NEW YORK -- A banner with the number 613 hangs from the Madison Square Garden rafters in honor of Red Holzman. But his legacy is much more than his victory total as coach of the New York Knicks.
Holzman, a New York institution who died Friday night at 78 of complications from leukemia, will be remembered for the way the Knicks won their only two NBA championships: with style and class. The style was New York City basketball, through and through. Move the ball. Find the open man. Use your street smarts.
The class was Holzman himself.
"With any rival, you always try to find something bad about the guy so that you can get mad at him before you play him," said Bill Sharman, the ex-Los Angeles Lakers coach who coached in two Finals against Holzman in the 1970s. "And with most coaches and players, you usually don't have to look too hard. But Red was such a gentleman, that was impossible."
Preaching the team concept, Holzman took the talents and egos of Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Dave DeBusschere, Bill Bradley and Earl Monroe, among others, and blended them into one of the great teams in league history. When NBA scholars and fans look back at the 1970 and 1973 championship teams, they undoubtedly remember them as two of the best passing teams ever assembled.
Phil Jackson, a role player on Holzman's championship clubs, remained especially close to his former coach through the years, even as he went on to coach the Chicago Bulls. While he used a different system in Chicago and had perhaps the best player ever at his disposal in Michael Jordan, Jackson also incorporated Holzman's team-oriented philosophy into the Bulls' scheme. As the Bulls won six titles in the past eight seasons, Jackson often cited Holzman's old Knicks and their unselfish play in drawing parallels with his Bulls.
"We learned about putting energy into the team aspect of what we did as a New York Knick team -- what we took pride in," Jackson said. "We'd come back to the huddle and we'd talk about defense for 30-35 seconds. As it was winding down, he'd say, 'What kind of offense do you want to do?'
"He'd always let us have a large share of the reins and the praise, and I think that influence was tremendous for a club that had tremendous egos -- [Jerry] Lucas, DeBusschere, Bradley, Reed, Pearl, Frazier. He gave them a lot of latitude as leaders, and it made the team a leader itself."
Born on the lower East Side of Manhattan, Holzman played at Franklin Lane High School in Brooklyn and the University of Baltimore and City College of New York in the early 1940s. He played nine seasons in the NBA, including 1951 with the champion Rochester Royals.
Holzman became a pro coach while playing with the Milwaukee Hawks. He went with the club when it moved to St. Louis for the 1955-56 season. He coached the Hawks for four seasons.
Holzman joined the Knicks in 1959 and was chief scout until 1967, when he replaced Dick McGuire as coach. He remained there -- except for a short time off in 1977 and 1978 -- through 1982, three years before he was voted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
A consultant to the Knicks since 1991, he always attended home games and often traveled on the road in the playoffs.
Lockout at a glance NBA games lost yesterday: 9.
Total games missed: 93.
Earliest estimated date that season can start: Dec. 15.
Negotiations: Nothing scheduled. The sides aren't speaking to one another.
Projected player salary losses (through Dec. 15): $250 million.
Today's best canceled game: Lakers at Philadelphia. Kobe Bryant makes a return to his hometown as the Lakers come to the First Union Center for their annual game against the 76ers.
Pub Date: 11/15/98