Harvey Araton


They are sports illustrate made incredible body of war I really appreciate the integrity. Is Well on? Great job we love it Luckily Bank Keys Kris menace. These employed by sports illustrated. The announcers got it informed. This is the crossover NBA podcast. You have a problem with it build a team that can beat of hosted by the. Thank God mannix. Joining me now on the PODCAST, one of my favorite writers out there Harvey Aronson is covered. New York sports for Multiple New York papers many of you listening in from his days as a columnist with the New York Times. His new book is called our last season, a writer, a fan, a friendship, and it's about a relationship develops with a fan at mass square garden one of. The Lifelong Knicks fans and we'll get into what it means to be a lifelong knicks fan as well. Harvey joins me on the show what's up arvy To be with you Chris thanks for being here. So this is your ninth book, which in of itself is remarkable since. I've contemplated doing maybe nine books. I haven't actually ridden one at this point. What was it about this subject matter that inspired you to to go again I mean, you know as well as anyone how challenging it is to to write a book what was it about this subject matter that kind of moved you Well. The person that you mentioned the fan who literally sat behind the Knicks Bench. For forty plus years woman named Shell Muffler she was. A divorced mother of five who? Lived in Connecticut, suburbs of New York. And with five kids after her marriage fell apart she. you know really didn't feel like she belonged there anymore a single woman with. China. Jumpstart career. But you couldn't move a family that large let's say into Manhattan. So she kind of rebuilt her social life, she always love basketball got himself. Tickets kept moving down through the years with to where she wound up right behind the bench and our friendship really began. With me kind of you know seeing her as a potential good source like every good tabloid muckraker. In New York. I was out there looking for sources as a young beat reporter for the New York Post and struck up a friendship with Michelle and she became a is in years behind the bench. You know, let me know who Brown was screaming at WHO's pissed off gang taken out of the game all. So this relationship ensued over forty years. She became something much greater to me. At the end of her life in two thousand, eighteen I wound up writing her obituary for the times I pitched really kind of thinking like they were going to say to me in A. Sorry, you know we run obituaries on people who write Pulitzer Prize winning novel is in cure cancer but the idea of this woman in sat behind the bench for that many years was settled well-known around the garden. So wrote the bid and my agent happen to be having lunch with an editor one day whipped out the oath that I had written and handed it to her and said, you know, what do you think of the relate? These two were really close over the years one thing led to another at first I was a little reluctant because. I was really still in mourning for Michelle. She was like a family member to me But as time went on I realized, it would be a great tribute to her and also away many in many respects to kind of keep her with me a lot long. It's it's funny as you say that it's I don't think I ever would have thought to. Strike up a relationship with a fan as a source but I mean, that's it's incredibly smart as I think about it. These fans I oftentimes when you're trying to figure out what's going on the bench you. Rely on relationships with an assistant coach equipment manager somebody like that you. Pretty Entrepreneurial I guess for lack of better words. To target a fan to what? What was the best piece of Intel that she ever gave you. One day when I was a again, this is back in the eighties when. Early eighties when. Again I was I was the beat writer for the for the Post. And one morning my phone rang it was just before training camp was set to begin. And she called me and she said. I have something to tell you. And I said what's that and she said, I, hear I hear source. You know she was Jewish. Someone who basically the she was the sports editor of her high school newspaper. This is in the late forties I believe. So not not really reliable career paths for female back then, but she always loved journalism and in particular she loves sports. So she liked you know I wasn't the only sports writer she knew I was the closest one to her but she loved that whole even take of the newspaper business and so she said to me I hear the Knicks are about to sign Bernard King to an offer sheet. And I said come on. And she said, no, I'm serious. I said well, who told you that and she wouldn't tell me she was actually Playing a journalist and protecting her source. Now I figured it had to be someone like. Marvin Webster's wife who Michelle was very close to because not only did she go to the Games but after the game she would go hang out in the bar was far Charlie O's which was on thirty third street near a