Former Knick Mark Jackson, who was named the 1988 Rookie of the Year with the team and spent seven seasons in New York, will be making his coaching debut at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.
The Warriors coach, who previously spent time commentating several Knicks games at the Garden for ABC and ESPN, is now completing the dream he always had growing up in Brooklyn.
"I'm not a guy that gets too emotional, but at the same time, it's closure for me because as a kid I dreamed of being a Knick, I dreamed of announcing in the Garden and I dreamed of coaching in the Garden," he said on ESPN New York 98.7 FM radio on Wednesday. "And this is the last line of that dream, so it's a great time for me to see a lot of familiar faces and a lot of great memories in that building."
What Jackson isn't pleased about, however, is the one-game suspension of his best frontcourt player and ex-Knick, David Lee, for an altercation he was involved in on Tuesday night in Indiana.
"It's disappointing, but it is what it is and we'll move forward and act accordingly," Jackson said. "It's disappointing for David, a guy that didn't have an opportunity to play at the Garden last year because of the shortened season."
Jackson said he had followed Lee during his time in New York and Golden State, before he became head coach in 2011, and knows how special a player he is on and off the court. Currently, the All-Star is averaging 19.0 points and 11.1 rebounds per game.
"I watched him as a Knick, I watched him as a Warrior and I was excited about having an opportunity to coach him," Jackson said. "At the end of the day, he's doing the same things he did in the blue and orange. He's rebounding, he's scoring, he's competing and he's winning ballgames. He's a heck of a basketball player and he's been, along with Steph Curry, the voice in my locker room leading this basketball team."
More from Jackson's radio appearance and pregame press conference:
The potential to coach the Knicks in 2008 before Mike D'Antoni was hired: "Very close. Donnie Walsh, a heck of a basketball mind and a guy that I had tremendous respect for, gave me an opportunity and believed in me, and thought enough of me to consider me as far as the next coach for the Knicks. I'm honored that he thought that much of me."
The Knicks: "They have the ability. You have a home-run hitter in Carmelo Anthony, a guy that should be in the MVP discussion. His ability to carry the team on the offensive end, that puts him in any ballgame. And then that's a team that's well-coached and they have the ability to knock down the long ball, which stretches the defense and they've proven they win ballgames that way. So it's going to be important for us to be on point, make multiple-effort plays and make sure we try to contain Carmelo Anthony. He's a heck of a basketball player and an explosive offensive weapon."
His greatest memories with the Knicks: "It's kind of hard to say, but what I will say is playing for the great coaches that I played for, playing for the great teams that I played for had a legitimate chance to win it all. I had incredible teammates, like Patrick Ewing, who's the greatest Knick that's ever played. ... He left his heart on the floor and he was an incredible teammate. Charles Oakley, he left it on the floor. Also, John Starks, Allan Houston and Charlie Hard -- just on and on and on."
His recent time in New York City: "This is the first time my wife has been on a road game, and I walked around with her. ... I'll tell you what, that's part of the disappointment on the other side of the job. It takes you away from being a husband or a father all day every day. And just to hang around with my wife and hold hands and go to the store, it was great. And my son, who's playing basketball at Manhattan College, came down and was able to spend some time with us, and we just hung around each other. It was a great day."
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