Knicks 120, Magic 110
NEW YORK (AP)—Herb Williams made the most of his one game as Knicks coach.
Taking over on an interim basis after Don Chaney was fired, Williams guided New York to a 120-110 victory Wednesday night over the Orlando Magic.
The game was almost an afterthought on another day of big changes for the Knicks. Team president Isiah Thomas fired Chaney and his two top assistants and hired Hall of Famer Lenny Wilkens as New York’s new head coach.
Williams, a former Knicks player and a holdover from Chaney’s staff, ran the team for one game—with Wilkens set to take over Thursday.
“Don hired me, he was a close friend, I respected him a lot and learned from him,” Williams said. “But changes had to be made, and he (Thomas) made changes.
“I’m happy to come up with the win.”
Thomas said he would keep exploring changes, including a possible trade for Portland’s Rasheed Wallace.
“If they put him back out there, we’d be interested,” Thomas told The Associated Press.
Stephon Marbury had 26 points and 10 assists, Allan Houston scored 23 and Keith Van Horn had 22 as the Knicks surpassed 100 points for the second straight game and just the seventh time this season. New York’s 120 points were one shy of its season high set Monday against Dallas.
Wilkens will take over the team at practice Thursday and be on the bench Friday when the Knicks conclude a five-game homestand against Seattle.
“I think we all understand that all our jobs are on the line,” Knicks guard Penny Hardaway said. “There’s no time to baby anybody. If you’re not getting it done on a consistent basis, you will be moved.”
Williams received cheers during pregame introductions—a show of support for the coaching change from the same fans who chanted “Fire Chaney” in two of New York’s previous three games.
“I think he’s a perfect fit,” Thomas said of Wilkens, who has more career wins and losses (1,292-1,114) as a coach than anyone in NBA history
“I know he’s a winner. I know he’s won. Everyone I know who’s had contact with him said he’s the ultimate players’ coach,” Marbury said.
The Knicks led 32-27 after one quarter and 64-57 at halftime following their highest-scoring first half of the season. Orlando caught up midway through the third quarter, but New York took an 88-86 lead into the fourth on Michael Doleac’s tip-in with 0.4 seconds remaining.
The Knicks pulled ahead for good early in the final quarter and were not threatened down the stretch.
“It was weird (playing for Williams),” Hardaway said. “But Herb and those guys work hard every day. You hate to see it happen, but that’s part of the business.”
McGrady had 28 points, nine assists and seven rebounds to lead Orlando, which lost its seventh straight on the road and for the eighth time in nine games overall.
Chaney was 72-112 in two-plus seasons in New York and is 337-494 in 12 seasons overall as an NBA head coach. He was informed of his dismissal late Wednesday afternoon.
“With the change this afternoon, I’m just still shocked and surprised that it went down,” Knicks forward Kurt Thomas said. “Don handled this like he handles everything—superb.”
Chaney put the team through its morning shootaround after reading in the Daily News that he would be replaced by Mike Fratello, who later released a statement saying he had no agreement “in place.” Isiah Thomas said no offerwas ever made to Fratello.
The teams faced each other for the final time this season. New York won the series 3-1, with the loss coming on opening night—Doc Rivers’ only victory as Orlando’s coach this season. … Orlando C Andrew DeClercq fouled out with 10 1/2 minutes left in the fourth quarter. He had zero points and onerebound in 16 minutes.