avenue and all the players back in those days would go into the bar, their wives, girlfriends, sometimes their wives and girlfriends. would be waiting for them. you know people working for the teens visitors would drop in. And Michelle of infiltrated that crowd and she got to be pretty close with some of these younger women who saw her as they might have been somebody who's up In Margaret. Wife's case choose from North Carolina and she had a young child and she kinda needed a surrogate mom up here to kind of you know help her out and shell fill that role for a lot of these people. So I kinda figured it came from someone like that but you know I couldn't I couldn't run with the story until I had some kind of confirmation. So I called up a guy named John Hewitt who? PR Pr Guy at that time and I said I pretended that I had it from an unimpeachable source and I said John I haven't of you guys assigning Bernard King and he kind of chuckled and said, what took you so long? and. I was like, oh. My God, she was right and so before. You know we were an afternoon paper back in those days. So what was like eleven o'clock in the morning we were running additions all day. So by one o'clock in the afternoon. I had a post exclusive on the back page Nick Sanni Bernard? King to an offer sheet. And the funny thing is that I was told from my office I was the beat writer Repeater Vesey was the NBA columnist that about twenty minutes after I called up with the story Peter called with the same story. Mischa Michele got me to scoop. But that that's the one who some others. Lot of tips in tidbits over the years with the Bernard King exclusive and as you know New York Post lists for those back page exclusive. So at a time in my career that was a that was a major cruise for me. Because I was trying to establish myself as a regular on the be how how much difference by was it to to be able to break a story in the newspaper as opposed to now where? Within ten minutes of story breaks on twitter and his co opted by you know fifty other outlets. Just, AMAZING FAST Fast things changed in twenty thirty years. Yeah it's just you know social media world that we live in now and everything. So accelerated moves at work speed. So you know guys like yourself who cover the league now in come on something you know it's it's a great thing to be. Able to to break stories. But you know back van you kind of you kind of Bask in the glory of it for you know the better part of a day and you know the radio, the radio stations, local talk shows, and things like that would call you because you were the one who had the story adding now it's harder I mean on the other hand you know there was some known bran people who break stories left and right and generate tons of followers on twitter. And other social mediums. So you know he's building a brand in that regard I think that in that sense, it might be a little easier But certainly, if you will up either with an am paper PM paper, you had something alone. it was a longer period of time to kind of flex their muscle and you know and feel good of course until the next day when you woke up terrified that somebody else was not something when. With. Michelle. How known was she to players? I mean, you articulate in the book kind of where she sits. You got some great pictures in the book of her seats right behind. You know whether it's Patrick Ewing or Jeff Van Gundy even the Mike Dantonio. I mean I was she just sort of this known figure in among Knicks players coaches in that that Rome. Most of the people. In the nineties where you had the nucleus of players, I would say in the eighties and nineties it was Michelle's heyday because you know back then she was literally you know. Few inches. From Fund, the Bench As the coaching staffs grew and you had more assistant coaches you know seated behind right behind the bench. Her seat went back a little bit. It was still the first row, but the proximity was not as great. In the book can actually in the orbit that I wrote about her. I wrote it on kind of a deadline I was leaving for England the next day, and so when they granted me permission to do it. I thought I gotTA call somebody who might give me some. You know some good stuff on a Michelle and one of the people I called with Jeff Van Gundy and and Jeff and Jeff sites we the final suggest ended. So we were chatting about the finals said a Jeff, the reason why I called his on you know when you were coaching in New York. A woman who sat behind the bench and he said he stopped me and said you me Michelle and I said Yeah Michelle and I thought to myself. You know this guy hasn't hasn't coached here in seventeen years or so you went onto coach in Houston been a national broadcaster. He's traveled all over the country in the world is probably a million people whose names he had to know, and yet her name was still on the tip of his tongue and he told me story that how many times would come out in a jeff of course, was the polar opposite of Pat Riley who was impeccably dressed in his air. Perfect. Will Jeff would come out always