ATLANTA -- Three towering figures from the Knicks' past -- high-scoring Bernard King and Richie Guerin and former coach Rick Pitino -- etched their names into basketball history Monday when they were announced as part of the Class of 2013 entering the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
Joining the three former Knicks as inductees are former NBA star Gary Payton, former UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian, North Carolina women's coach Sylvia Hatchell, former University of Houston coach Guy Lewis and former University of Virginia star Dawn Staley.
Pitino, who was preparing to lead Louisville in the NCAA championship game against Michigan Monday night at the Georgia Dome, became eligible two years ago. For King and Guerin, the recognition was regarded by many as long overdue.
"This was not on my radar, so it came as a little bit of a surprise," said King, 56, a Knick from 1982-87. "I'm just deeply honored to know I'm going to be included in the Hall among the all-time greats. I'm delighted and moved."
Guerin, 80, said he is glad it happened "before I go to the other side of the grass." Guerin, a Knick from 1956-63 before going to the Hawks as a player-coach, was chosen by the Veterans Committee.
"It's very special," he said. "You always dream that someday it might happen. As it got further and further along, you started to doubt it that much more."
Guerin once held the franchise single-game scoring record of 57 points that eventually was broken by King, who scored 60 in a game in the 1984-85 season, when he led the NBA with a 32.9 scoring average. That season ended in tragedy for King, who tore his right ACL and spent the next two years rehabbing. He played only six games with the Knicks in the spring of 1987 before his release, then averaged 24.0 points per game in five seasons with Washington.
King said his one regret is that he didn't get to play with Patrick Ewing, the No. 1 draft pick in 1985. "I believe in my heart of hearts that we would have won the championship together," said King, who had back-to-back 50-point games in 1983-84. "I don't regret getting injured. I worked five hours a day for six days a week for two straight years to make it back, and I came back at the highest level. I'm very proud of myself for that."