On Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, the Knicks handily defeated the Washington Wizards, 107-85. The rare victory was accomplished by the New Yorkers crushing the visitors by 26 points (66-40) during the second half. It would be nice to believe that the current team raised its normal level of play to pay tribute to Dick McGuire, a loyal employee of the organization for 53 years. McGuire died earlier in the day at Huntington Hospital of natural causes. He was born 84 years and 10 days before his death. What he accomplished and how he lived during those years and days are why he deserved the tribute.
McGuire was born in the Bronx on January 25, 1926. The family moved to Rockaway to be near the bar and grill owned by McGuire’s father. It was on the playgrounds in Queens and at St. John’s University where McGuire honed his considerable basketball skills. Serving in the armed forces and graduating from St. John’s in 1949, McGuire was drafted by the New York Knicks. After his first two seasons with the Knicks, Dick’s younger brother, Al, became his backcourt teammate. They played beside one another for three seasons until Al was traded to Baltimore.
The slick ball handler led his team in assists in his first seven seasons with the club. He was elected an All-Star in five of his eight years with the Knicks. Only Walt Frazier and Mark Jackson surpassed McGuire’s total of assists as a Knick. Interestingly, both offered gracious words of praise yo a man they considered as a mentor. McGuire was Frazier’s coach when the latter joined the Knicks in 1965. Jackson, a fellow St. John’s grad, was scouted by McGuire. Both attested to the integral influence McGuire had upon their success in professional basketball and to McGuire’s innate decency.
McGuire was traded to the Detroit Pistons after the end of the 1956-57 season. He returned to the Knicks organization as coach for the 1965-66 season. He remained until his death. After his coaching duties ended, McGuire held a variety of positions, assistant coach, chief scout, director of scouting services. He was named senior basketball adviser in 2004. His son, Scott, joined the Knicks as a scout in 1988.
McGuire was the recipient of a number of well-deserved honors during his lifetime. He was one of the rare athletes whose uniform number hangs in the rafter of Madison Square Garden. The number 15 that he and Earl Monroe wore as Knicks was retired in 1992. In the following year, McGuire was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, where he joined his younger brother, Al, the former NCAA champion coach of Marquette and esteemed basketball broadcaster. They are the only pair of brothers in the Naismith Hall. In the spring of 2009, McGuire received the first Knickerbocker Legacy award.
This award is given in recognition of Knickerbocker Pride, Tradition and Class. It was announced at the ceremony that the award would be renamed the Dick McGuire Award to further honor its first recipient. The newly named honor will be awarded at MSG on February 22, Legends Night.
My final personal memory of McGuire was a long chat we had in the perss room at MSG on Janury 13. McGuire was scouting at a college doubleheader involving his Alma Mater against the Cincinnati Bearcats and Fordham against the Dayton Flyers. McGuire, self-effacing and soft-spoken as always, reminisced of his past experiences and shared his opinions of current players including the Bearcats highly touted freshman Lance Stephenson. McGuire was very positive in his personal outlook and thankful to still be a regular at MSG. He was, of course, extremely pleasant, courteous and friendly.
McGuire has left behind his wife of 54 years, four children, seven grandchildren and a multitude of admirers. One of those admirers was Knicks president Donnie Walsh, who commented, “He’s been a part of this, almost like the bricks, and so I don’t know of anybody in the league that I can say that about in the same way. So, it’s a terrible loss for us.” Each member of the team will be wearing the number 15 on his jersey for the remainder of the season.