rumpled in looking like he'd just gotten outta bed and Michelle would often just stepped forward from her seat. And fix his crooked sport jacket collar. Without saying a word, sit right back down. And that's the kind of report she had with a lot of players, coaches not so much. Patrick. Ewing who had an impenetrable shield around him patrick was so zoned into what he was doing on the court. But. Guys like Charles Oakley Doc, rivers you know the guy who had who were more personable and could connect more easily with people around them. A right to the day. She died I mean I remember calling several people Charles Smith Charles. Doc Rivers Scotty Brooks who you know had a cup of coffee with the Knicks at the end of the bench and yet every time he would come in with one of the teams he wound up coaching. He'd always make a beeline for Michelle and give her a hug Mark Jackson. All these guys knew her and had friendships with her a lot of the guys around the garden like Wolf who had working around the garden while frazier. John starks Larry Johnson. They. All knew Michelle and they're all heartbroken when she when she passed. She her health had been deteriorating, but we didn't know that how serious it was until they discovered lung cancer. Basically about a month before she passed in the spring of twenty eighteen and I wound up calling a lot of these people they had no idea considered happened at the end of the season or after a season when he was around to tell them. So she knows. A lot of cheap cheat. She wasn't an accident XS and os kind of Fan. She loved the Human Element. That's what she did for living. She made a corporate career in human resources and she ultimately wound up having a global business in training executives. So. She took great interest in a lot of the personalities in the human draw and Michele wants telling me that or enter kids telling me about the holiday season I. Think it was for Thanksgiving the Knicks had this kid in the eighties named Ron Cabin Hall it was like a six eleven seven foot center after their team was hit by a bunch of injuries on the front line and he had come from you played for the Harlem Wizards. I don't think he was drafted. And she took an interest in his story and wound up bringing him home to her family for Thanksgiving, dinner this seven foot. Kid from Texas somewhere. So that's the kind of. Effect she had at courtside I used to call her the. The Knicks non celebrity celebrity fan sort of the opposite of Spike Lee. As guys. So much of identity is wrapped up in our hair how it feels after getting a fresh cut to the way. It's perfectly style before going out. That's why we get into our twenties and thirties and start noticing the first sight of hair loss. It definitely feels like panic time because let's face it. No guys ever ready to go bald thankfully now. There's keeps the simple and easy way to keep your hair. 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She, had more or less stop going to the game. She couldn't drive into the city anymore she was having some. a bunch of what they call mini strokes but she still okay I mean her mind was great and she had been so good to me. As as like a life coach and mentor. The sort of the wise elder I I'd never had a growing up and So you know the year which she was you know really watching from home. You know I made it my business to go up there a lot. We'd go out to dinner in the neighborhood, and then we'd go back and catch a game. On TV and So we had these long discussions and I started taping them I started recording them on my phone. And Because we had we talked in in abstract terms of of potentially doing book I used to kid and say. given what she had done with her life starting with five kids in no money raising them alone that her life story her story was a great women's empowerment jail. But. Anyway. One night over dinner we just got to talk about Dolan and I said to her you know you've made a career traveling around the world fixing broken corporate executives. What would you do dome? And she looked at me and laughed and said you know. I've been sitting here sitting in that seat for fifteen years, and now she was right behind the bench Andolan was nearby behind the baseline. So she had an excellent view of him and everybody knows they have this picture of Dolan Kinda slumped in his seat. And the first thing she said was I have never seen another corporate executive with such bad body language and she felt like that sort of cast Paul on the entire Asian And she said many times she had had this notion to call David Stern who she knew. Whom she knew she knew. And she said, I've I've I fantasized about calling in saying, let me work with this man I can help him. Of course she never did it. And he never would have you know put up with it. But she went to great lengths talking about. You know but essentially cycle analyzing Jim Dolan, she didn't hate the man because Michelle was not that kind of person, but she was so frustrated by the poor management skills the stepping on executives after he had hired