Blood in the Garden: The Flagrant History of the 1990s New York Knicks - book cover
  • Publisher : Atria Books
  • Published : 18 Jan 2022
  • Pages : 368
  • ISBN-10 : 1982132116
  • ISBN-13 : 9781982132118
  • Language : English

Blood in the Garden: The Flagrant History of the 1990s New York Knicks

The definitive history of the 1990s New York Knicks, illustrating how Pat Riley, Patrick Ewing, John Starks, Charles Oakley, and Anthony Mason resurrected the iconic franchise through oppressive physicality and unmatched grit.

For nearly an entire generation, the New York Knicks have been a laughingstock franchise. Since 2001, they've spent more money, lost more games, and won fewer playoff series than any other NBA team.

But during the preceding era, the Big Apple had a club it was madly in love with-one that earned respect not only by winning, but through brute force. The Knicks were always looking for fights, often at the encouragement of Pat Riley. They fought opposing players. They fought each other. Hell, they even occasionally fought their own coaches.

The NBA didn't take kindly to their fighting spirit. Within two years, league officials moved to alter several rules to stop New York from turning its basketball games into bloody mudwrestling matches. Nevertheless, as the 1990s progressed, the Knicks endeared themselves to millions of fans; not for how much they won, but for their colorful cast of characters and their hardworking mentality.

Now, through his original reporting and interviews with more than two hundred people, author Chris Herring delves into the origin, evolution, and eventual demise of the iconic club. He takes us inside the locker room, executive boardrooms, and onto the court for the key moments that lifted the club to new heights, and the ones that threatened to send everything crashing down in spectacular fashion.

Blood in the Garden is a portrait filled with eye-opening details that have never been shared before, revealing the full story of the franchise in the midst of the NBA's golden era. And rest assured, no punches will be pulled. Which is just how those rough-and-tumble Knicks would like it.

Editorial Reviews

"Readers need not love the Knicks-or even possess deep knowledge of professional basketball-to enjoy this book. It throbs with an insider's perspective…besides the vivid writing, what makes Blood in the Garden so successful is the depth of Mr. Herring's research, which rests on more than 200 extensive interviews."-The Wall Street Journal

"Armed with behind-the-scenes knowledge culled from more than 200 interviews with players, coaches, and executives, Herring delivers a thrilling narrative that skillfully evokes the intensity and tension of pro basketball. Hoops fans will relish this riveting ride."-Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

"It takes a special writer to capture the genius of a hard-nosed, sucker-punching, underachieving franchise that broke as many hearts as it did bones. Chris Herring is as dogged, as brilliant as they come. He has delivered an instant classic with Blood in the Garden. With spectacular detail and rigorous reporting, Herring unearths new information on some of the most complex, most troubling, and most fascinating personalities in NBA history."-Mirin Fader, New York Times bestselling author of Giannis: The Improbable Rise of an NBA MVP

"The depth of Herring's reporting is remarkable, leading to a mix of behind-the-scenes stories and hard-core hoops talk that will be catnip to any NBA fan. We get new information on everything from the O.J. Simpson chase to those infamous Heat-Knicks brawls. The 1990s Knicks are an iconic team, and Herring's chronicle of that time is a must-have."-Zach Lowe, NBA Senior Writer, ESPN

"The thing that's great about this book is what's been great about Chris Herring's writing for years: he puts you so far into the story that it feels less like you're just reading something and more like you're experiencing it. Halfway through Blood in the Garden, all I wanted to do was go to the park and start flagrant fouling people on the court."-Shea Serrano, New York Times bestselling author of Basketball (And Other Things)

"With one jaw-dropping anecdote after another, Chris Herring presents the book that relentless Knicks team - and the long-suffering Knicks fanbase - deserves."-Alan Sepinwall, New York Times bestselling co-author of The Sopranos Sessions

"Chris Herring's reporting and details make Blood in the Garden fascinating and incredibly easy to read. His digging and storytelling gives one of the more mythical-and perhaps underappreciated-teams from the 1990s a proper treatment with an inside look worthy of our social media, 'give-us-all-the-tea' age."-Marc...

