Richie Guerin has been watching Knicks games lately from his home in Florida, hearing his name mentioned regularly and seeing yet another of his team records slowly fall. He is surprised, not sad.
"I thought it might go before this," said the man who scored 20 points or more in 29 consecutive games, a Knicks standard he has held since 1962 and one that he was relinquished Wednesday night to Carmelo Anthony. "There have been a lot of fine offensive players with the Knicks.
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"To be very honest with you, I had a number of records and I don't know if I have any left. All I can say is I'm very grateful to have had them. And the fellows who surpassed them have all been good people," he said on the phone from West Palm Beach. As for the consecutive 20-point games, he added, "The funny thing is, my son said, 'Did you even know you had that?' I said, 'Not even a clue.' "
So Anthony is not just eclipsing Guerin. He is bringing Guerin's career back to life, serving up a reminder of just how great a player the 80-year-old former Marine really was. He had two 50-point games during his streak, and scored 39 the night Wilt Chamberlain had 100. After the six-time All-Star was traded to St. Louis, he received a five-minute standing ovation in his first game back at Madison Square Garden.
Guerin had a much more inconspicuous visit to the Garden last month, when he was visiting for Christmas and brought his grandchildren to a game. "It was the first time I had seen the new [refurbished] Garden. I thought it was magnificent," he said, adding that he was on the floor when players were warming up, but did not want to impose. So he did not introduce himself, and still has not met Anthony.
Someday, perhaps, they will be fellow members of the Hall of Fame. Bob Cousy and John Havlicek, Guerin's golf buddies at Bear Lakes Country Club in West Palm Beach, are on record saying that Guerin should be in. Havlicek once recalled speculation that the Celtics were considering trading Satch Sanders and him to the Knicks for Guerin.
The latter went to the Hawks instead and became player-coach. "I was trying to maintain my effectiveness, but it took a little bit away from my numbers," said the man who, at 37, scored 31 in his finale, a 1970 playoff loss to the Lakers.
He sure had impressive numbers as a Knick. For many years, he held franchise records for points in a season, points in a game and assists in a game before those marks were broken, respectively, by Patrick Ewing, Bernard King and Chris Duhon.
Maybe someday his No. 9 will be hoisted to the Garden rafters -- a final honor in a successful life. Guerin has been named to the Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame. He worked 33 years for Bear Stearns brokerage firm, finishing as a managing director. He and his wife, Pat, will celebrate their 59th anniversary in June. They have a summer home in Westhampton.
On Tuesday, the eve of Anthony's record breaker, Guerin was not sitting around worrying. He was at the driving range. Still, a competitor, he had a big golf match Wednesday.