them the media policies, which she felt did far more damage have done far more damage I agree with that. To the organization at large in terms of recruiting agents. You know sending out a positive message around the league all that stocks. She just felt. Is So anyway that chapter. Focuses around the Carmelo Anthony Trade that Dolan sort of forced on Donnie Walsh. When Walsh was in the process, it looked like a starting to build something pretty good and you know. Overreacting to the moment and the competition that the Brooklyn Nets, the New Jersey Nets at the time were posing trying to get deal get mellow into the engineer club. And she. You know and and fueling that at that moment once that Camilla trade was made and all their assets essentially was stripped that at that moment she I think her quote was that was the death of hope that's where title of that chapter comes from. But in that chapter, there's a lot of. Her comments sort of psychological profile of how she would've of what she perceived doling weaknesses to be and how she would have dealt with him as she had with so many corporate executives. During her career. You've covered Dolan throughout his time here and of course, predating it. The Knicks just saw the Lakers celebrate their seventeenth championship. The Knicks haven't won one since the early nineteen seventies. Not, all that's on Dole and he's only really control the team for the last twenty or so years. But what do you see as Dolan's kind of fatal flaw as an owner? What's his his greatest weakness that perhaps he doesn't even acknowledge. Well I mean he's very insecure man I believe and you know thin-skinned to the point where you know he curses out fans and. An created that nightmare that public relations absolute nightmare with Charles. Oakley. in two, thousand seventeen. I think that. You know in fairness to Dolan, he did take over the garden. At as Patrick, ewing era was coming to a close and. So. They were probably going to go into a tailspin. No matter who is running the franchise even at Dave, Checketts said stayed on. But the thing about about Dolin is that people will occasionally asked me well, if he's such bad owner, why is it the rangers although they haven't won the Stanley. Cup since ninety four. What but why have they been? You know a competitive team that's made the finals You know over the last what fifteen years and up until the last year or two have been you know quality team in the NHL and the thing that I always say is that it's it's apples and oranges hockey is a fraternity sport and the players are. It's all about junior hockey and riding buses and you know relatives. Anonymity compared to the NBA NBA is run as you know. Is Is. It's is on the backs of. Highly Visible, attractive and and leveraged greater than ever You know superstar athletes lebrons in Kevin Durant. And collide limits of the world who are who are using that leverage more than. So. When you have a bad reputation and when you don't understand that you know you'll hear a lot of for instance of your lot of the defenders of Dolan particularly those who. Worked for the MSG network. Say Well, it's just as media policies. And that's the point that Michelle was making the media policies send out terrible signals around the country. Now, if you're, you know you here Mike Francesa on Wfan through the year saying things like you know, but the garden is still the guarded. So the premier arena and you have to be crazy not to want to come and play there. Well, The Guardian is a wonderful building. It netted Nice job renovating it. But. These guys I go back to what Lebron said when he was drafted way back when and I was there at the press conference You know right the day before the draft in in Manhattan and somebody said to him you know. Lebron you'RE GOING TO CLEVELAND. It's not the sexiest market you know in the NBA and he smiled and said, we're GonNa Light. It up. And he was wrong. And the thing is that you know these guys like durant coming to Brooklyn or you know wherever they go. They have the understanding that they are the show and the cameras will follow them wherever they go and so when you know the Knicks have all this bad publicity when you know it's a revolving door of of administrations coach's. Player says an sign a four-year deal Have a two year or three year out. I want to win. They don't WanNa, waste their time they don't want to spend me all things being equal the money being the same the endorsements, following them to whatever market they playing. Their attitude is I don't want to gamble on organization that. So unstable on top of that Naggar dealing with players who were really socially conscious. Now I could you know and I'll just say it is Dolan is a big trump supporter and I can't imagine him being happy with stars on his basketball team coming out and tweeting and saying some of the things that Lebron James Stephen Curry. Standing Gundy Steve Kerr. Dot, off Greg Bitch have been saying in their respective markets I think all of that contributes to players now saying you know. If I