Dean "The Dream" Meminger, whose name evokes memories of the halcyon days of New York City basketball, was found dead shortly before noon Friday in a Manhattan hotel room. The 65-year-old was a playground legend who starred at Rice High and Marquette and played a key reserve role with the Knicks' last championship team in 1973.
According a New York City police report, Meminger was found by hotel staff unconscious and unresponsive in a room, and he was pronounced dead when emergency medical personnel arrived at the scene. Police said there were no signs of trauma, and the incident is under investigation. Cause of death has not been determined.
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"We want to thank everyone for their prayers and condolences during this difficult time for our family," Meminger's family said in a statement reported by The Associated Press. "Dean 'The Dream' Meminger touched the hearts of so many on and off the basketball court.''
Meminger took his place in Knicks history as a reserve guard on the great 1973 team that included Walt Frazier, Willis Reed, Dave DeBusschere, Bill Bradley, Earl Monroe and Phil Jackson. Reed pointed to Meminger's defense against Celtics star JoJo White in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals as the critical factor that set up the Finals win over the Lakers.
Coach Red Holzman benched Monroe in favor of Meminger, who contained White to 22 points and scored 13 himself as the Knicks handed the Celtics their first-ever Game 7 loss.
"I credit Dean with getting us that championship," Reed said back then. "He's the reason we won. If he hadn't stopped JoJo, we never even play the Lakers."
Chosen in the first round of the 1971 draft, Meminger averaged a modest 6.1 points in a six-year NBA career. He joined Atlanta from 1974-76 but returned for one more season with the Knicks from 1976-77.
"Everyone at the New York Knicks' organization is saddened to hear the news of Dean Meminger's passing," general manager Glen Grunwald said in a statement. "From the day he was drafted by this franchise in 1971, Dean was a friend and close family member of this team . . . We send our heartfelt condolences to the entire Meminger family."
Meminger's most celebrated basketball deeds took place before he reached the NBA. At Rice, he became the second player after Lew Alcindor (later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) to make the all-City team three straight years.
That earned Meminger a scholarship to play for Al McGuire at Marquette, where the Warriors went 78-9 in his three seasons. In 1970, Marquette turned down an NCAA Tournament invitation to go to the NIT at the Garden, where Meminger led the Warriors to the title and won MVP. Meminger averaged 21.2 points his senior season when Marquette was 26-0 in the regular season.
Marveling at Meminger's skills, McGuire once said he was "quicker than the 11:15 mass at a seaside resort."
After his NBA career, Meminger coached the New York Stars (1978-81) in the Women's Professional Basketball League, the CBA's Albany Patroons (1982, the USBL's Long Island Knights (1987) and Division III Manhattanville College (2003-04). With Zachary R. Dowdy