in the post, from April 1991 through April 1999.
And here are the best players, by position, for the New York Knicks in the modern era, beginning in 1979-80. Players had to have played 200 games for the franchise and averaged 25 minutes per game.