have. Fifteen different owners looking to hire me. I'll go to the place where I, know I can be myself. not the compromise and also have a pretty darn good chance of winning. And that's not what the Knicks have shown for the last couple of decades. What what am I constant questions about Dolan and? Is always that you know they have almost limitless resources. And he continues to empower either people unqualified for the jobs or people that allow him to win the press conference like. It was such a Dolan move to hire the greatest coach in. NBA History to general manager. With with no experience at that job. I never was able to and I don't understand the Dolan Psyche. Well, enough. Maybe you do. I. Never could understand why he didn't treat the Knicks in a way like they were Oklahoma City or San. Antonio. In hire the smartest guy in the room in Oklahoma City, went out and grab San Prestige and they haven't won a championship but they've been pretty damn good. The spurs lots of championships and. They've got a a executive staff that teams have rated frequently over the years the Nixon. Never. They never even thought it seems like everyone thought about going that direction willing to give Leon rose the benefit of the doubt here. But that's another one that's unconventional at best with an Asian where you're trying to. Recreate what Golden State did with Bob Myers I mean that's part of the psyche of and I don't get Harvey. Why he doesn't. Look at the success of others and try to duplicate what they did going more conventional route instead of. Just taking a route that oftentimes leaves you scratching your head as to why you did it. Yeah you know and and again. I want to be fair to him as possible this this this kind of. grabbed. The biggest name out there possible One that you think you can sell to your to your fan base. Predates Dolan and and. Goes back. You know even. into the into the late seventies I mean, they hired Willis. Reed was obviously A. A. a franchise folk hero to be their head coach succeeding red. Holzman. After, the championship years faded Willis had never coached anyone. And But who's Lewis read and you know, Rick. Pitino they went after Rick Pitino when he was the hot guy at providence he had been. You'd be rounds assistant here in New York. And he came off that final four run You know the big e season but they had just hired Albie Yankee? who was who wasn't NBA life for? All of his land of New Yorker waiting all his life to have a shot and yet the first thing they did after they hired him was dragged him up to providence to move. Him with a guy you know he didn't necessarily want an definitely didn't trust. So those guys were Kinda like put in competition and they wound up to subvert subverting. Little error they had which actually started off. In a promising way. You'd be Brown indeed the Bush were matched that way they were too big names but you know butcher was not ub was not the Bush's first choice because you'll be such a control guy and Bush really wanted to hire somebody he could work with you know with the chain of command. So this has been going on at the garden probably a function of New York City, bright lights. Madison Avenue nearby. You know basketball on Broadway whole thing. You Know Phil Jackson. Yeah. Everybody went crazy cheering that and. Somehow overlooked fat. They were hiring a man to do a brand new job at the age of seventy. You know tough to teach the old dog new tricks by the time filled. Did this. By the time came to. New York. A hot young assistance around the league will completely unknown to him. So that what did he do? He hired you went after Steve Kerr who had for him that he went into Derek Fisher a guy who played for him. You know as you know. You know that kind of administrative job requires hanging around in hotel lobbies and burning up the phone wires than an understanding. You know who those secondary character, who those great young assistance are and You know it was it was unfortunately I happen to like fill a lot and I respect Coaching record you know can you do but applaud that? In fact, I just got an email from today. And But I felt I felt bad about some of the things that had to write about him as the same thing as I I thought I was one of the great one of the greatest. Players. An NBA history and yet things were so bad. You're in New, York that you wind up regretting some of the harsh things you had to write. But. You know it's it's an ongoing process and you know I look at this new gene Chris and I say would always comes to mind is how each new regime has to pay for the sins of the past one. So you know how attractive is this new regime to any free agent perspective free agent over the next year or two, and you know the porzingas trade you know is probably GonNa wind up looking like one of the worst. In franchise history, maybe the one of the worst in NBA history. Unless porzingas is perpetually injured because you know Tim Hardaway Junior was probably the second best player on this team if he had stayed. And how it a team that has a lynch pin