Knicks had a good case for firing Bianchi as GM NBA notebook

March 05, 1991|By Alan Goldstein

In keeping with their perplexing season, it seemed only fitting that the New York Knicks chose to fire general manager Al Bianchi after winning four in a row.

The timing may have been bad, but the moguls at Madison Square Garden had already accumulated a rap sheet against Bianchi that guaranteed he would not finish the season. The principal charges were:

* Electing not to re-sign Bernard King in 1987.

* His running feud with coach Rick Pitino, which caused Pitino to flee to Kentucky after winning 52 games with the Knicks in the 1988-89 season.

* The trade with San Antonio in February 1990 of promising point guard Rod Strickland, 24, for fading Maurice Cheeks, 34.

* Allowing small forward Johnny Newman to sign as a free agent with Charlotte last July.

* Failing to trade malcontent guard Mark Jackson or acquire additional offensive help for Patrick Ewing.

L * Permitting Ewing's contract extension bid to go unsettled.

That was more than enough to indict Bianchi and make Dave Checketts, 35, who had served in a similar capacity for Utah and Denver, the new front-office chief. But Checketts will have to share the decision process with a yet unnamed director of personnel.

"I don't claim to be a terrific basketball personnel guy," Checketts said. "What I claim to be is to make the decision on who is."

The leading candidate appears to be Ernie Grunfeld, the former Knicks player and assistant coach who was promoted to the front office earlier this season. Grunfeld is considered a rising executive and is familiar with the Knicks' problems.

* Where's Goose Tatum?: After his Atlanta Hawks whipped the Portland Trail Blazers Thursday for their 21st straight home victory, coach Bobby Weiss said, "That's good even for the Harlem Globetrotters."

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