Readers Top Reviews

LisaDaniel GFred Can
A great book, excellent read and takes you back to those Knicks teams, great job it’s worth your time. Ty
Patrick O'Grady
2 for 18 but shooters shoot. They wouldn't have even made it to Game 7 without him. Great book.
This book is a real page turner. Well written with crisp details, I felt transported to the 90s. The background stories behind the players and personnel was fascinating in helping to understand the personalities, behavior on the court, and key decisions that were made. So many details that came to light about Riley, management, and ownership lead me to really wonder about that Era. This is one of the best sports books I have read in years. I hope Herring writes more books.
James H. Cahill
Tremendous story & so well written. There is a crispness & clarity here that truly brings these events to life. Richly rewarding read. The personalities crackle with a realistic insider view very rare in sports books. Trey tables & seat backs in full upright position folks as the good, bad & ugly (I’m not a Knick fan but do enjoy the NBA) rocks a real bonafide page turner. Highly recommend - 5 enthusiastic stars!
Kerry O. Burns
I moved to NYC in 1991 and left in 2000 and witnessed perhaps the greatest decade in NYC sports history. The 90s were a rich trove of sports history in NYC with the NY Yankees winning 4 World Series, The Rangers The Stanley Cup in 1994, NY Giants in 1991 won the Super Bowl, even the lowly NY Jets made it to the AFC Championship Game in 1998. There were a lot of ticker tape parades down Broadway in the 90's. My favorite team during that span never won a NBA Title despite reaching the Finals twice but the memories from that team are more vivid to me than any other team. Who can ever forget those Knicks of the 90's - Ewing, Starks, Oakley, Smith. Mason, LJ, Rivers, Sprewell, Camby, Houston, Childs, Ward, Anthony and Xavier McDaniel. Led by first Pat Riley then Jeff Van Gundy. The memories are still so vivid - LJ's 4 point play, Reggie Miller going off for 8 points in 12 seconds, Starks clanging threes all night in Houston, The Miami brawl and suspensions, Van Gundy hanging onto Mourning's leg and Ewing's steady presence and Oakley's physicality. As Chris Herring so vividly brings back to life you almost feel yourself on the court watching the Knicks play their suffering style of defense that Riley brought to NY and Van Gundy revived after the failed Don Nelson experiment. I loved those teams and I remember being glued to the tv during their playoff runs. I was in an off-off Broadway play one night and I remember rushing out the dressing room down the stairs to the local corner pub to watch the Pacers vs Knicks playoff game just in time to watch LJ's 4 point play. How can those memories ever be captured? By exceptional writing and research that's how. Chris Herring conducted over two hundred interviews over the course of two years putting this book together. I was hoping it wouldn't end but alas as the Knicks run came to an end so did this fantastic book. Thank you Chris for bringing it all back to us - I know your parents could not be prouder.

Short Excerpt Teaser

Chapter One: Speaking a New Language 1 SPEAKING A NEW LANGUAGE
Twenty minutes into his first practice as Knicks coach, Pat Riley looked a bit ruffled.

It was unusually muggy on the morning of October 4, 1991, in Charleston, South Carolina. Inside the team's practice gym-which lacked air-conditioning and was a sauna in the best of times-the air was stifling. Yet those pressure-cooker conditions were but a small reason why the coach appeared uncharacteristically off-center. Riley, featured on the cover of GQ two years earlier, had long been known for his pristine, slicked-back hair and stylish Armani threads. But now a number of the pomaded strands atop his head had popped out of place. Beads of sweat were showing through his team-issued polo. Momentarily doubled over and breathless, the 6-foot-4 Riley had his hands on his kneecaps.

At 46, he was the most accomplished coach in modern NBA history, having won four rings while leading the Showtime Lakers, a job that had allowed him to stand still on the sideline, relatively relaxed, while his clubs sped up and down the court. Which is why, on that October morning, it was such a change of pace for Riley to desperately sprint across the court to stop two Knick players from killing each other in the first basketball drill of the coach's tenure.

It had all begun with Riley splitting his team up to conduct three-on-three box-out drills. The smaller wing players headed down to the far end to work with assistants Jeff Van Gundy and Dick Harter, while the post players stayed with Riley and assistant Paul Silas. The concept was simple: coaches would launch fifteen-foot jumpers, and the six players would battle for positioning inside the paint to secure the misses.

In the group of post players, sharp-elbowed forward Xavier McDaniel was dominating the exercise, albeit in a slightly underhanded fashion. As Riley's and Silas's shots ricocheted off the rim, and the muscle-bound teammates barreled into one another, McDaniel, a Knicks newcomer and a former All-Star, was quietly hooking opposing players' legs-a wily, veteran trick that often caused them to trip just before they could leap for rebounds. Doing this, McDaniel twice managed to beat camp invitee Anthony Mason to the ball. Mason wrote off McDaniel's first hook as an honest mistake. The second time, he grew agitated.

"You do that shit again, I'm gonna fuck you up!" Mason snarled, pointing in McDaniel's direction.

McDaniel, apparently undeterred by Mason's threat, then hooked the leg of rookie big man Patrick Eddie one play later, causing Eddie to tumble as McDaniel skyed for yet another board. By then, the 6-foot-7, 250-pound Mason had seen enough. No more warnings. It was time to follow through on his promise.

The bowling-ball-shouldered southpaw shuffled toward McDaniel and delivered an abrasive left fist to his jaw; a punch that reverberated so loudly players on the other end of the gym heard it. For a split second after Mason's blow, there was nothing but silence. Stunned, McDaniel briefly grabbed the side of his face, perhaps to make sure it was still intact. Then he set his sights on Mason and charged at the 24-year-old like a bull chasing a matador.

As Mason sought to backpedal toward the sideline, McDaniel rammed into him, landing a right haymaker before pulling his teammate in closer. Finally, after a few more pummeling blasts from each man, Riley and nearly a half-dozen others sprinted in to break up the altercation.

"His ass is gonna have to come back this way at some point!" McDaniel yelled while being pulled away.

It was the first time the team found Anthony Mason in the middle of things. But it wouldn't be the last.

Although Mason's cartoonishly chiseled physique stood out to everyone in the gym that day, he was a relative unknown from a basketball standpoint.

Having endured a nomadic career in which he bounced from one league to another-one part of the world to another-Mason was hell-bent on showing he belonged. He had spent time overseas with pro teams in Turkey and Venezuela, where bus rides to road games were so long his ass would go numb, and the planes they flew on were so small that the seats required passengers to sit sideways. He dealt with two years of language barriers, social isolation, and unfamiliar food for a mere shot at making an NBA team. Not only was this camp a chance to accomplish that goal, it was an opportunity to do it while playing in New York, where he'd grown up and played on countless outdoor courts.