young star. How much more appealing would that team? Rj Barrett plus draft picks how much more appealing with that with that. Roster be to potential free agents over the next two years. Let me ask you this job on the line of older coaches they're adding having spent time around. He'd be Brown in his days in New York. Did you think you'd be Brown was a great coach like he's an excellent broadcaster but I mean he's got coach of the year awards from both Atlanta and much later in his career in Memphis but you know covering over the years did you think you'd be was a great coach? I thought. be was. At a great. Motivator? And certainly a defensive. You defensive stalwart as a coach. I thought his offenses. Ice To call them. On writing for the post and the Daily News I used to call his offense to canned vegetables but then be offenses. It was so predictable, of course, a different era post up game's. But no I. Don't think you'd be was a great. Professional coach I think you'd be. Like. Rick. Pitino by the way. Different styles in terms of their rick was UPTEMPO impressing. But in terms of their personalities the kind of guys that wear thin and which is why I think rick was a great college coach or is a great college coach. Because the players cycle in and out and I think had you be opted to be a college coach? It would have been great at that because again, the players cycled out and a fresh new batch of guys eager to listen to you come in but he's act wore thin. you know really fast now again, in New York, he was hit with devastating Bernard King Injury. Just as that team, you know was looked like it was starting to develop. Into something. You Know Bill Cartwright was always injured back then as well and The sad irony is that Bernard got injured. At the end of the season where the team had been decimated by injuries. Is Injury was the last and most devastating and that was the that was weeks or a couple of months before the next round up winning the first lottery referred to as the as the ewing lottery. And those lottery, the first lottery the first couple I'd say were not waited at all. So you know. the Knicks would have gotten the first pack. Whether you know. Want a couple more games are not. And? So you know it it was just. Eighteen going into the. You know the ping pong balls and whoever whoever's ball came out. You know won the lottery or the envelopes back to Franzen. Handle. How do you think? Patrick Ewing would have gotten on if they had more time together. Not well not well because. Because Patrick Patrick. You know they they didn't. They didn't get off to a bit started all. I mean because you be had this idea of you know back then it's always a a mimic league and the whole idea was go big the twin towers. and. So you had a McClellan parish had Sampson Lodge Lan and you'd be had this brilliant idea of playing cartwright. Marvin Webster To the most immobile guys you know one thing Kevin McKell could run the floor right So could Ralph Sampson and a team of course was incredible athlete. Marvin Webster and. And Bill Cartwright were not in fact. Bob Ryan always. said, it's always. Whenever. I'm see Ryan would always say you saw the greatest. Nickname that I that I that I ever I can recall and so what's that? He said you labeled. Cartwright in Webster the twin. Tenements. Said Yeah the tax I kinda winced because you know that that's really cruel. You know. But again, I was a tabloid guy back then but days the. Nickname gone RV. You have any of those Ryan Vesey. Nickname bombs from the eighties and nineties. Now now. Everything's initials right you know. G, MAC and whatever. But. So anyway in this. Twin tenement tandem. Morgan was going to be the center and Patrick who is younger and more mobile. On sorry So that was that was his plan when he had cartwright webster but when he got ewing he wanted To play more of a forward and play out, you know guarding guarding the four you know when he was when he was with cartwright. and. Ewing immediately called up David Falk and said I'm not doing that I've got. I've got a bad knee in fact he got hurt and missed. A first couple of years he seemed to be heard a lot. And never actually got on the court with Benard team because it took Bernard about two full years to recover from his ACL and when he came back for like the last six or seven games of whatever season it was Hatch already on the injured list and they never actually played a minute together in New York Knicks, Bernard loose. He was a free agent at the end of that season Patino came in and that was that so I don't think. Who was any love lost between Patrick and? Such a fun time to cover the Knicks. Those days for sure. Harvey, the book is our last season, a writer, a fan of friendship. It's terrific. You can buy it on Amazon anywhere that you usually pick up books. Always appreciate your time as always fun to talk to you and Good luck with the book I appreciate you joining me. Chris I appreciate it. Thanks for talking to you down the road. took. took.

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