WASHINGTON — When the Knicks got off the bus and walked through the doors of the visitors’ locker room at Capital One Arena on Monday, expecting the room to be set up for a film session, they instead found a visitor awaiting them.
Ready to address them before their preseason opener was Georgetown’s coach, better known as one of the greatest players in Knicks history, Patrick Ewing.
Ewing, who was the leader of the last great era of Knicks basketball, has found himself on the outside looking in since his retirement in 2003. He served as an NBA assistant coach for 13 seasons with three different teams but never got a call from previous regimes to be interviewed for any of the Knicks’ head-coaching vacancies.
But the icy relationship with the organization has thawed in recent years. Searching for a motivational tool, Knicks first-year coach David Fizdale reached out to Ewing, whom he has known for a long time.
“Unbelievable. Patrick came in and really talked to the guys about what a special moment they’re in to wear that jersey,” Fizdale said. “He’s the greatest Knick — you look at the numbers and his Hall of Fame stuff and All-Star Games. It was just an honor. It really was.
"And he really spoke to them on a level like a college coach. He didn’t even make it about himself, he made it about all of them together. What it means to be a Knick.
“Patrick and I go back a few years and I’ve always had this real fondness for him. Now that I’m coaching the Knicks, I’m obviously going to be really connected to him. We’ve been friends almost 15 years, 12, 15 years, something like that. So we’ve spent a lot of time together. And I really want him to be actively engaged in what we’re doing.”
Fizdale said he plans to reach out to other Knicks greats, having spoken with Willis Reed and arranged for him to visit when they are in New Orleans.
“Yeah, because there’s a strand of the DNA we have to keep,” he said. “We just have to. This is a storied organization. So much history and legacy involved. I just think it’s important that these guys know their history. Someone did it before them so that they can do it the way they’re doing it. Guys like Clyde Frazier. Willis Reed has reached out to me; when we’re in his town, we’re going to have him come out. Obviously [John] Starks, [Latrell] Sprewell, [John] Wallace, the guys you see around. I want to get [Larry Johnson] in there just because I like L.J. I had a part in my head just because he had a part in his head when he was at UNLV.”
“In Pat’s time, they were legends,” Enes Kanter said. “Not just me, everybody can learn a lot from him. Not just basketball stuff. How hard we need to play. What New York wants from us. It doesn’t matter, we are young, not young, we can go out and play our hardest. That was the one thing he was talking about this morning, just go out there and give your everything. Focus in and give 100 percent. He was good to everybody.”
The one legendary player that Fizdale didn’t have on his schedule was Charles Oakley, who has had problems with the organization that have led to court cases.
“I don’t know. I don't know,” Fizdale said. “I’m going to try to take care of the ones I can right now.”